The Pull- Part 1

Welcome back, Speedfreaks!

It's been a little bit since the last posts, and unfortunately not much has changed in the world during this time. Gyms are still closed and our muscles are slowly wasting away. Except they shouldn't be. Because you aren't lazy. You're here on an obscure blog to learn how to climb faster and be more explosive.

That type of resolve is going to take you far in this world.

So for today's topic, let's talk a little bit about the pull.

Given the speeds needed to go sub 6/sub 7.5 on the wall, there is little debate on what is going to take you there.

Your legs are the strongest muscles for locomotion and you are kidding yourself if you think solely doing endless muscleups and salmon ladders are going to make you an elite speed climber. You will end up a very disappointed, yet freakishly strong athlete. Just not fast up the wall (or at least as fast as you could be).

For an example, walk over to your stairs and put one foot about two stairs higher than the other. Now jump up the stairs, single legged. You probably did it. Yay! Congratulations... millennia of being bipedal has paid off!

Now go to a pullup bar and do a single arm pull up rapidly enough to have any sort of flight time. Hell, try a double arm pull up with the same goal. What did you get, maybe 5 inches of flight without a muscle up?

But that isn't to say that the pull isn't important. It is. I am not aware of any studies done that break down the forces for speed climbing in relation to how much each limb is responsible for, either. Rest assured, the upperbody certainly produces a non-negligible amount of vertical force. This pull is going to be additive with the force your legs produce and allow a more rapid production of force. It also is going to be the only thing keeping your body close to the wall, allowing your legs to direct force downward, rather than at an angle causing you to push off the wall.

Finger and pull strength helps keep ejections where they belong

Much like a muscle up, the entire arm, shoulder, and back will contribute to the action. But the body can only produce as much force as the weakest link will allow. And more often than not, it will be the fingers/grip that are the limiting factor.

But Josh, every crusher at the gym says speed climbing doesn't take strong hands because it's jug. They are wrong, but we will forgive them for that. Cross country runner think sprinters are lazy too. It's a misunderstanding of the skills needed to best accomplish the task and what is required to develop those skills. And as discussed before, the speed climbing hold is NOT a jug. It has one side that is decent, and the rest are honestly trash for what is being asked of the athlete.

Yes, if you are going to static climb with the holds it would be a 5.10 and a boring climb. But we are speed and power athletes: the only static in our lives is on our clothes when the store is out of fabric softener because idiots are hoarding everything right now.

When you combine the rate of speed that you are traveling up the wall with the geometry of the hold, it suddenly feels far less positive. The rate of force development needed by your finger flexors in order to grab, pull into the wall while pushing with your feet, and finishing with a pull or downward push, means that the fingers experience forces much differently than during a static climb. It's not just how hard you can pull, but how quickly you can ramp up to that max strength.

All climbers can benefit from increased RFD(rate of force development) from the finger flexors, yielding better contact strength. The difference is that a speed climber does not need to have sustainable contact strength in the presence of fatigue, as the entire event is over before ATP stores are depleted. There are typically multiple places on a boulder problem where the length of time spent on a hold is longer than a typical men's speed race.

Aside from the finger flexors, what are the limiting factors to the pull?

The obvious answer will be the RFD of the major pulling muscles. Of those, the muscles everyone will think of will be the biceps and lats. The less obvious answers will be the muscles of the shoulder and traps to maintain shoulder joint integrity, which allows the biceps and lats to do their job.

So what are some good ways to train speed climbing specific finger flexor and pulling power?

Come back for our next article: My top 3 finger and top 3 pulling exercises for developing RFD.

Stay safe and healthy speedfreaks!

I'm gonna pull you in close

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