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I've been following the Starting Strength program for a few weeks now, on and off. Unfortunately, I haven't been as regular as I'd like (lets chalk it up to student life), but I feel I'm making progress and am committed to sticking with the program. I've been increasing my weight somewhat conservatively, because I keep missing workouts and because I don't have anyone to teach me the lifts, so I've been trying to perfect the technique as much as I can before going up. So, ATM, squat 75, deadlift 70 (yes, I'm afraid of my back), press 35, bench press 50. Because I don't feel very comfortable doing deadlifts, I've opted for the "Practical Programming Novice workout" which has chins/pulls twice a week and deadlifts just once; power cleans are out of the question, both because I don't have anyone to teach me and because my gym isn't exactly setup for it.

Now, I also want to start rock climbing, perhaps once a week. I had a session last weekend (and went to the gym the next day without major problems), but I'll probably start going regularly in about two weeks or so. My question is, where should I put the rock climbing session in my week? My first thought was to put it at the "end" of the week, when I have two rest days. Please also take into account that my workout week is erratic.

Bonus question, is there anything I should do in the intervening two weeks to help me with my rock climbing later? I could conceivably do more deadlifts (to help with my grip and pull) and then later back them down to 1x a week; would that be useful?

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Is that kilograms or pounds? –  Robin Ashe Jul 18 '12 at 19:50
    
@RobinAshe Kilograms (of course). :) –  VPeric Jul 19 '12 at 5:38
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3 Answers

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Lots of questions, and hopefully I can help you piece things together. When combining weight training with any kind of a sport, you do have to keep in mind recovery. To that end, you have a couple options:

  • Tack it at the end of the week. This is a pretty sound idea. You still have a day of recovery between then and the next session. I used this approach with incorporating martial arts. This works very well when the activity you want to do is also high intensity.
  • Tack it at the end of weight training. This also works while the weights are relatively low (if squats are below body weight that qualifies as relatively low). When your squats get closer to 1.5x body weight, the two training sessions will affect each other. I also tried this when scheduling forced me to.

You can use both of these approaches depending on your schedule. I do not recommend trying to sandwich rock climbing on the rest day between weight training sessions.

is there anything I should do in the intervening two weeks to help me with my rock climbing later?

Two things that help with rock climbing are core strength and grip. Two of the biggest things gained with deadlifts are core strength and grip. They are a match made in heaven. In fact, getting better at one will help you get better at the other.

I understand your concern with deadlifts, I used to have a bad back myself. The key to deadlifts is to keep your lower lumbar region rigid. Do not round your back at all. Also, it is worth trying both sumo and conventional deadlifts. You'll find yourself feeling stronger with one or the other. Whichever one is stronger, use that every time you deadlift. Whichever you choose, the principles are the same:

  • Setup: bar over mid foot (about 1" in front of the shin). Grab the bar, straighten your back, and pull the slack out. NOTE: you should raise your shoulders to pull the slack out, not your hips.
  • Brace: tighten your core and your grip, shift your weight on your heels, and start the Valsalva maneuver.
  • Pull: your back angle should remain the same throughout the lift. Push your heels through the floor, and activate your glutes and hamstrings to help you stand erect.
  • Lockout: tighten the muscles between the shoulder blades, and body should be fully erect. Do not overcompensate and push your hips forward giving you a backwards lean.
  • Drop: it's best to have a controlled drop rather than trying to set the weights down like they are made of glass. The deadlift is all about the concentric phase (the pull), and really does not have an eccentric component.

One option to help your grip even more is on the last rep, hold the lockout for as long as you can. You can breath during this time, and in fact this is one of the better ways to teach yourself to breath while exerting yourself.

NOTE: during the entire lift, the only job your back muscles have is to keep your back straight. You change the angle of your back with your glutes and hamstrings. This will protect your back from injury. I'm pulling over 405lb on deadlifts now. Occasionally I have a back pump, which while uncomfortable is not the same as a back injury.

Option 2: Farmers Walks

Farmers walks have a heavy weight in each hand, and you carry that weight over distance. Your body needs to be erect, and try to prevent your shoulders from dropping forward. These do well for conditioning as well as building your grip strength. While they do improve your core, it is not to the same degree as the deadlift.

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So, do you recommend I ramp up my deadlifts to every second workout (from every third)? And should I keep this up for good, or just until my rock-climbing starts? –  VPeric Mar 27 '12 at 18:47
    
Yes. Ramp up the deadlifts, and keep it up for as long as you are doing Starting Strength. Just pay attention to your back position, and don't forget to brace before pulling. –  Berin Loritsch Mar 27 '12 at 19:07
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When you're just starting to climb, you'll find that its exceptionally taxing on your fingers and upper back. I'd definitely recommend against trying to do serious lifting immediately after climbing. My personal experience is that the only time I lost control of the weights when lifting was when I went straight from the climbing gym to lift.

If you stay in climbing for long enough, though, your hands can recover more quickly, and you tax your back less and less (and your abs more and more), and this will be less of an issue.

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I saw some rock climbers train in my gym. They were really wiry with big chests. By wiry I mean small but highly defined arms and legs. This was in Japan, so maybe it's genetic or they were professional competitors, but people said they were training for max strength at the lowest possible weight. Starting Strength can really pack on the pounds for a young (under 25) novice lifter. I'd say drink lots of milk, lift heavy and get big and strong while you can - it can't hurt (unless you're rock climbing). Seriously, a power lifter might be able to climb higher than his conditioning will let him climb down. As you become less novice in both activities you may have to make some hard choices. But nothing is set in stone (unless you're rock climbing).

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