There is passage on strength training in your book that I don't quite understand.


By: Gym Jones

My name is ... from the Netherlands. First compliments for both your books. I both have a great time reading them. Especially "Extreme Alpinism" helped me a lot.

I am currently in a training program for the Caucasus this summer (Bezengi valley). At this moment I am only training for maintenance. In what you call foundation building, only I don't have to built but just maintain since I am pretty fit (well at least most off the time). Well let's get to the point!

In February/March I have to start with the power training phase according to your training cycle. There is passage on strength training in your book that I don't quiet understand. Probably because of my English, which is not my native language. Anyway, I would like to have explained some things on the power training workouts on page 47. I hope you would have some time explaining it to me!

You talk about starting out with low weight, 8 rep sets (nine in total), building it up progressively toward the 2/3 power rep sets (6 in total). You then say no more than three sets of eight reps at a time before switching exercises. Adhering to the three-set limit warms up without overtiring the muscles. OK...this part I don't understand! How the heck do you get to the nine warm up sets if you can't do more then three. Does this mean you have to do three different exercises, (off three sets) targeting the same muscle group???? For example If I would train my upper legs, I have to do three warm-up sets off squats, three sets off leg presses and three sets of lunges, prior to doing 6 power sets? This 6 power sets would then be squats or maybe leg presses if I am correct.


First, this was written with the knowledge I had at the time. Things are different now.

The main points to consider for power training that you will find in those pages (and still appropriate now) are these:

The six ""working"" sets should be no more than 2-3 reps each. Start with a weight that allows only six sets of 2 before losing form or being unable to perfectly execute the last reps. Once your ability to produce force improves enough that you can do six sets of 3, it is time to increase the weight.

The reason I wrote that you should not do more than three sets in a row of any exercise during the warm-up phase is that more will fatigue the neurological pathways, which is what you will be trying to train during the ""working"" part of the session. Warm up the muscles and nerves but do not tire them so much that performance during the working sets is compromised. By switching between exercises after the three sets (during warm-up) you can do that.

If the day is a Pulling day, I would choose a Pull-down (or weighted Pull-up) and a Bent-Over One-arm Row as the movements. The session would look like this:

Pull Down
8x 160
8x 170
8x 180
8x 40
8x 50
8x 60
Pull Down
8x 180
6x 200
6x 220
8x 60
6x 70
6x 75
Pull Down
4x 220
3x 240
3x 250
4x 75
3x 80
3x 85

Now I am ready to ""work""

Pull Down
3 (2x 260) with 2-3 minutes rest between sets
3 (2x 90) with 2-3 minutes rest between sets
Pull Down
3 (2x 260) with 2-3 minutes rest between sets
3 (2x 90) with 2-3 minutes rest between sets

Done pulling for the day.

I have combined volume with power in a way that allows quick recovery, which allows an increase in training frequency.

Reading this workout style I am appalled at how much time I spent training this way and how little it helped compared to what I do now. Do not focus only on Power training. Do not use machines if you can avoid them (weighted Pull-ups are much more functional than Pull Downs on a machine). Deadlifts, Squats, Overhead Squats, Weighted Lunges are much more effective for training the legs than any leg extension or hamstring curl can ever be because the ""free"" movements train the muscles to work together while the isolation movements one does on a machine train the muscles in isolation and it is difficult to then reeducate them to work in a coordinated manner during the expression of sport.

The main points about Periodization in Extreme Alpinism come from Bompa and these are still relevant: Strength, Power, Power Endurance, Endurance, Taper, Sport in that order. You can get a lot of the first three from doing Foundation or General type sessions on the Gym Jones site, then stack the Endurance on top as you get closer to the climbing season.

Done, correctly, circuit style training can develop a fine foundation. Combined with endurance training, and maximum effort (big, heavy lifts) days into a hybrid program (which is what we do most of the year at Gym Jones) makes something that is better for alpine climbing than anything I have ever done or heard of. The Gym Jones site has a database of workouts in the calendar that goes back to December 2003. There is plenty of info in the Knowledge section on the Gym Jones site about endurance, strength, feeding, etc.

Have a good winter.

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