“If a fitness program suggests that an athlete may achieve his/her highest level of performance by following a program to the letter then that program is bullshit. The key to improving fitness is not simply doing the training, it is understanding how one is responding and adapting to the training and modifying the program to meet individual requirement and reactions”. –Mark Twight.
Every athlete from elite to novice has to start somewhere. Building a strong foundation of fitness requires that each athlete make an unsentimental assessment of their current fitness and formulate a plan of measurable improvement. This assessment is usually conducted as a series of one repetition, or one set maximum test. This is where keeping a detailed training journal over several seasons really pays off. Foundation training usually lasts around 4-12 weeks and once the foundation level is achieved, more sports specific training can begin.
My foundation training used to involve doing the same tired routine during the winter months in anticipation of the spring climbing season. I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and basically, knowing what I know now, did very little to improve my sport specific (rock climbing) fitness. Every spring I would say that I felt fit, but not “climbing fit”. Whateverthefuckthatmeans!
The athletes who train at garage gym do a variety of mountain sports year round. But it’s mostly during the short stormy days of the Sierra winter that they are in my garage looking for something extra. It’s not uncommon to have people show up to workout before or after skiing.
The foundation phase I use now is modified from one I got from the Gym Jones Salvation Club. I attempted this three month plan (modified to my gear and goals) last year and got my ass kicked, BIG TIME! I also developed some elbow tendonitis. It made me realize that on a real fitness scale, not mine, that I was pretty weak. Around this time I was considering going to a Mountain Athlete Coaches Certification Course. For reasons based on nothing other than my own ego I assumed that the fitness test would be a joke, it’s not. Check this out!
Part (1) Be able to complete 4 Rounds of our Barbell Complex (DL, Row, Hang clean, FS, Push-press, BS, push-up x 6 ea) with this loading:
Men: 75, 85, 95, 105#
Women: 45, 55, 65, 75#
Part (2) Meet our strength standards in 2 of our 6 foundational lifts. You get to choose which 2. Here are the strength standards.
MOUNTAIN ATHLETE STRENGTH STANDARDS LIFTS
Front Squat 1.5x BW, 1.0x BW
Dead Lift 2.0x BW, 1.5x BW
Bench Press 1.5xBW, 1.0x BW
Push Press 1.15x BW, .75x BW
Squat Clean 1.25x BW, 1.0x BW
"BW" = body weight
Part (3) Finish this Work Capacity Event in a minimum time
Men - 12 minutes
Women - 13:30 minutes
50x Step ups (25x each leg) M-40#, W-25#
3x Sandbag Getups each Shoulder (M-80#, W-60#)
5x Scotty Bobs (M-25#, W-15#)
Rope Climb (M-21ft, W-15ft)
These standards are similar to the prerequisites for the Gym Jones “High-Level” foundation plan. I feel that these are a good foundation of fitness, and that I have a lot work to do. I’ve scaled down the standard Gym Jones Foundation plan so that I can just get through the 3 month, 5 day a week program in one piece while still skiing, climbing and mountain bike riding. Then, I plan to try the plan again (Jan-March) staying as close to the stated weight, duration and intensity that my fitness allows while adding a little climbing specific training. I feel that following this kind of scheduled training plan, designed by those who have a long history of training athletes with good results, and modifying it to the individuals needs, is preferred over just “getting pumped” or training mostly by my own design. The reason for this is simple-we all tend to work our strengths towards the same old comfortable standard of fitness.
The number one question you should be asking yourself is “Am I making progress”? If so, how is it measured? If not, do something different.
Photo- The author on the 1997 first ascent of the North Ridge of Incredible Hulk by Hunter.