Inspiration. Information. Improvement.


Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Quick Fixes for your Wrists and Elbows

Often as desk bound climbers, we get nagging pain in our wrists and elbows. Most of the time we attribute it to overuse, which in some cases could be accurate, but in others, it may simply be a shortening of the muscles due to everyday use. This can easily be managed by some stretching and myo-fascial release or also known as ‘smashing’. Smashing unglues short and stiff muscles, restoring them to their proper length. This may take several attempts, but if you are diligent each day to smash away and stretch, your elbows and wrists will gain back their full range of motion.







Location of lacrosse ball: base of the elbow, at the tricep.
Movement: extend and flex the arm, so that the lacrosse ball smashes into the base of the tricep.
Duration: 30 sec – 2 mins






Location of lacrosse ball: posterior forearm/anterior forearm
Movement: apply constant pressure as you roll up and down the forearm, you will notice that I have put my forearm into a stretched position.
Duration: 30 sec – 2 mins






Location of resistance band: below the elbow
Movement: make sure the fingers are facing in the same direction as the band, bend the elbow, and slowly release into extension. Repeat until you feel a change in the joint.
Duration: 30 sec – 2mins







Location of lacrosse ball: 2 lacrosse balls, one underneath, and one in your hand.
Movement: apply pressure at both points, move your wrist into flexion and extension. Repeat along several points in your forearm.
Duration: 30 sec – 2 mins

The resource I used was “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett.

Do Climber’s Need Aerobic Training? Part 2

Last month I talked about the benefits of aerobic training, how it   increases your capacity to do more work, recovers muscles from hard training days, and it can teach you how to regulate your breathing and heart rate while climbing. Because we are rock climbers, and not training to be a runner, the program will be different. The recommendations listed will be primarily for recovery from climbing or other strength related training.

So how do you start adding in aerobic training into your lifestyle? If you are anything like me, I hated running because I felt I was constantly in pain when I ran, mostly because I tried to beat or maintain my last running pace. Silly Mercedes. But what I discovered was that I didn’t need to run at a high intensity every time I ran. I started running at an intensity that was slow and long, keeping my breathing constant, smooth and unlabored. You may have heard this term before “Long-Slow Distance”, where essentially you can have a conversation while you run. This is the type of running you will do for recovery adaptations. Don’t feel like you need to go fast at all, and if you do, you won’t get the recovery benefits from the this type of training

I’ve been doing this program myself for a few weeks now and have been able to increase my speed and distance while keeping my heart rate low. This is the kind of adaptation you want to start with. Add one run (or aerobic activity) a week at very low intensity (easy breathing, low heart rate around 75%-80% of your Max Heart Rate) keeping it easy and long (between 30-60 minutes). Then you can add in another aerobic session if you have the time. Make sure to add aerobic training in at the end of a climbing session or after a strength training session. If you can’t do it afterwards, try to separate the aerobic training from your climbing or strength training by a few hours.

Of course, there is much more you can do with your aerobic training, and if you are getting amped about it, you can integrate one day of high intensity running intervals to train the other side of the intensity spectrum. But this type of training does not help recovery from training, rather it actually taxes the muscles more and is used to improve adaptations specific to strength and power, which is also beneficial for a rock climber.

Email me at if you have any questions or need some help on how to design an aerobic program for yourself.

- Mercedes Pollmeier, MS, CSCS

Do Climber’s Need Aerobic Training? Part 1

Do you ever find yourself climbing up a route and you reach the crux, you make a few difficult moves and you start to huff and puff, and ultimately your heavy breathing leaves you falling off the route? Do you find yourself huffing and puffing on the approach to your climb, and feel a bit taxed before you even start climbing? Those who climb mountains already know the importance of cardio and how it’s a major part of their training, however, for a rock climber, cardio is often forgotten.

There are several benefits for rock climbers to do aerobic training; it can increase work capacity, shorten recovery time between training sessions, teach you how to regulate your breathing, and control heart rate during training.

Just like strength training, cardio done right will increase your capacity to do more work, which means being able to do more difficult moves over a longer period of time. Aerobic training increases the working capacity of the muscles by providing quick and sufficient energy to allow the muscles to contract over and over again. There are several adaptations that occur in the muscle from aerobic training, all which increases performance for a rock climber.

Low intensity running after climbing can increase recovery from a tough session. Running for about 30+ minutes will consistently pump blood to muscles and tendons, repairing tissue damage as well as decreasing soreness.

Aerobic training also teaches you how to breathe rhythmically, and to control your heart rate and breathing rate during spikes in intensity, especially if you train with a heart rate monitor. However, this type of training needs to be intentional and done on a regular basis.

And finally, humans were first and foremost an endurance based species, hunting for food and constantly moving from one location to the next, so tapping into what is genetically engrained will undoubtedly unlock athletic potential.

Next month, I will show you what kind of running to add into your week and when to do it.

Sport Climbing and Aid Climbing Training

Here are a few follow along training videos for Sport Climbing and Aid Climbing. These were made for Climbing Magazine’s Edition of the 50 Classic Climbs. Check out my full article in Climbing Magazine here!.

Climbing Specific Strength Training from Mercedes Pollmeier on Vimeo.

Aid climbing from Mercedes Pollmeier on Vimeo.

Core Strength Training

by Mercedes Pollmeier, M.S., CSCS

First of all, what is the core? Well, it’s definitely not just your abs. It incorporates most of your trunk, your back and your butt. Some exercise science specialists also say that the core can extend all the way down your hamstrings (posterior chain) and quadriceps (anterior chain). The core really is the ability to recruit as many muscles as possible to make movement as efficient as possible. By doing this, you decrease your chance of injury as well as making your body more balanced. This is why it is very important to do “core” training, or also known as full body exercises.

In climbing, when you cut your feet from the wall, what is the deciding factor to stay on the wall? Well, it’s actually a number of factors, and all are included in the “core”. In order to bring your feet back to the wall, you must have the finger strength, shoulder strength, trunk strength, lat strength and back strength to swing back on and accurately place your foot. This means training all of these things together to achieve awesomeness.

What exercises would be good for core development? Well, first of all, I believe that women in general have really good isolated ab strength. When we do crunches compared to our male counterparts, it seems we can go forever. But, when you ask us to do more integrated exercises, such as leg lifts from a bar, we fall apart. So ladies, work less on isolated ab exercises and more on integrated exercises.

My recommendations:

If you have never done ab exercises before, or have had some time off from training, or if you have a lower body injury that you are recovering from, you should start with gradual isolated ab exercises that work on the transverse abdominis and spinal muscles. This is very important to do!

Once you have done this for a few weeks, you can progress to some more difficult exercises that involve leg lifts, leg lifts with medicine balls, hanging knee raises etc.

Exercises that create a lot of tension or torque are also very important to incorporate into your regime. This is where all the muscles communicate with each other at the same time. Good examples are the front elbow plank, side elbow plank, and other really awesome varieties of the plank. To get the posterior chain, you can do hip bridges and table tops.

Climbing specific “core” exercises would be anything that involves hanging. Toe      touches to the bar, front lever variations, windshield wipers are good examples of these.

Don’t forget! Squats, dead lifts, push ups and pull ups are also considered “core” exercises, because they involve the whole body to achieve the movement. Be safe with your exercises, take the progressions slow, and don’t push yourself to fast to achieve results. Your goal is to stay injury free as you become as strong as an OX.

For more training advice or online coaching contact










Straight Leg Raises


Plank Position – Knees to Elbow


Hamstring Hip Bridge with Leg Extension

Side Elbow Plank

Training Endurance, Strength and Power for Climbing

By Mercedes Pollmeier

If you are looking to make faster progress towards your climbing goals it is essential to include strength training into your regime. Whether you view climbing as a sport or activity, there is no doubt that a climber has to supplement their training with weight/strength training if they are looking to perform at a higher level. Look at all other sports and activities. For the most part, the athletes performing at the highest levels are also putting time in the gym to give them the edge. Strength training with weights will allow you feel stronger on routes as well as train the metabolic system required for climbing.

So, now that you are convinced that weight/strength training will help you reach your goals for climbing, you need to structure your workouts based on the season and time period you have for reaching your goal. Remember, make attainable goals, and continue to make new goals as you progress.

Rochelle doing push up variation

To start a solid training regime, you need to follow the progression of endurance, strength and power. This not only helps you peak for your project/season, but it also keeps you from getting injured. You also need to keep in mind that climbing also incorporates the lower body. It always surprises me that when I see a climber working out, they are sooo focused on ab and arm training. Your legs are part of your core, and are the base of support as well as the initiator of movement. So, make sure to include lower body exercises as well! (* A note for female climbers – we tend to suffer from the Q angle syndrome, which means that we have a very high chance of tearing our ACL’s. By training proper lower body mechanics, we can function better and avoid the chances of lower body injury. Mostly it’s the knee and hip movement that we need to keep an eye on)

Below is a sample of a strength workout. This is purely just the weight-training component. This does not include other important aspects that need to be incorporated into your training regime such as campus board, systems wall and cardio workouts. Other climbing specific exercises such as front levers, rope climbs, hanging legs raises etc, can also be incorporated into this program. The exercises selected are basic body movements that work the large muscle groups that will no doubt help you climb harder and function better.

Here is a sample progressive workout. This can be done 2-3 days a week. Work into it slowly! In addition to this, you can choose to take active rest periods. This is generally done every 4th week of the training program. You can still climb during this period, but try to keep the volume low. All physical adaptations from training occur during the recovery period!!

Endurance (3-6wks): 3-6 sets, 10-20 reps (you gotta feel the burn!), 30s-1min rest in between.

Body Weight (BW) squats

BW single leg squats

Hamstring extensions on the ball.

Pull ups *(50-75% 1RM)

push ups (50-75% 1RM)

Dumbbell chest press (50-75% 1RM)


Jump rope (considered plyometric, but great for building those calf muscles, do 5-15mins)

Strength (3-6Wks): 3-5 sets, 4-8 reps, 30s-1min rest. Weight selected should be progressed from 75-90% 1RM.


Straight leg dead lift

Weighted pull ups

Weighted push ups

Weighted dips

weighted single leg squats

Windshield wipers

Weighted plank

Cable rows

Box jumps (1ft height, ~25 reps)

Power (3-6wks): 1-3 sets, 1-5 reps, 1-3min rest. Weight selected should be progressed form 80-95% 1RM)

Power clean

Squat to overhead press

weighted pull ups

weighted push ups

Dumbbell chest press

Bent over rows

box jumps (2ft height)


* 1RM means the maximum weight you can lift once. i.e. if you can chest press 100lbs, your 50%1RM would be 50lbs. If you can only do 1 pull up, use a bungee or resistance band to help you do more reps.


Climbing Knots: How to Tie In with a Figure 8 Knot

Climbing Magazine
is producing a series of How To videos in 2012 to demonstrate a number of skills and techniques. Using our experienced staff and following AMGA guidelines we’ll show you how to get started in the vertical world. In this video Julie Ellison, Climbing Magazine Gear Editor, shows how to tie a figure 8 knot.Thanks to our partners: Wild Country Red Chili, Vertical Girl, and New England Ropes.

Reading a Route

Nina Williams reading the finals route at “The Gun Show” SBS.

Route reading is not exactly easy to pick up when you start climbing. It can however,  be a huge factor in sending your project. A route that should take you a few tries to complete could end up taking a few days to tackle if you miss a simple foothold or have an incorrect sequence. Here is a pre-climb routine that only takes a minute, but could end up saving you lots of skin and energy. When you walk up to the climb you should choose to do these things:


  • Take an overview of the route by identifying the start holds and the finish holds (or top out).  Locate all the hands and feet on the climb. Find what “Line” the route takes. Does it traverse, go straight up, or zig zag?


  • Now its time to mimic the movement of the climb from start to finish. Put your hands up in front of you and run through the entire climb, “miming” the hand sequence. Try to use the body tension required during the climb. This will let your body know that you are about to try hard. Be specific with each grip. Is it a pinch, full crimp, gaston, undercling, etc?


  • Work though the crux section a couple times, until you feel confident you can do each move. If leading a route, look for clipping positions and rest holds.


  • Now read the route a final time start to finish. Think about the crux moves, clipping positions, rest holds, etc. Visualize succeeding on the route.

With this preparation you are ready to climb the route. Route reading does take practice, so be consistent and patient with the process.



Intro to Campus Board

Want to take revenge on your project? Come train with us! Athletik Spesifik offers a range of classes to improve your climbing. Located in Denver and Boulder.


Katie Levy of Adventure Insipired writes about Girl Beta! Fueling Psyche in the Women’s Climbing Community


Logo courtesy of Mercedes and

After spending time with Alison Vuocolo discussing her efforts to get more women out bouldering, it seemed no less than necessary to profile Mercedes Pollmier. Mercedes launched Girl Beta back in January, a website dedicated to igniting passion and inspiring the women’s bouldering community by sharing knowledge through written posts and videos. It’s definitely a site you’ll want to keep your eye on!

Mercedes on Authentic Battle Damage Stand, Boulder Canyon.

Mercedes hasn’t always been a climber, but has a significant amount of experience as an elite athlete. After amassing a number of accolades as a tennis player, including an NCAA Division I scholarship, she started strength training with Dave Wahl out of the Paradise Rock Gym in Denver and became a member of the National Mauritian Tennis Team. Despite her love of tennis, she couldn’t resist bouldering on plastic while spending so much time in a climbing gym and learned to love the sport. Mercedes says she climbs because it’s “a personal challenge, a problem to solve, [and] requires a lot of body awareness. The climbing community is a great thing to be a part of.” Now, Mercedes is a strong, talented climber with ascents of problems like Dark Continent (V7-V8) and Authentic Battle Damage Stand (V8).

Mercedes was inspired to start Girl Beta during a road trip to Red Rocks. She’d searched for videos of women climbing the boulder problems she wanted to do, but couldn’t find any. “Generally, there are not enough women climbing together and I would love to see more of that,” she says. “I think [it] would take away some of the shyness, hesitation and fear of failure…sometimes, having the boys around can be intimidating and may be a limitation for some women.”

Mercedes recognized a clear lack of resources specifically for women to help them achieve their climbing goals. With that in mind, her aim was to create a blog that would help female climbers and generate buzz about women in climbing. Mercedes wants to help women unlock beta and sequences for specific problems they might not otherwise be able to work through.

Mercedes climbing hard in Joe’s Valley.

Pretty soon, Seattle-based women’s-specific rock climbing clothing company Vertical Girl took notice, and is now the website’s sponsor. According to Mercedes, the partnership makes complete sense. “Vertical Girl and Girl Beta share the same philosophy and goals in growing the female climbing scene.” she says. The two organizations are now working together to develop Girl Beta and hope to reach more of the climbing population. So far, Girl Beta provides information on problems in five states ranging from V4 up to V10.

But Girl Beta doesn’t just exists as a medium for sharing videos of hard climbing. In keeping with the site’s tagline, “Inspiration. Information. Improvement,” Mercedes and the Vertical Girl team work together to share training tips and other knowledge with the women’s climbing community. Recent additions in that section of the website include discussions about women’s physiology and using video analysis to improve climbing technique with Flannery Shay-Nemirow.

The women behind Girl Beta and Vertical Girl are working to inspire women who love to climb, and to help us all achieve our goals. You can help by contributing information, training tips and beta, by suggesting a problem to them, even by climbing with them! For more on how you can get involved, visit or send a note to

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