Climbing Training: Self-Coaching During COVID-19

Climbing Training: Self-Coaching During COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has created a media explosion – even within the climbing community. Every climbing trainer is stuck inside wanting nothing more than to give you what you need stay inside and keep up with your training. The breadth of information is invaluable. However, whether or not you navigate it well enough get results is a different story.

As someone that carefully plans their training (I had a training roadmap for all of 2020 figured out in December 2019), losing access to normal climbing facilities threw me for a loop. I found myself overwhelmed with all the training options for my time in isolation. Fortunately I avoided the paralysis by analysis and I crafted myself a training regimen that addresses my weaknesses, utilizes the equipment I have, and that I find enjoyable.

Here is the process that I followed to create my own quarantraining plan. It may help you with yours. I recommend getting out a piece of paper and a pen before continuing on.

Step 1: Brainstorm

For the days following the closure of my gym, my head was a junk pile of ideas. I had so many thoughts about my weaknesses, exercises I wanted to do, and “fun stuff” that was not super climbing specific, but that I enjoyed. Always wanted to learn handstands? Want to finally do a pistol squat? At last have the time to consistently follow a hangboard protocol? Awesome. Write it down.

Here is what my sheet looked like:

I may have set my coffee cup down on this after I finished scribbling.

Step 2: Assessment

In addition to brainstorming on what you might want to work on, it is also advisable to give yourself some kind of assessment to point you in the right direction. My baseline for training this season is an assessment I took in December ahead of the Power Company Empowered event. Though I don’t have the tools to completely repeat the assessment right now, I was able to at least complete some of it.

You can read the blog post here about how to do a minimal at-home climbing assessment. It does require a pull-up bar and a hangboard.

I repeated the assessment and compared to my previous results and the benchmarks for my goals. This gave me some direction for my training priorities.

See below for my results.

Figure 1: Endurance well within range of 2020 objective. Max weight hang and pull-ups are on par as well, but need work to ensure I maintain these qualities.

Some Background on my December Assessment

Based on some additional campus board testing and help from the Power Company coaches, I know that my biggest weaknesses are my maximal pulling power and explosive reach, so that was the focus of my December through March training. In broad terms, I didn’t need to work on being able to pull more weight. I needed to work on being able to pull that weight faster and farther.

A Note for those with Minimal Training Equipment:
Now is the time to get creative. Perhaps your door frame is your hangboard now. Perhaps the only thing you have to press overhead is a bag of rice. If you do not have a lot of training equipment, create your own assessment based on what you have available. For example, working towards doing 25 push-ups in a row is an admirable goal for general strength and conditioning and requires no equipment. Find something to assess and create something to work toward.

What to do with these results?

Seeing that my forearm endurance is not an issue and knowing that endurance is a quality that can be trained up quickly (2-4 weeks), I am not concerning myself too much with trying to keep my endurance up. Training endurance on a hangboard sucks anyway.

What I can see is that I still have some room for improvement in my overall finger strength and my pulling power, though according to these metrics, I am well within the ballpark of my goals for the year. At minimum, I need to maintain these qualities.

Pinches are also a weakness of mine. I was in the middle of a pinch training protocol when COVID-19 started impacting my life, so I will continue my pinch training with my new homemade pinch blocks.

Between the exercises I find enjoyable, an understanding of my weaknesses, and the types of training I am interested in learning about, I put together some training goals.

Step 3: Make Some Training Goals

Since the end date of this crisis is unknown, it is hard to determine what I want the end result to be. Because of this, my goals are somewhat generic. If you have more specific goals like “do 10 pull ups” that is great and probably better than my generic list. I simply do not feel the need to make overly specific goals since I have no idea how much time I have to complete them. My goals are as follows, in no particular order.

  • Improve maximal finger strength and pinch strength by hangboarding and using pinch blocks
  • Increase pulling power by performing pull workouts
  • Maintain work capacity by performing kettlebell workouts.
  • Increase abdominal strength by doing ab workouts and practicing front levers
  • Maintain pushing strength
  • Maintain mobility by performing 10 minutes of a mobility warm-up prior to any training session.

After I realized what my goals were, I looked at how I wanted to structure it into a schedule.

Step 4: Make a Schedule and Execute

Get a calendar our and based on what your week looks like, carve out blocks where training can happen. Keep in mind that you do not need 90 minutes for a good training session. You can do a lot of good work in 30-45 minutes. Some excellent ab workouts only take four minutes. Now, more than ever, you hardly have the excuse of time as to why you cannot get some training done. If you care about it, you will make time for it.

After you have your buckets of time, figure out what you can fit into these buckets. Maybe this is where some of your original ideas get eliminated. Have a favorite abs video you like doing? Perfect. Slot it in every other morning 30 minutes before you start your day.

Since I am a fan of training twice in one day and my body is accustomed to this, I am keeping this schedule for my quarantraining program. I am going training every other day, twice a day. Here are the three training days I am rotating through. The other days are for rest and maybe some walking around, though I am trying my best to limit my exposure to the outdoors in light of the current situation.

Vertical Pulling Days

pistol squat

Power Pull-ups,
Repeaters (various grips)
Pistol Squats
1 arm isometric hangs

Kettlebell Work Capacity
(Power Company Quarantraining), Pinches

Horizontal Pulling Day

hangboard senderellastory

One Arm Bent Over Rows
Single arm inverted rows

Kettlebell Complexes
(Power Company Quarantraining), Repeaters

Pushing & Abs Day

Order of Operations

Though there are no absolute rules to this, I like to put my high intensity/low rep work in the morning and strength endurance work in the evening. Most coaches recommend that if you are doing maximal strength work and endurance work in the same day or in the span of a couple of days, strength comes first before endurance-type work. You may have to experiment to figure out what order works best for you and your schedule. The order that yields measurably better results is the one you will want to go with.

If you need help with this, I really like this youtube video from Lattice Training. It gives a lot of examples to help you grasp the concept of how to best shuffle your training activities.

Everything Should Have a Reason

For everything you decide to do during your time of isolation, make sure there is a good reason why you are doing it. This check alone will help you get rid of “junk” that might slip in with the onslaught of training information coming your way.

Forget About Perfection

I could list a lot of things about this situation that are less than ideal. The training program I have made here is no exception. However, it is good enough. I can point to every single thing I am doing and give a reason why I am doing it. Good enough now is better than perfection after two weeks of thinking about it.

Have questions about what I’m doing? Need help coaching yourself? I am more than happy to help. If you need someone to talk to or bounce ideas off of, leave a comment below!

If you found this post helpful and you are ready to get stronger fingers yourself, then you are going to love my strength & fingers program: Force Over Time.

Force Over Time is a 12 week program combining strength training and hangboarding. This program can be done in addition to your climbing. That way, you can get stronger, without giving up your time to climb.


Home Self-Assessment and Relevant Data Sets – Power Company Climbing

Training for Climbing Website: Rotator Cuff and 4 minute plank circuits

Power Company Quarantraining Group

Rock Climbers Training Manual – a variation on their intermediate repeater protocol

Logical Progression for integrated strength training and other general goodness- Climb Strong

Unstoppable Force – Bible of resistance training and mobility for climbers

Troubleshooting your Climbing Training – Lattice Team

Photos by Teagan Maddux

Equipment I’m Using

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