Date: October 14th, 2016
About The Anderson Brothers
For the uninitiated, Mark and Mike are the Rock Prodigy guys, the authors of the very popular book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual, all about the training methods they’ve developed over the last two decades. They’re the trainers who helped J-Star turn his training methods around in order to do “Biographie” (or “Realization”, 5.15a) and many other hard climbs. But they also have impressive climbing résumés themselves, despite having high-stress jobs and families.
Mike is 39 years old and is an Aeronautical Engineer, aka robot developer. He’s an officer in the US Air Force and he has 2 young sons with his wife in Colorado. He’s redpointed 5.14c sport and onsighted 5.13d, and has done some very impressive 5.13s, including First Free Ascents of Touchstone Wall (5.13, IV), Space Shot (5.13 IV) and Thunderbird Wall (5.13 VI) in Zion, UT, and Arcturus (5.13, VI) on Yosemite’s Half Dome.
Mark, also 39, (by the way, they’re twins) supervises a team of computer engineers and has 2 kids with his wife, and they also live in Colorado. He’s an “all-around” climber, having climbed on four continents, established numerous first ascents, freed El Cap, summited Denali, red-pointed 5.14d.
Along with their book, Mark and Mike Anderson also partnered with Trango to make the Rock Prodigy Training Center, a hangboard they recommend. They now have a new hangboard, the Forge, which they say is “the Ferrari of hangboards.”
Anderson Brothers Interview Details
In this second interview with both of the twins, Mark and Mike Anderson, we talk about what they’ve been sending since last time we talked, how their training philosophies have changed, and the research they’ve been doing on climbing training.
- Mark’s send of Shadowboxing (5.14d)
- Mike’s crushing spree (5.14c’s and onsight of 5.13d)
- Mike’s survey on finger training
- How Mark trained specifically for Shadowboxing
- Linear vs Non-Linear Periodization
- How much weight to add on hangboard
- Training and sending while having a job and family
Anderson Brothers Links
- Mark and Mike’s website – www.rockclimberstrainingmanual.com
- Article by Mark about sending Shadowboxing
- New article by Mike about finger strength in climbers
- Their book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual
- Their hangboard, the Rock Prodigy Training Center by Trango
- Their new hangboard, The Forge by Trango
- Jonathan Siegrist’s interview with me about training with the Anderson brothers
My First Interview with The Anderson Brothers
They were one of my first interviews on the podcast, and you can find out more about this episode here.
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Neely Quinn: Welcome to the Training Beta Podcast, where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can all get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we are on Episode 63.
Before I tell you about that episode I want to let you know that my favorite chalk company is Friction Labs and they have some really great discounts for you guys over at frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta.
So, let’s see. Today on this episode I talk with Mark and Mike Anderson. You may know them because they have the Rock Climber’s Training Manual, which is a book that is super popular among people who are trying to train to get stronger, and they also created with Trango the fingerboard that’s called the Rock Prodigy Training Center. They actually have a new one out with them called the Forge, and we talk about that in this episode. I did an episode with these brothers, who are twins actually, about a year and a half or two years ago. It was one of my first episodes, and we talked a lot about training and their book and their philosophies, and how they are training themselves. Since then they both climbed super hard. Mike, he’s climbed 14c several times, he onsights 13b, which he will talk to you about in the episode, and Mark just did Shadowboxing, which is a 14d in Rifle this summer. And mind you, both of these guys have very serious full time jobs and families. So it’s really impressive how efficient they are with their climbing, or with their training, and I think that’s really what they’re known for.
The other thing that’s happened is that Mike’s been doing research, academic research on climbing training, so I wanted to talk to him about that, and their new hang board, and how they’ve been training for all of this sending that they’re doing. So yeah, we talked about all of that stuff and hopefully we can have them on again and again and again, because they’re smart and they pay attention to the research and they’re really cutting edge in our community, so I appreciate them for that.
I hope you like this interview, here they are.
Okay welcome to the show, Mark and Mike Anderson, thanks for being with me again.
The Anderson Brothers: A pleasure. My pleasure.
Neely Quinn: So tell me what you guys have been up to in the three years, maybe two years, since we talked last. And I want a full, detailed update.
Mark Anderson: Wow. A lot of training, rock climbing, watching kids grow up, that’s pretty much it for me.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Mike Anderson: This is Mike, ditto what Mark said. And also I’ve been dabbling in some rock climbing research, trying to get involved in the international community of rock climbing researchers and add to that where I can, and kind of collect the data for future additions of our training manual.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s a lot of what I want to talk to you guys about, is the research that has been happening. I know you guys have been surveying the people who are using your fingerboard and all of that, and then you guys made a new fingerboard. Why don’t you guys update me on the fun stuff first, which is your climbing. There’s some big news that happened in Rifle recently. Who wants to talk about it?
Mark Anderson: This is Mark. Yeah I just did Shadowboxing, which is a 14d that Jonathan Siegrist did the first ascent of. So for me its a new level, and it was a ton of work and a lot of kind of suffering and failure and eventually overcoming it, so I’m pretty stoked to have that behind me.
Neely Quinn: Yeah I bet. I usually don’t read, honestly, very many climbings blogs.
Neely Quinn: I read your entire post of detail by detail of every single move basically on the route and my fingers, my hands were sweating, and it was really good. It was really well written. So congratulations on that, that’s a monumental effort and yeah, it’s great. Good job.
Mark Anderson: Thank you.
Mike Anderson: I’ll throw this out there, Mark’s reads are always really good, he’s a great writer in that regard, so go back and read some of his other stories about his other sends, they’re just as gripping and immersive.
Neely Quinn: I’m sure lot of people who are listening to this already have. And then, I want to talk about how you trained for that. Do you want to get into that, or Mike do you have anything to add about what’s been going on with your climbing?
Mike Anderson: Yeah, sure. I’m still mired in the lowly French 8th grade, but our last podcast, I don’t know. I’ve definitely grown since then. I’ve been fortunate to attain the level of 14c on a couple of different routes, and just this last summer I did some of my personal best onsights. I onsighted an 8b+, or 8b in Austria, so a 13d, which is inching closer to a lifelong dream II’ve had of someday onsighting 14a, which would be incredible. So yeah, I’ve been doing pretty well myself.
Neely Quinn: Wow, you guys are crushing. Wait you onsighted 13d dog? I didn’t hear that.
Mike Anderson: Yes that is correct.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Wow, sick. You guys have probably been training a lot, or am I delusional and you guys are just off-the-couch-ing this?
The Anderson Brothers: [laughs] We train a lot. Always training. Training more than climbing.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Yeah, well that’s the Anderson way. So Mark, let’s go back to you, and tell me how did you train for Shadowboxing?
Mark Anderson: For the most part I just followed our normal Rock Prodigy method. We’ve learned a lot since the book came out, and at this point the book is probably not super up to date on what I do, but for for the most part the general concepts are the same. You know, primarily lots of hangboarding, other weight training, but you know, focusing on finger strength first and foremost.
Where I would say I’ve grown the most in the last year between when I first tried Shadowboxing and realized what the gap was between where I was at that time and where I needed to be to do the route, I really focused on endurance and power endurance. Like a lot of Rifle routes, it’s very long and very sustained and extremely pumpy. And that always used to be a strength for me when I was a 5.13 climber, but since I moved to Colorado almost everything on the Front Range is a boulder problem whether you’re on a rope or not, so I really emphasized power for the last 8 years or so. And by doing so I kind of somewhat intentionally created a weakness out of my endurance, just by focusing on power all the time. So when I got on the route it was very apparent that I would need a lot more endurance, to link the thing. So over the winter and the spring and summer seasons, I made endurance a really big emphasis of my training, and that’s probably what changed the most from a technical nerd training standpoint.
What’s most interesting is that I learned a lot about how to program training in a different way so that I could be really powerful and strong. Strong enough to do the crux moves, but also have really good endurance at the same time. That’s something I’d never really optimized nearly as well as I did this season. It usually would be that I’d have a power peak pretty early in the season and I’d do some bouldery routes, and then that would slowly evolve into an endurance peak, and then later in the season I’d try onsighting or doing some pumpy routes that weren’t very powerful. For Shadowboxing I was able to basically be as powerful as I ever have been and as endurant [sic] as I ever have been at the same time, which was kind of a revelation.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so do you want to tell us how you did that?
Mark Anderson: Not really [laughs]. I’m planning to write about it pretty extensively on my blog, so I don’t want to spill all the beans, but basically I’ll summarize it this way: everyone always asks me, or says something to the effect of “The Rock Prodigy method is linear periodization. Have you ever tried non-linear periodization, or what do you think of block periodization?” And I always start my answer by arguing with their assertion that the Rock Prodigy method is linear periodization. And for those that don’t know what that is, linear periodization is essentially you do one type of training, say base fitness, and then you completely shift to a different type of training, like strength, and then you completely shift to a different type of power, and you’re only training one type of fitness at a time. Whereas non linear periodization you might be training several types of fitness all at the same time, and I strongly believe that if you are doing the Rock Prodigy method correctly you are including elements of linear periodization and non linear periodization. It’s really a hybrid type of periodization, and this is actually in the book, if you don’t believe me and you think I made this up after the fact. It’s in the book in Chapter 4.
But anyway, the short version is that I started experimenting with more and more different ways of doing non linear periodization to train multiple types of fitness at the same time. And it’s easy to say that that’s what you’re trying to do, its another thing to execute it. That’s really the crux of it, figuring out how to strike that balance, because if you do too much of one thing you won’t have enough energy or time to do the other thing. Getting them both right is a little bit tricky and it took some trial and error on my part.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Is that all you’re willing to tell us?
Mark Anderson: I think that’s the most interesting part [laughs]. I mean do you want to talk about what days I did certain work outs? It’s just a little too detailed.
Neely Quinn: I think that if you could give me just a basic description of one kind of week?
Mark Anderson: Well I’ll tell you what I did today, for example. Today I climbed in the barn and I started by 10-15 minute easy warm up. Then I did a warm up boulder ladder, from v0 to v9 or so. And then I worked some harder boulder problems up to v11. And that whole period is about a total of 40 minutes. I rested about 5 minutes, rearranged my fan, and then I campuses for 35 minutes. Then after that- campused to my limit for 35 minutes- then I rested about 5 minutes, then I did a very intense power endurance work out with a duty cycle- I want to say, 5 to 3 or something like that? 4 to 3? My sets, my climbing sets, are 2 minutes 15 seconds to 2 minutes 30 seconds,with a rest interval of 90 seconds between sets. I did four sets of that. And then when that was done I rested about 5 minutes and then I did about 30 minutes of full body strength training, core work and shoulder press and curls and biceps and pull-ups and stuff like that.
For someone my age, its a very exhausting work out and I feel very tired the whole rest of the day. I would take two full rest days after something like that because it is so long and intensive. I’ve also experimented with doing the first hour and 90 minutes on one day and doing another 30 to 60 minutes the next day, and that doesn’t seem to work as well. I’m better off doing one really long super intense day, and then just feeling like shit the rest of the day and then resting for two days.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, because that’s a three hour work out it sounds like.
Mark Anderson: It think it’s two and half. It’s very long and I enjoy all the aspects of it, so it’s never plodding. But you do need to stay psyched, and when when I finish the campus board and I’m mentally only half way through the work out and it feels like I’ve done the full work out… the first time I tried doing that I was like “this is crazy, it’ll never work”. But then it actually worked, and now I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Now it’s not that big of a deal.
Neely Quinn: And how many days a week are you training in general?
Mark Anderson: Well it depends on whether or not I am climbing outside, and most of the time, like Mike said, I don’t really climb outside that much. I think the thing I find most impressive about my own climbing is not my age or kids or whatever, it’s how little I actually spend touching rock [laughs]. I might as well live in Antarctica and just fly to another continent when I’m rock climbing because it happens so rarely [laughter]. It’s just the way my work schedule and family is, it’s just easier on everybody if I minimize the climbing, so I try to be in the best possible shape and make these brief excursions to rock and try to climb something hard.
But anyways, during the six week period when I actually am climbing rock, I try to get outside two days a week and train indoors one day a week. It’s better if my schedule is pretty flexible. If I have two days outside and those days are pretty intense and long, it’s better if I can take two rest days before training and take two rest days before hitting rock again. But usually I’m locked in to kind of a schedule where I am climbing outside Friday and Sunday and training inside on Tuesday. Sometimes those Tuesday workouts can be pretty rough, because I’m pretty fatigued by the time Tuesday rolls around. I’d rather train Wednesday but if I do that it screws up the next weekend.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Yeah, it’s a balancing act.
Mike Anderson: I’d like to interject that if you’d like to climb more rock it is possible, and it’s not necessary that you move to Antarctica to improve your climbing [laughs].
Neely Quinn: Last question Mark- well not last question- but on this topic. How many days are you training now that you aren’t really climbing outside?
Mark Anderson: I’ve been training about… I mean normally, for a workout I did today, I’d only do that every third day.
Neely Quinn: Oh okay.
Mark Anderson: So I’ll probably intermix it… a typical power phase for me nowadays would look like one day on two days off, one day on two days off, one day one day off, and then repeat. And that day where I’m only taking one rest day I wouldn’t do quite as intense of a work out. I either do less campusing or less bouldering, probably no power endurance. I don’t think its that helpful to train power endurance more than one day a week. That’s one way I kind of reduce the volume and get away with one fewer rest day.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Mike, do you have anything to interject? Anything else to interject about all this, about what he’s doing? Are you doing something similar? Is he doing something totally different?
Mike Anderson: We both sort of evolved in that same direction at the same time. For me it depends on where things are going with the season. My last season was really interesting from an experimental standpoint in that I started my training season in early March thinking i was going to have a peak in May. I had this trip planned to Austria in July, and in April I sprained my ankle really severely and knew I wasn’t going to be able to climb outside. I had been through my hand boarding phase, my strength phase, and I was in to power- and I hurt my ankle falling off of a boulder problem at the gym doing limit bouldering. So I had to completely readjust my training and I went back to doing hang boarding, because that’s something you can do with a really messed up ankle. And it extended my season really long, so my season on the calendar started in March and went all the way through July, which for us is a really, really long season.
But it worked out really well, I sent two 14c’s, onsighted 13c’s and a 13d, all in this huge massive along season, and the way that was possible was by doing what Mark’s describing- mixing in the linear periodization at the start with non linear at the end. What starts to happen with a really long season like that is your power starts to fade, and if you’re trying to do hard climbing you need that. I’m going through my typical sort of linear Rock Prodigy training phases, but I’m doing what I call maintenance work outs throughout to keep my finger strength and my upper body power at a high level, as I’m naturally gaining endurance through my outdoor climbing activities.
Neely Quinn: Okay so whereas before you would have just fingerboarded and campused and just done power endurance, now you’re sort of interspersing them all in a six week period, four week period?
Mike Anderson: Sort of. The way I’m doing it is during my strength phase I’m just doing strength. You’re doing activities to warm up and what not, and during my power phase I’m just doing power for the most part. It’s when I get to the performance phase, by the book it would say your just doing performance and then power endurance workouts. But that’s not what I’m doing. When I’m getting into the performance phase, I’m still dabbling in a little bit of fingerboard and little bit of power to try to keep those elements strong as I naturally gain endurance from climbing on the rock. If you didn’t do that, your strength and power would be fading away.
Neely Quinn: Right, so basically if you’re climbing on the weekends, then during the week you would maybe campus? Maybe fingerboard?
Mike Anderson: A lot of what Mark’s describing. I would do my warm up, boulder ladder, then I’ll actually go hit the hangboard for not every grip that I would normally train but grips that I think need it, that I’m not getting elsewhere. For example, a pinch grip. Because then after that I’m going to go hit the campus board. The campus board is working the hell out of your crimp grip, so I don’t need to hit that on the hangboard. But your pinch is being neglected, so I’m doing a couple sets of pinch grips to keep my pinch grip strong. And then it also depends on the routes you’re doing, you know if you’re working a route thats really pinch intensive and you want to do that, hit those grips. Maybe you have a project that has some tweaky pockets, so you’re doing your campusing that’s training your edges, but hang on pockets on the hang board so you keep those strong and not tweaky.
Neely Quinn: Right. So you’re “touching things up”.
Mike Anderson: Exactly.
Mark Anderson: That’s part of it, I’d say, is touching them up. Hopefully you’re maintaining it well enough so that you don’t need to touch it up, right? You don’t really want it to deteriorate in the first place, you want to keep it at a high level.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, but you’re saying you’re not doing full workouts.
Mark Anderson: No
Mike Anderson: You need to certain amount of workload to improve yourself but you need a much reduced level of workload to maintain and thats the idea. Let’s just do enough to maintain what you need and then hopefully you can maintain it long enough to send your project or whatever.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Mark Anderson: We have a blog post called “Delivered from Purgatory” that describes this in quite a bit of detail, although the one thing that’s missing is that it doesn’t have this hangboarding element that Mike’s been experimenting with recently.
Neely Quinn: Okay, and speaking of that, this is what I want to do with there rest of our time. I’d love to know more about the research, and then I have a bunch of questions from out Facebook people, and I think some of them are really good. Maybe we could talk about the new hangboard and the research that you guys are doing, and then the questions? Does that sound okay?
Unspecified Anderson Brother: Sweet.
Unspecified Anderson Brother: Sure.
Neely Quinn: Okay, tell me about the research.
Mark Anderson: Well, so what we’ve been trying to do is…. you know in my professional life I’m an academic, so it’s helpful to my professional career to tie in some of this research and it’s awesome. I get to go on fun trips around the world to present and meet with other researchers. But also, I always tell people that I don’t care about doing any experiment unless I can get a result soon enough to tell me what to do to improve my climbing.
Neely Quinn: [laughs}
Mark Anderson: At my age age, I’m really running out of time. So it has a sense of urgency to me that most academics don’t have. Most of them are just interested in doing just enough to get that next grant so they can keep going while never really answering a question.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Mark Anderson: I want to get answers to questions. Questions that are going to make you stronger, not is chalk helpful or not. [laughs]
Mike Anderson: We don’t need a scientific study to prove that.
Mark Anderson: Yeah.
Mike Anderson: So we designed the Rock Prodigy training center and we’re super psyched that Trango worked with us on that because that’s something we’ve been dreaming of for a long time. That was I think pretty revolutionary and we wanted to see if it actually works so we created a survey and published a couple of papers showing data from real climbers using it and showing their improvements in grip strength. And we actually tied it to climbing performance which really hadn’t ever really been done. You’ll see these studies where they put climbers on an edge grip and have them try certain repetitions and whatever, and they say “Well okay, they improved it doing this exercise”. I don’t really care about that, I care does it make me a better climber or not? And I can’t directly prove that our hang board made them a better climber but I can correlate that, and so that’s better than nothing.
But anyway, what was cool is now we have that experience and we got an opportunity to make another hangboard, The Forge, and there we got to take all the lessons learned from the Rock Prodigy Training Center and put it into that, The Rock Prodigy Training Center is a Ford f-150 truck. It’s super versatile, it’s tough, it’s rugged, and it’ll get the job done. But we were able to, with the Forge, to build a Ferrari pretty much.
Neely Quinn: Whoa, big words there [laughs].
Mike Anderson: We had time, a lot more time, to really refine it and tweak little tiny things that we thought could really improve it and knock it out of the park. And everyone that’s tried is is just like “Omg, this is the best hang board I’ve ever even thought of”.
Neely Quinn: I mean, the two biggest reason why people like it more?
Mike Anderson: We added some really cool features, like on the crimp grip- and this is Mark’s genius idea- there’s a little thumb guard that protects your DIP joint, which is your distal inner phalangeal joint. It allows you to really push your limits on your crimp grip while avoiding a certain type of injury that can be pretty devastating. People love that. I also think, for me personally, we’ve put a lot of effort into refining the geometry of the edges, so that every hold has kind of a hold radius, if you will, and I don’t think a lot of shapers put enough thought into that. It’s just sort of done by hand. We did this in SolidWorks, a 3d CAD modeling software. We used 3d printers to print out models of them and then we hung from them and tested them, so we were able to test a variety of different shapes of the edge profiles, and really honed in on one that we thought would push your limits while protecting your skin so that you could train harder without getting injured. To me, those are the best features of it. We also changed the texture, and that’s awesome. We added new grips, all that stuff.
Neely Quinn: Nice. It sounds great.
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Alright, back to the interview.
So you were talking about the results that you had gotten from the original training board and then the research that you did. So tell me some of the things that you found out.
Mike Anderson: Well, we found that hangboard training in general, following the Rock Prodigy method, is super effective at improving finger strength and it correlates to improving climbing performance. That’s something that Mark and I always knew, but we hadn’t really shown that across a very wide, diverse spectrum of athletes.
Mark Anderson: Yeah I think that’s really important, because I think that a lot of people will be like “Well I’ve read this on internet forums”. People say “Okay well the Rock Prodigy method works for the Andersons but you don’t really see everyone else out there crushing”. And I think at least in my mind, the study really refuted that argument, because you get to see people all genders, all age groups, all ability levels, make really what I think were really significant improvements.
Mike Anderson: And this is 120 people.
Neely Quinn: Ranging from climbing how hard to how hard?
Mike Anderson: 5.10 to 5.14.
Neely Quinn: Okay. And can you give me an overview of how this study was constructed and what the results were?
Mike Anderson: It wouldn’t pass an FDA drug trial as far as rigor, this is rock climbing, so everything has to be done for free. All we did was created a survey and we asked people who go to our website to compete our survey if they used the Rock Prodigy method, if they used our hang board. We had over 150 people respond with the survey, so they entered data. It’s all on their honor, but they told us their age, their climbing performance, how many years they’d been climbing, how many years they’d been training, how many years they’d been training with our method, how long they’d been doing hangboard workouts, all that sort of stuff. It was over sixty questions.
Neely Quinn: Wow.
Mike Anderson: I think what was really humbling, was flattering, was that people took the time to really answer the survey. That means that it was important to them. What we publish is just a snippet of that, of the survey results.
Neely Quinn: The results that they were statistically significantly better climbers?
Mike Anderson: Yes. On average people increased something like two and a half letter grades redpoint ability after only one season of training with our method.
Neely Quinn: Two and a half? That’s a big number.
Mike Anderson: Yeah that’s like going from 13a to 13c or d, after two and a half months of training.
Neely Quinn: Hmm.
Mike Anderson: And if you’ve been stuck at 13a for ten years, that is huge. That is a huge improvement.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s great. So now what?
Mike Anderson: One thing I’m working on- and Mark interject if you have anything to add- as far as research wise, we’ve done a couple of experiments with my students trying to do tweaks to the hang board. One idea I had was to refrigerate it in some way, so that was an interesting experiment. It didn’t really pan out, but that’s why they call it research.
Neely Quinn: You were refrigerating it so your hands wouldn’t get so hot and slip off?
Mike Anderson: Yeah exactly, so that you could have nice, cool, crisp conditions any time of the year.
Neely Quinn: That’s amazing! [laughs]
Mike Anderson: That will be published later this summer and geeks can read about it. What I found, really, all you need to do is just put it in your freezer the night before, or if it’s a cold night just set it outside. That helps a lot. It’ll stay cold at least an hour which is long enough to do the hangboard workout. The conclusion was: you didn’t need to do all this sophisticated and complex refrigeration machinery. Just put it in the freezer the night before and you’re good to go.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Mike Anderson: Another thing I’m doing is trying to instrument it with force gauges so we can measure the amount of force you’re applying to the board, and what I’m really interested in is the rate of force development. Other research has show that is a key attribute in climbing performance. Basically, how quickly you can grab onto a hold and generate maximum force to hang onto it. What I would like to be able to test by instrumenting the hangboard is that campusing improves your rate of force development. That’s something that anecdotally Mark and I know is true. This is a way to do a controlled experiment and show that it’s true. I have some students right now who are working on adding strain gauges which are a type of force sensor to the hang board, hook it to a micro controller which records the data, and will record the data as a function of time. We’ll see how the force is applied on the millisecond level.
The idea is we have athletes train on the hangboard with the strength phase, just following the Rock Prodigy method, and we’ll try to record their maximum rate of force development. Then we’ll go through the campusing phase and we’ll do the experiment again and our hypothesis is that their rate of force development would be much faster after having gone through the campusing phase of the program.
Neely Quinn: So you’re not concerned about how much force they’re actually applying, it’s just how quickly they get to the maximum when they’re hanging on the hangboard.
Mike Anderson: For purposes of this experiment, yes, but of course those are both important factors in climbing.
Neely Quinn: That’s interesting, I never even thought about that for a hangboard. Of course on a campus board but when you’re hanging I guess you do take some time to really settle into it.
Mike Anderson: That’s the thing, I think a drawback of hangboard training. That’s why we schedule it when we do in the training cycle. You do sort of ease your fingers into it, you wiggle them around and get them nice and set, you gradually build up the force. If that’s the only type of training you do then you go out on a hard project- Mark and I talk about this all the time- every crux move is a dyne. It’s so rare when you’re just getting to grab a hold as casually as possible, and really wiggle it in there and get it just right and gradually apply force. That’s not how it is. You’re always lurching for a hold, barely able to grab it. That’s what makes it a crux move. You start with the hangboard training, you get that base strength, but then you have to hone it down into a razor sharp ability to apply that force really quickly. That’s what hard moves are all about.
Neely Quinn: This is some serious minutia. It’s actually getting me really psyched to train.
Mike Anderson: You’re gonna have a sweet session this evening [laughs]. You take two engineering nerds with poor social skills and they have a lot of alone time, and so they just think about things like this. What do I need to do next?
Neely Quinn: Yeah I guess so. Is there any other research that’s happening?
Mike Anderson: That’s probably enough good for now. We’re gonna bore too many people. The international community in general though is doing some cool stuff. The research languished for a while as people, in our opinion, didn’t know the right questions to ask. We’re getting better at that as community, of focusing research into relevant questions that are actually going to help us perform better. That’s kind of cool. We’re gonna have a post later that kind of goes into summarizing the latest research.
Neely Quinn: Oh good, that’s great. I just had a girl e-mail me and and ask “Where’s the best place to find research on climbing training?” I was like… “I don’t know [laughs], where is it?”
Mike Anderson: No comment [laughs].
Neely Quinn: I have a question going back to an earlier conversation and then I want to get to my Facebook people’s questions. So, Mark, you said that you focused a lot on your power endurance before Shadowboxing, and I’m wondering how you do that.
Mark Anderson: That’s a good question. Of all the different types of training, of types of fitness you can train, that is by far the most difficult to train because of where I train. I have a barn on my property that’s about twelve feet tall, so all my training is done in there. Since it’s only twelve feet tall, there’s several different walls of varying steepness, but it makes it really hard to train endurance because you just can’t climb up for very long. I have a really long circuit that kind of weaves it’s way through the barn, but it’s mostly sideways climbing which is a major drawback. I don’t think climbing sideways is the same as climbing up. Your arms are straight almost the whole time when you’re traversing, versus having to actually pull up and lock off and that sort of thing. I’ve tried to tweak the circuit the best I can, so there’s a lot of up and down. It’s more like I’m climbing in a W shape, versus a straight dash, traversing straight. I try to do a lot of up and down climbing within that space, but it is very limiting.
I think that’s part of the reason why I neglected it, because I felt like it wasn’t very effective and it wasn’t very fun. It’s not fun to train power endurance in that kind of space. But, you know, if you need it, you have to do it whether it’s fun or not. I have this circuit now, and I’ve had this circuit-
Mike Anderson: Yeah dude let me tell you how fun it was arcing on a hangboard in Afghanistan. It was a laugh riot [laughs].
Mark Anderson: Fair enough [laughs]. Alright.
Neely Quinn: Poor Mark.
Mark Anderson: Alright. I’ve had this circuit almost since I moved here and I built the barn in 2008. I had a circuit that was about 30 moves and any time I was training power endurance I’d do this circuit. One lap would be a set and it would take around a minute and half to a minute forty five to climb one lap, and I would rest for some period of time and I would eventually try to reduce the rest time between sets. I would usually try to do four sets or something like that. As it got better and the rest time got too short, I would add sets on. For several years, I was noticing that I was always pumping out on my projects at basically the same amount of time under tension, like 90 seconds I was pretty much at my limit, so I was like “Alright gotta make this thing longer”. Also, I improved quite a bit during that time and I needed to make it harder. I kind learned this trick through- I guess Steve Bechtel- but from, I’m gonna blank on the guys name-
Mike Anderson: Frank Dussel.
Mark Anderson: Frank Dussel, yeah. He had this circuit that he had in his gym and he trained on it for years and years and every so often he would just replace the best hold with the worst hold, and it just kept getting harder and harder over time. I kind of used that same concept, where there were some really big holds where I’d recover, I took it out and I’d put a sharp tiny crimp, tried to make it a little bit harder. I was still training not hat last fall for Shadowboxing and it was getting ridiculous where my rest between sets was 30 seconds and I was like “How do I improve on this other than just lapping the thing?”. So I created a down climb to link from the end of it to the start of it so I literally could lap it. I essentially doubled the length of it. It’s about 50 or 55 moves or something like that, which is much better for the types of projects I’m struggling on. I think that was probably the biggest difference.
Basically after I’d quit Shadowboxing for the fall 2015 season I decided to try lapping this thing once and see if I could do it, and I didn’t actually send the first time, but I was like “Ok, this is feasible, this is something I could aspire to”. So through the winter I built up to being able to lap it, and then doing sets lapping it, and then my spring/summer season I was also working Shadowboxing again and that was my primary method of power endurance training. Just doing this really long but quite intense circuit. When I first created it I figured the circuit itself was probably 13c or d, and then tweaking the holds probably got it closer to 13d or 14a, and then adding another lap I’d say it’s probably in the 14b range now.
One thing that was interesting was between my summer season and fall season I did this half assed mini season where I didn’t do any dieting and I trained a little bit but not that much. I tried this circuit and I totally struggled and couldn’t even complete a single lap and there were sections I couldn’t even do. So it was very interesting to see what the difference was between my fitness when I was in shape and when I was sort of in shape and it was pretty stark. That was probably the biggest driver in how I accomplished my power endurance training for Shadowboxing.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so if a person doesn’t have a barn, they would do what?
Mark Anderson: Well hopefully you can build some kind of circuit- and when I mean build I don’t necessarily mean putting holds on the wall- but you go to your gym and almost every gym has a wall with a bunch of holds on it. It might be the bouldering cave, or it might be the lower part of the lead cave, or it could be a systems wall. Hopefully you can design your own circuit, and there’s easier and harder wants to do that. The easiest way is probably to go to wall that has a bunch of pre-set boulder problems and has enough density of problems that you could pick out four or five problems you can do and you can build what we call a link bouldering circuit, where you’re just linking boulder problems together to get the right number of hand moves. That’s probably the easier thing to do.
Another option is, if you don’t have a bouldering wall like that but you have rope climbing in your gym, is pick a route that’s around your flash level, something you could do fairly consistently when you’re fresh and then do laps on that.
Neely Quinn: Laps coming down, not down climbing?
Mark Anderson: Probably. Really I think the most important factor is the time under tension. If you’re training for project that’s going to require a two minute sustained effort, then you want whatever your training route or training circuit to be about that or a little longer if possible. If it takes you two minutes to climb from the ground to the top of the gym and you’re training for a two minute effort, then that would be a good one set. So you climb to the top, you could lower to the ground, but the clock needs to be running at that time so you measure your rest interval. Start with maybe four minutes rest for a two minute set. That would be a 2:1 duty cycle. Then you want to progressively reduce that duty cycle the best you can.
Neely Quinn: Okay. And I’m just gonna state the obvious here, the treadwall would probably be super helpful here.
Mark Anderson: I’ve never used a treadwall for that purpose but Mike has, I assume. Mike has a treadwall so maybe he can comment on that.
Mike Anderson: I’d say that there’s pros and cons to the treadwall. I don’t think it’s ideal. I think the best thing is link bouldering circuits or route laps. The problem with the treadwall is it’s moving, it simulates climbing movement but it’s not climbing movement because you’re stationary and a wall is moving. It’s really hard to do dyno-y type moves and as we discussed earlier in the cast, that’s what cruxes are. That’s really what you need to be doing. That limits the usefulness of the treadwall for power endurance training. Great for arcing, but not power endurance in my opinion.
Neely Quinn:That’s interesting.
Mark Anderson: I would throw in there too that in my experience, eighty percent of power endurance is just mental training, really. Just teaching yourself and convincing yourself that you can climb really hard things when you’re pumped out of your mind. That goes especially for dynos. Of course you can do an easy ladder statically when you’re really pumped, but can you dyno into a two finger pocket when you’re really pumped? That takes some experienced practice, in my experience. You really need to convince yourself by dong it repeatedly that yes you really can do that so don’t quit when you’re on redpoint.
Neely Quinn: I think that it’s interesting your opinion about treadwalls. The treadmill that we have at The Spot in Boulder, there are some dynos on there for me, and I feel like I’m dyno-ing, well doing big moves at least, and I don’t feel like it moving impedes that. I guess everybody has their own experience with it. Maybe it’s because I’m shorter? I don’t really know.
Mark Anderson: That’s part of it. It helps to be shorter relative to the size of the treadwall, but it would be interesting to watch you do it. I think you’re probably not pushing yourself as you could on a static wall- a bouldering wall. You’re not going to be doing as hard of movement. The three dimensional kinematics that are happening in a hard bouldering dyno are not faithfully represented on a treadwall, which is moving. It depends on the treadwall design, but some of them move. The panels certainly move. So you’re dyno-ing to moving targets sometimes, or when you’re dyno-ing you’re losing some of your energy to moving the panels around. And the problem I have with power endurance on routes is that it’s perfect serendipity to get a route that’s the right level of difficulty for the right amount of time, unless you’re able to set it yourself. Link bouldering circuits to me are the gold standard. A systems wall is the best place to do it because that’s where there’s a ton of hold density.
Climbing gyms are there to make money off the general population, they’re not creating the best training. In the general bouldering area, the boulder problems aren’t representative of real rock climbing and they’re not in the right position to put together a really good link bouldering circuit. That’s where a systems wall is usually much better, especially if you can adjust the angle, that’s really helpful. You can build your own little circuits that really target the holds that you need to target.
Neely Quinn: Is that all on power endurance? Anything to add?
Mark Anderson: Nothing, I’m done.
Mike Anderson: I would say try hard. Like I said, it’s mostly mental and it’s a simulation for a reappoint performance and you need to practice trying hard. Really where I had a breakthrough with my endurance wasn’t a physical adaptation it was realizing how much harder I could try. Not that I didn’t think I could try harder, I didn’t realize how much of a difference it would make to try harder. I kind of thought “I should try hard here because this is a work out and it’s important to me”, but I didn’t think it would improve my performance significantly, I figured it was mostly physical and it didn’t really matter that much how much harder I tried or how intense I was. But it really does matter, and when you start feeling tired it really does help to say squeeze hard here and don’t give up and just keep trying hard, even though you feel like you’re going to fall. You’d be surprised how many moves you can tack on when you think you’re way too pumped to climb. Now I’m at a point where I will start a set being 100% convinced that I can’t even pull off the ground, and then I’ll send the set, which is fifty moves. I did fifty moves thinking I couldn’t do one. That’s a huge revelation.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Wish I could do that. I would like to go on to some questions from our people on Facebook. There are a bunch, and actually you guys answered some of these questions, so I’ll start with Ofer Blutrich asks “What is their opinion on overload progression, smaller edge or more weights on bigger edge?”. Does that make sense?
Mark Anderson: Yeah that’s clearly answered in the book [laughs]. We could probably answer most questions that way but it wouldn’t be very interesting for our listeners.
Neely Quinn: Okay, read the book Ofer [laughs].
Mark Anderson: Yeah that’s a common question, what’s the best way to progress on a hangboard? I learned something when we were at the research conference this summer. Apparently people have done pretty extensive research on what adaptations occur when you train on really tiny edges. I know there’s back and forth on this topic and some people out of the gate say “Just use a big edge, it’s easier on your skin and you can add shit tons of weight no big deal” and other people are like “Well if I hang more than 50 pounds off my harness my shoulders start getting wrecked” and whatever. I think the bottom line for me, both methods have been used successfully. What compels me is that this research shows that when you hang on really tiny holds many adaptations occur in the tips of your fingers, such as the bone density increases, fat tissue develops underneath your skin which makes it more comfortable. Apparently there’s some other research that shows the most important factor in how small a hold you can grip is not your finger strength but how much pulp is in the tip of your finger or something. And all these things are proved by hanging on really tiny edges.
So for me it seems like it’s more practical- there’s more upsides to actually training on a small hold with less weight because it will stimulate these adaptations. I think part of the reason Mike and I are climbing our best at this age is that we’ve been training on tiny ass holds for ten years, and we’re just now starting to see some of the benefits that we earned, or we invested in, ten years ago.
Neely Quinn: Right, you guys have fatty fingertips is what you’re saying.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, that’s right.
Neely Quinn: And now you’re just getting strong enough to use them.
Mark Anderson: I think it’s that we didn’t always have fatty fingertips and it takes a long time for those adaptations to occur, and the training we did ten years ago is just now paying off.
Neely Quinn: Right. Okay, second question from Ofer. “Why not combine plyometric training and fingerboard in the same week?”. Or is that something that you would do now?
Mike Anderson: This is Mike. I’d do it in maintenance but not early in the phase. The reason is that power is short lived, you can’t keep it high all the time.
Mark Anderson: Mike, when you first lived in Colorado Springs you built a campus board in your garage next to your hangboard so you could experiment with complex training. He’s talking about complex training. You’ve experimented with that, haven’t you?
Mike Anderson: Yeah, I’d say the results were inconclusive. I just think you can’t campus for twelve weeks straight. Injury after injury shows that to be true. We encourage everyone to try stuff, but people always end up complaining that their elbows hurt.
Neely Quinn: Well that leads to his third question. It says “Sport science has suggested 8 week periods to see gains in strength. Would it be wise to do 16 workouts in strength period and not 8 to 10 like suggested in the book?”.
Mark Anderson: I think it’s worth trying if you can stay psyched that long. Again, we experiment, and then we go off of what those experiments show and I’ve never been successful going beyond twelve workouts. For me I hit a limit, and maybe for someone else who maybe started more conservatively and ramped up more slowly, you could continue to see gains for eight weeks. But the way I do it, I’ve never been able to sustain gains for that long. I won’t keep hammering away at it while I’m not getting any better, I’d rather spend my time doing something else.
Mike Anderson: And that’s been exactly my experience. I think what Ofer is getting at is from the bodybuilding or power lifting community, the corporate knowledge, I guess, is that it takes eight weeks to get gains from hypertrophy. What’s happening in hangboarding isn’t so much hypertrophy so much as it is neuromuscular adaptations. You’re not really enlarging your muscles so much as you’re improving your pathways between your brain and your muscles to generate that force.
Mark Anderson: I don’t know if I’d go that far, I think the jury’s still out on that and there isn’t really any conclusive evidence. I think it depends on the type of hangboarding you’re doing and there’s a lot of variety of what people are calling hangboarding right now. To say that it necessarily does not cause hypertrophy, I would debate that.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, and I don’t mean to say that. Look at Anderson’s arms, our forearms are bigger than our biceps, so something’s causing hypertrophy in Andersons. It’s probably the hangboarding.
Mark Anderson: I would say to Mike’s larger point, yeah, the weightlifting community always uses eight weeks at the benchmark for how long the strength phase should be. I just think that trying to say that what happens in your quads when you do squats is the same as what happens in your forearms when you hang on a fingerboard, I think that’s a huge leap to make and we need climbing specific data before we draw some sort of conclusion on that.
Neely Quinn: Ryan Fletcher asks “ How do you integrate more climbing into your program? It works very well, but there is a lack of actual climbing during some stages of the program.”
Mark Anderson: I would say training is not for everybody [laughs]. Go ahead Mike.
Mike Anderson: We also talk about that in the book. You’re making compromises and life is about compromises. So that’s totally good. You can do link bouldering circuits outside. So go do that if you have that available to you. You can do power endurance training, you can do route laps. All of that can be done outside. I love arcing outside, that’s the best place to do it, that’s the most realistic practice. All that stuff can be done outside. I wouldn’t try to do a hangboard workout outside, but even then if you need a strength workout you could do it with structured bouldering routines where you’re putting thought into it. Anything we describe in the book can theoretically be done outside and we describe how to do that in a lot of cases.
We’re probably on one extreme end and that’s not because it’s the only way to do it, it’s because our time is limited and its most time efficient to do these things indoors on certain specific apparatus. But you can do a lot of training outside, it’s just going to take you more time.
Neely Quinn: And planning.
Mark Anderson: It’s probably not quite as effective.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, there’s a compromise. You’re making a compromise. You’re probably going to get more enjoyment out of the sport than training. We really enjoy improving, that’s what gets us psyched. For us, it’s more psyche inducing to have a really good hangboard workout and know that we’re going to improve from it than it is to go out to the crag when we’re not in peak shape and kind of muddle around on routes, and not really know if we’re getting a good workout or not.
Neely Quinn: Okay, a couple more. Zachary Evans says “What is the best strategy they use for time management with a family and a full time job?”.
Mark Anderson: I’d say the best thing is to train at home. You can save a lot time by not driving places.
Mike Anderson: Yeah I agree with that.
Mark Anderson: And then it’s just kind of practice again, you get more and more efficient the more you do it. Try to have stuff ready to go before you start your workout.
Mike Anderson: Planning really helps, tell your significant other “Hey I’m doing hangboard workouts on Tuesday and Friday and Sunday” or whatever it is. And then know when you’re doing that, you get up before everybody else and work out, if you can make that work. Drink caffeine if you’re going to dot hat because you tend to be sluggish in the morning.
Neely Quinn: Anything else?
Mark Anderson: I mean I would just say in general the unsung heroes in this whole thing is the spouse. It really helps to have a supportive spouse. They’re going to need to pick up slack. I know for Mike and I our wives are amazing and they do a lot of stuff to make up for when we’re training or when we’re climbing. Obviously not every spouse can be psyched about that, but maybe there’s things you can do to make it up to them in the off season. Try to come up with some give and take so that- I mean Kate does a lot of things for me no question, but I also watch the kids twice a week so she can go to the gym twice a week with her girlfriends and they can climb for a half day. Because I train and the way I train, I take a lot of rest days, so I have a lot of opportunities where I’m just sitting around doing nothing and so I can do little things to help with the family and give Kate a break every now and then.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Wise words. One more. I hope I didn’t say that last time. Okay so Léa Chin says “How to add weight for hangboard training based on one’s weight. So for example, adding 20lbs for someone who is 160lbs does not have the same impact as for someone weighing 110lbs. In other words, is there a ratio one should not exceed?”.
Mike Anderson: I would say probably yes, and I don’t know what it is. But play around with it. Experiment.
Mark Anderson: It depends a lot on the person and it kind of goes back to that question about should you add more weight or use smaller holds? I’ve head there’s people out there adding 150 pounds to themselves for a hangboard set, and if I did that my arms would rip out of my shoulder sockets. [laughter] I can do 70 or 80 pounds but I know there’s people who’s shoulders start to hurt if they go above 30. I don’t think there’s any hard limit for the human species, I would say it depends on the person and how strong your elbows and shoulders and back are. The great thing is that you can very gradually work up to that limit and sense it coming from a long ways off. Definitely don’t do your first hangboard workout and strap 80 pounds on and hope everything goes okay when you hang off that jug. Most people are going to want to start with taking weight off, and then gradually as you progress through the workouts, you’re going to increase.
So I would say instead of asking the question of what percentage of your body weight can you add, I would say start with what’s right for where you are and just add. The better question is what’s the right increment of increasing resistance to your workouts.
Mike Anderson: I think that’s what she’s asking Mark.
Mark Anderson: Really?
Mike Anderson: Or maybe how much you’re incrementing from set to set.
Mark Anderson: Okay well I think that’s the better question, where or not that’s what’s being asked or not. For me I increase 10 pounds between sets of a given grip, and between workouts I increment 5 pounds per workout, assuming I succeed on the previous one. So if you’re half my weight, I’m about 150, if you weight 75 pounds you should be incrementing by 5 pounds between sets and 2 and a half between workouts.
Mike Anderson: I’m coaching youth climbers that are ranging from those weights and that’s what we do. We’re only adding 2 and a half pounds per workout and we’re incrementing 5 pounds from step 1 to step 2. It varies and you experiment with it and you always take notes. Take really good notes about how it went. I don’t use a set- in general Mark said I try to increment 10 pounds from set to set but it varies. On a tweaky hold like a mono I’m going to start out really easy on my first set, so then my increment from the first set to the second set would be 15 or 20 pounds because I feel better.
Mark Anderson: Yeah and I do the same thing. Although for me between my first and second mono set I’ll increase 10 pounds and the between the second and third I’ll increase 5 pounds. That second set ends up being the most difficult one usually so maybe I should be doing 8 and 7 or something like that. I haven’t quite nailed it down, but I don’t have 7 pound weights, I have 5 and 10 pound weights, so these are the increments that I work with. I’ve heard about people using a 2 and a half pound weights.
Our friend Lamont Smith has this crazy equation he uses where he takes two pieces of paper to show this equation for how he decides how much he’s going to set up his weight for the next work out. There’s all kinds of ways you can do it, but bottom line is experiment and find out what works well for you.
Neely Quinn: Alright, so this is really lame and I’m really sorry, but I had technical difficulties during this interview and I had to do it in Google Hangouts and I never do that and apparently you can only record with the settings that I had on it for an hour and five minutes and that’s where we are right now. I don’t have any more of our conversation, however we were only on the call for another five minutes and I just asked them about their future plans. Both of them said that they have projects around here that they’re trying to get done and they were very elusive about what those projects were. And that they’re just going to keep working on the research and keep working on new editions of the book and that was basically it. Again, I’m really sorry, but I didn’t want to just throw away the whole interview because I lost the last five minutes. Call me unprofessional, I’m really sorry, I’ll try not to let that happen again.
If you liked that interview, and you want to hear more from them, they have a whole website and a forum and a ton of information on training that they’ve amassed over the years, and it’s rockclimberstrainingmanual.com. They’re of course on social media, but they’re really busy so it’s not like they post too too much. What they do post is invaluable. Definitely check them out, I hope you enjoyed the interview- what there was of it- and the sound quality again wasn’t even super good on this one because of it being on the Google Hangout. I’m sorry, but we got the Anderson Brothers and so hopefully you got something out of it.
I think that’s it for me today, I’m about to go see another house, as you know from last time we are house hunting, and today looks promising actually, so I’m kind of psyched. I’ve been climbing a bit and I’m doing okay at climbing even though I haven’t been climbing that much, so that’s kind of fun. Other than that, I’m doing nutrition stuff, and I’m having a really good time and having awesome success with people with their weight and with energy levels, so if you want to work with me, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to help you with all that.
Thanks for listening all the way to the end, thanks for your patience with my technical difficulties and I will talk to you next week. I have a lot of really great interviews coming up, I think Dan Mirsky will be next week actually. Alright, so thanks a lot, have a good week!