As part of a new series on Australian producers of climbing-related gear, we speak to Pat Klein, owner of Concept Climbing, a new Melbourne-based company that produces training products, primarily fingerboards.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I love fun adventure sports, being out and active with friends is pretty much what it’s all about! I’m a bit of nerd, I love reading up and studying anything to do with exercise physiology, especially related to climbing and strength sports.
How did you get into climbing?
Whilst at university one of my friends took me along rock climbing, we both really enjoyed it so we decided to make it a weekly thing. Then, being a typical uni student I also needed a part time job. It just happened that the gym we went to was hiring. I was lucky enough to score the job back then and dove into the climbing world head first.
What is it about climbing that you really enjoy?
The variety of the challenges that climbing provides. Not only is climbing a very physical sport, but you need to be able to problem solve and combine strength with skill. There is no set correct way to climb, everyone is different and this shows in climbing, it makes for a really interesting sport. And, of course, the social scene!
What inspired you to start Concept Climbing?
A combination of things. My love of climbing and the lifestyle associated with it, a ‘slight’ training addiction and, at the time, a desk job that was slowly driving me crazy. Cue some words from a few friends running their own climbing businesses and I thought I may as well give it a shot!
You use a CNC machine to create your boards; do you have a background in design or engineering?
Not quite, I actually studied Biomedical Science with a bunch of exercise physiology thrown in at uni. I taught myself the 3D modelling, design and machining through lots of reading, videos and practice.
What kinds of things did you think about when you were creating the board, and was it a long process?
For the wall-mounted training boards, edge depth and hold layout were the most important things. There have been a bunch of studies done looking into hangboard training and what combination of edge depths and training styles are most beneficial. I decided to design the boards based around these key hold depths, as well as laying the holds out to be shoulder, wrist and elbow friendly.
For the Crag Board I wanted something small and lightweight that you could take anywhere and have enough hold selection to properly warm up or train with limited facilities.
You mention special edge depths – what are these key depths? And what studies did you pull them from?
The major studies on hangboarding training have been done by Eva Lopez who completed her PHD on finger-strength training. There has also been a bunch of independent research done by Steve Maisch and Eric Horst, who also recommend similar training plans. The consensus is that max-weight training is best performed on a one pad edge, which they studied at 18mm. They found that for maximum strength gains 18mm was better suited than using a smaller edge. However, training on small edges has another set of benefits different to max weight as it strengthens the DIP joints in the finger more. Ultimately, based on their research, a combination of maximum weight training followed by periods of minimum edge training offers the best results.
Can you tell us a bit about the fingerboards you have created?
Our hangboards are CNC machined from plantation-grown mahogany. Not only does mahogany timber look fantastic, but it’s renewable and incredibly strong. The boards are then hand finished. We are proud to say everything is completed in-house in our Melbourne workshop.
Before going into production we tested various prototypes with members of the Australian team, the Australian National coach and a bunch of other strong climbers. With lots of feedback we were able to implement various changes and further improve on the boards to where they are now!
What do you think is unique about your boards?
The design principle. There aren’t too many boards out there designed around scientifically proven training plans, and none of those are timber. Timber is the skin-friendliest surface to train on and when you’re training multiple days a week this makes a huge difference.
We also constantly speak to users of our products and we’re always striving to enhance our products.
Do you have any new products (that you can tell us about) that you are working on?
Yes! We are currently releasing a hangboard that is designed around a max weight/min edge training plan. Otherwise we are working on producing some fibreglass climbing volumes.
We’ve also recently partnered up with Shaun from ClimbingMeta (www.climbingmeta.com) to produce training timers and guides that work in conjunction with our hangboards for the ultimate training experience.
And, finally, we’re also working on a clothing project, but for now that’s all I can say regarding that matter.
For a long time Roland Pauligk, creator of RPs, was one of the few successful people creating gear in Australia, but there seems to be more people making gear at this present moment – what do you think is the reason for this?
I think the biggest reason is that climbing as a sport and community is currently exploding all over the world. Everywhere you look these days there’s a climbing gym and new ones are popping up all over the place and a crazy rate. It’s now in the 2020 Olympics, which has cast new light into the sport and exposing it to people who would have never seen it before. Social media now also plays a huge part, anyone making gear whether it’s hangboards or hand sewn chalk bags has the opportunity to instantly share their work with thousands online.
As someone who creates training tools, what do you think are the most important aspects of training for climbing?
I think it’s easy to get caught up in crazy training routines, keeping it simple works. Training consistency and safe progression are the two most important things.
As climbing is such a skill-diverse sport it’s important to focus on movement as well as the strength aspect of the sport; both need to be in sync and having the strongest fingers won’t help if you can’t move well on the wall.
There are a lot of fingerboard routines going around at the moment, in terms of the timing of hangs and the types of grips that are used – do you have a favourite routine?
My favourite routine is a maximum-weight/minimum-edge program. There have been a few studies (including a PHD) done into this style of training and it has fantastic results for what is a relatively small input.
It consists of two training blocks, a maximum-weight cycle that is repeated twice, followed by a minimum-edge cycle.
The basics for this training is using two to three grips (ie half crimp, open crimp) and you complete 5 x 10 second hangs with a three minute break between each hang, and a five minute break between each grip style.
The max-hang cycle is completed on an 18mm edge with enough weight so you would fail at 13 seconds. You then hang for only 10 seconds, so you’re not actually failing whilst training. Not only does this reduce injury risk, but it improves recovery time and you receive the same benefits as training to failure.
The min-edge cycle is very similar in that you pick the smallest edge you can hold for 13 seconds, and then hang for ten seconds during training. Once you reach the smaller holds (6mm) you can add weight to increase difficulty (you can also add weight to aid in progressions between edge depths).
These sessions are done three times a week and are completed in a five-week blocks with one week rest between them.
You can visit Concept Climbing’s website here.