Complexes and Climbing Training

Hey everyone,

Let me start by saying I’m not like most people on this forum. I am not a power lifter or a bodybuilder. I am a rock climber. I am 6 feet tall and I currently weigh 160 (and this is because I’m up 5 pounds after a 12-week round of power training). Most of you will probably tell me that I should do heavy compound lifting to build to my “emaciated” frame. That’s not what I’m after.

I may not look like anyone on this site, but I still read every article and incorporate these ideas into my training (obviously not the bodybuilding ideas, but you know what I mean). Rock climbing is filled with about as much jackassery as CrossFit when it comes to how people think they should become stronger and more athletic. Using a sound and scientific approach to my training I am out-climbing people with twice as much experience as I have.

Thank you for bearing with me through my rant. Anyway, I’ve never used complexes other than once in a while as a finisher. I’m thinking about using Cosgrove’s four-week complex program to boost my conditioning and drop some body fat. Complexes for Fat Loss In this program it says to perform the complexes at the beginning of your workout.

Should I be reducing volume in the rest of my workout so I don’t overtrain? Or just stick to the same set/rep schemes knowing that the weight (or number of reps on bodyweight exercises) will probably decrease as I’ll be fatigued from the complexes?

Any thoughts are appreciated, especially if you’ve used this program or a similar program before.

Start with the originally intended volume. You’ll know when it becomes to much. Overtraining doesn’t happen overnight.

Don’t bother reducing workout volume at all. Climbing is all about sustained effort–as you know–and for somebody adapted to sustained work it is very hard to overtrain. In other words, you are already partially conditioned, so don’t worry about overtraining. Although it is possible to do it, it is very hard. I will give you a couple examples.

1st example is a 51 year old client of mine. He is a doctor, and he had been doing Thibaudeau’s Star Complex workouts with me (only 30 seconds rest), as well as doing 4x weekly 30 minute non-stop plyometric conditioning workouts (“Insanity”, yes the infomercial workouts–this was because his wife did them and wanted him to keep her company–happy wife, happy life. He did not really enjoy them). He was putting up 315 lb deadlift, 385 lb rack pulls, 265 lb half squat, and 200 lb front squats in the Complex workouts at a body weight of 150 lbs.

He did this for 3 months before hitting the wall in overtraining. We backed him off, and he’s just fine now and doing great.

I had another cyclist client who was 63. He was doing high volume bodybuilding workouts, deadlifting 225 x 6-8 reps, and squatting 225 x 2-3 reps as well as doing high volume cycling work. He was just fine. Mobility issues we were working on, but other than that nothing.

2nd example–female figure client. She is currently eating less than 1400 calories a day on training days, is 3 weeks out of a show, extremely low bodyfat, and is training 12 times a week with 6 weekly conditioning sessions, 6 gym workouts, and 6 days of slow steady state fasted cardio in the morning. Her metabolism is raging right now and she is feeling fine, albeit very hungry :). Her weights have not dropped seriously yet. She is in no way overtraining, and we are keeping tabs on her daily.

Now, I’d like to add a disclaimer about her–I only picked her up as a client a week ago when she had a falling out with her old coach who dropped her and was previously giving some very dangerous and terrible advice to her that she refused to follow, which lead him to drop her. She was behind in her prep by a significant amount of time due to this coach, and therefore the work that she is doing is not my preferred method of preparing OR my preferred diet plan. I have had no control over her training up until she asked me to coach her. This is a harsh “catch-up” measure, and is only being employed because it is so close to show time and she is behind. That being said, she’s feeling fine and her weights are flying. No overtraining. We will only use a couple more weeks of this, of course.

Lesson: overtraining is very difficult to accomplish in people who are adapted to sustained effort style volume. Of course they worked up to it over time, but there is no reason that you will magically overtrain. If these people can thrive on workloads like I described, then you should not worry about a little complex work :). Just make sure you’ve got solid form on the complexes and exercises and pay attention to mobility and soft tissue quality work. Those are usually the things that start to bite you in the ass soonest.

Thank you very much for the quick and helpful responses. I was planning on incorporating complexes for 4-6 weeks, so I should be good to go! I’ll let you know how it turns out. I have 4 more weeks of power and contact strength training (contact strength is a climbing-specific term used to describe the ability to hold full body weight on a miniscule surface for a short time) before I go for this conditioning and fat loss phase. Considering the strength (and technique) gains I’ve made I should see a great improvement after becoming lighter and better conditioned!

Hey shralpinist: wait for Eccastang to chime in.
He is the baddest badass here when it comes to Climbing and Training.
The guy will laydown some cool shit for you to follow.

Anyway, welcome to a place of unequaled T !

Hey Shralpinist!
I am a climber as well, and I am even smaller than you, 172 cm and 65 kg, so pretty ridiculous by T-Nation standards! I only boulder, so my training is totally strength oriented, and I think that I have different aims from yours, this reflects over my training.
I’ve been using complexes and high intensity finishers as of late, with great results. I can bear a higher training volume and my overall form peaked in climbing as well. I am overally stronger.
From your nickname I guess you’re not just a climber, but an alpinist, so maybe you ski or ice climb or mix ski-approaches and alpine routes?
I ask this because the answer could be useful to define your goals and therefore your training.
Putting on 5 pounds from a power phase doesn’t sound very good for specific climbing performance.
Also, as you know, sport climbing is not a proper cardiovascular discipline, given that failure is determined mostly by forearms pump or lack of fingers strength.
I would still concentrate on your specific climbing training, without reducing its volume, adding finishers or complexes that won’t affect too much the climbing training, working different muscle groups, or choosing the climbing training accordingly. For instance, I usually do a fingerboarding session at the beginning of each micro cycle (let’s say at the beginning of each training week). I know that my fingers will be quite worked for a couple of days afterwards, so I won’t be doing any hard bouldering until they’re recovered. Given this, I can work my muscles hard with complexes and finishers after the fingerboarding session and on the following day, in which I won’t do any climbing specific training. On the third day I probably can boulder quite well if I’ve choosen the finishers right. For example, before a climbing day I won’t do any hard pulling or shoulder pushing, but I’ll probably do hill sprints, some snatches, or broad jumps to recruit for the following day.
Identifying your specific goals will surely help in getting lots of competent replies from many experts here.
I hope this helps.
Happy climbing!

Fellow climber here as well, I boulder primarily for what it’s worth. With that said I have two complexes that I run through at least a couple times a week. I always do them on either non-climbing days or after climbing before an off day. One is more of a shoulder and elbow conditioning complex while the other is a bit more all around.

The shoulder/elbow complex is done with a curl bar or dumb bells at a weight where I work hard to get 5 or 6 reps on the first move. The sequence is a front raise, a standing chest pull/press negative, an overhead press, finished with a tricep extension. I reverse it from there and repeat 5 times for however many sets feels appropriate. The transition from the chest press to overhead press and vice versa is, in my opinion, the most technically demanding part. This complex keeps my shoulders and elbows strong and pain free.

The all around complex is good with a bar or dumb bells. I keep the weight relatively light as it’s more for the sake of active recovery than anything, although it absolutely increases my capacity to project hard problems regularly. The sequence is a deadlift, followed by a clean, a front squat, finished with a push press. I would recommend this complex to any climber looking to develop a more dynamic repertoire as it pairs powerful lifts with likewise dynamic lifts.

I think following up a power/campusing phase with these will help with maintaining that strength and aiding in recovery. However, as someone who climbs 4-5 days a week I find it hard to really make the most of what these complexes have to offer and continue working at my highest grade projects consistently. With that said you’ll have to find your own balance of volume and intensity for both the climbing and conditioning in your routine. I personally keep it polar and climb intense (one or two projects, ten or so hard problem sends) and train high volume (relatively low weight, minimal rest, moderate sets) or climb high volume (multiple consecutive sends of flashable problems) and go for intense training (heavier weight, lots of rest, as many sets as possible).

I’m not accounting for hang boarding, campusing, or playing around on the system wall. Nor am I considering ab work, running, heavy lifting, or bodyweight movements. The only thing I would be wary of is campusing on small rungs. If over training manifests it will more than likely be a tendon or ligament injury.

[quote]PointToPoint wrote:
If over training manifests it will more than likely be a tendon or ligament injury.[/quote]

I knew many a climber who’s promising careers were cut sort with tendon and ligament damage. I wish I had the solution of how to solve it for you.