Tom O’Halloran reviews the new training for rock climbing guide, The Climbing Bible, by internationally renowned climbers and coaches Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen
Not so long ago, climbing training books were like hens’ teeth. A shop could stock all four of them and keep the few psyched and curious climbers knowledge-lust satiated. One on the physical, one for your head game, Dave
Macleod wrote something about injuries – and they all glossed over technique. Perhaps there wasn’t as much to write on the subject, with research still in its absolute infancy. Or perhaps the perceived return on investment from the author didn’t weigh up. A research heavy ‘textbook’ isn’t a stream of consciousness, three-month turn around. Plus, we were still very much stuck in the dogma of, ‘to get better at climbing, you just need to go climbing. Training is for people that don’t love climbing.’
Flash forward to 2020 and there’s more training information than you can poke a stick clip at. Dare I say it’s a saturated market, with everyone having a crack at unloading their brain into books, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Instagram and even old buddy lurking in the shadow of the 45, all have the latest research protocol.
The topic of physical training has covered the most ground, though recently there have been a few attempts to tackle the mental side. In the words of the prolific climbing-training author and podcaster, Eric Horst, ‘there’s gold to be mined, out there, which will take you’re climbing to the next level.’ But how does the curious climber separate the gold nuggets from the not so gold ones.
If only there was one book to get us all through our climbing life. Written by people with credibility and experience. Something that gives us a framework and an understanding of where the metaphorical true north may be. Take me from the start, a clean slate, and teach me lessons to keep going up.
Enter, The Climbing Bible, Technical, Physical and Mental Training for Climbers. Perhaps the most comprehensive tome you’ll find today. All jokes aside, this could be the one book that leads you through your vertical, and sometimes horizontal, life.
The fantastic thing is the book starts from the beginning. The authors break climbing into the three categories – technical, physical and mental – and start from scratch with each topic. No prior learning or perceived knowledge are required. As the chapters move through, more and more technical information is introduced. But with each page building on the last, you’re not left scratching your head.
The technique chapter starts with grip positions and footwork, even going into details about how to choose your climbing shoes and what each shoe type is suited for. I’ve never seen or heard this discussed and I believe it’s a completely undervalued aspect of your climbing. The correct shoe choice can literally change the way you climb and be the difference between sending or not!
There’s also a super thorough break down of movement techniques and how to practice and implement them in your sessions. Learning the correct and most efficient way to move is a game changer for your climbing. Reading through the chapter got me psyched and confident I’ll see a few more twists and delicate foot placements from those smart enough to put theory into practice. I even learnt a few things on how to dyno and move dynamically with more efficiency.
Another part of the book I love is the chapters on mental training. I’ve always been frustrated by the training magnifying glass being solely aimed at physical strength, searching for clues in the microscopic, for how to gain another 2% on your isometrics to send the proj. Meanwhile those same fingerboard fanatics are a clompy-footed scared elephant clambering at the wall on the weekend. I truly believe most people have ten times more to be gained if they stopped fingerboarding and started to breathe, relax and work out how to switch into a performance headspace. The tips are there for you in these pages.
Having said all this, what’s a training book without learning how to one arm chin up on a 6mm edge then pump out 47 laps on your endurance circuit? Yes, there’s a healthy chunk of pages dedicated to how to get strong. You can have the right shoes, the best drop knee and all the mental prowess in the world, but if you can’t pull, you’ll turn into an opinionated know-it-all on some internet forum. Lord knows we have enough of them. So do yourself and the world a favour and dive deep on this chapter. There’s a tonne of fingerboarding, campusing, circuit drills, mobility, body strength exercises and everything else you’ll ever need. They start simple and easy and move into the more complex and difficult. There’ll be no stopping you after reading this chapter. Get in form, not on the forums.
Tying all this together is the crux of any training program. Again, The Climbing Bible has the answers you’re looking for. Armed with all your new knowledge and understanding, this chapter walks you through short and long term training plans and how to structure and build them up to get you ready for your next redpoint.
One thing climbers really don’t want to talk about is the ‘I’ word. Yep, injuries. ‘La la la la everything feels fine,’ grimaced the ostrich. Pull your head out of the chalk bag and look after your niggles, armed with information. Fingers, elbows, shoulders and everything else can and will tweak, strain and break. You’re not a climber until something has gone OUCH! Word of warning though, self-diagnosis can be a fool’s game. Medical professionals have years of study and professional development behind them, not just a few pages from a book. It’s best to get checked out by someone who knows what they’re on about.
In short, after watching the final lead route at the Olympic games, Psyched Sally can pick up The Climbing Bible, having never climbed in her life and walk through every step to climb like a pro. Plus she won’t feel like a doofus, deciphering climbing jargon and missing required knowledge. Don’t be a doofus yourself though and think this is just for noobs. Having climbed for 16 years, there were some gems I found myself.
This will form the backbone of your climbing and training life. In times of struggle and disillusion you’ll be able to read back on a new mental cue. When you’ve tapped out you fingerboard adaptation, there’s another protocol. When you’re looking for a new technique drill to up your slab climbing game, it’s there.
You used to have to buy all the training books in the climbing store, now you just need one!
Published by Vertebrate Publishing, The Climbing Bible is by Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen, and will be available in Australia from Mountain Equipment and Climbing Anchors.