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Slowing the pump clock

17 April 2009

“G-Toxing” helps you keep your power.

Slowing the pump clock: three strategies to prevent the pump

Training to get stronger is a good thing.
Climbing in ways that conserve energy and enable rapid recovery is a smart thing!

While both of these strategies will improve your climbing performance, too many climbers obsess about getting stronger, while not recognizing the value of optimizing their use of strength and accelerating their recovery. It’s a fact that all the best climbers are strong — yet not every strong climber rises to the top. The difference often lies in the subtleties: economy of movement, preventing the pump, and maximizing recovery while climbing. The following three strategies do just this. Use them, and you’ll find the pump clock ticking slower, regardless of your current strength or ability.

Climb with more economy. Most climbers get poor fuel economy when climbing near their limit. Learning to climb more efficiently requires a conscious effort, so get a partner and make a game out of it. The following are energy-conserving techniques to practice on moderate routes or in the gym:


• Predetermine the rest positions on a route and only chalk up and rest there. Climb briskly from one rest to the next.

• Limit your time on any given hold to five seconds or less, except for rest positions. Climb past the smallest, pumpy holds as fast as possible.

• Vary your grip position whenever possible. Alternate between crimps, open hands, thumb locks, pinches, and pocket grips as often as the rock allows. Don’t miss a chance to sink a hand jam or finger lock — these are great energy-saving grips that many face climbers miss.

Flex your fingers and wrist between grips. Recovering on a route is something most climbers just let happen. This is a mistake — instead, take a proactive role in the recovery process. Open and close your fingers or flex your wrist between each grip. Visualize flicking water off your fingers or hand as you reach for the next hold — that’s the motion you are after. This spurs blood flow through the forearm muscles — which actually stops during times of maximum gripping. The aggregate effect of doing this between every grip will significantly reduce your accumulated pump.

Use the G-Tox to speed recovery at rests. The “dangling arm shakeout” is the technique universally used to foster pump recovery. It is not, however, the best technique. A more effective method uses gravity to your advantage; hence, I call it the “G-Tox”. Alternate the position of your resting arm between the normal dangling position and an above-your-head position. For example, gently wiggle your arm in the normal by-the-side rest position for five seconds, then raise it to a half-bent position above your shoulder and shake it gently for five seconds. Repeat this cycle as often as needed — or for as long as you can hang out at the rest!

The pump sensation you feel in the forearms is largely the result of accumulated lactic acid and restricted blood flow. While the dangling-arm shakeout allows good blood flow into the forearm, it doesn’t help the flow of “old blood” out of the forearm, due to the arm’s position below your heart. The result is a traffic jam of sorts, which perpetuates the pump and slows recovery. (Have you ever noticed how the pump often increases as you begin the shakeout process with your arm by your side?) The G-Tox technique makes gravity your ally by aiding venous return to the heart. This enhances the removal of lactic acid and speeds recovery. The effects of this technique are unmistakable — you will literally feel your pump “drained” as you elevate your arm. Use the G-Tox at all your mid-climb shakeouts by deliberately alternating the position of your resting arm, between raise-hand and dangling position, every five to ten seconds.


Recovering from Blasted Forearm Syndrome

Now you’ve done it — you wanted to wow the entourage, so you warmed up on a route two number grades harder than usual, hoping you would style. You were pumped at bolt two, but hung on anyway, scrapping and flailing skyward out of sheer stubbornness. By the time you went chains, you’d accrued a massive case of Blasted Forearm Syndrome (BFS): that burning, tight, tingling flash pump that signals the end of any real climbing for the day.
Don’t slink back to the campsite yet, though — there is hope. With a few stretches and lactic-acid-shunting routines, you can still recover and clip the steel gates of success, winning the hearts and admiration of fawning groupies everywhere.

Massage. To break up the bunched, rigid muscles in your guns, you’ll need to go deep. Create a loose fist with one hand and rub the knuckles down the forearm of the other, twisting slightly. Work a grid pattern, pressing just to the point of pain then releasing after five seconds; describe a series of pressure points from wrist to elbow. Let your hand flop where it will. You can also massage with your thumb, rub your forearm crosswise with the heel of your hand, and/or massage the inside of the palm to release your finger tendons.

Stretch. Once you’ve worked both arms, gently stretch for five to 10 minutes. Your motions should be steady and sure — no bouncing — and you should hold each stretch for at least 10 to 15 seconds.

Hold your hand palm out, as if stopping traffic. Pull back on the fingertips of that hand with the other for 10 seconds; release. You can also go finger by finger, and/or point your fingers toward the earth — the key is to extend your wrist. To stretch the top of the forearm, flex your wrist, cupping and bending your hand toward you, and pull gently on the cupped paw with your other hand.

Now, face the crag and place one hand, palm oriented vertically, flat against the wall at shoulder height. Gradually rotate away from the hand until you feel a subtle stretch along the arm and into your pecs and shoulders. You can play with rotating your outstretched palm to the left or right, too.

Alternately, if you can find a flat surface at knee to hip height, lean over, then place your hands flat, fingers facing backward, and move into the stretch. You can also do this on all fours, or one hand at a time if it stresses your wrists too much with both.

Iron. Properly stretched, get to ironing. With one hand in a karate-chop position, palm facing you, “iron” your opposite forearm from elbow to wrist. Use a steady, gentle pressure and move slowly, repeating as necessary. Do the same for the extensor muscles on the top (outside) of your arm. Now, flex and extend your fingers to bring blood to your digits, and rotate your wrists in small circles.


Regaining your stride. Repeat the above routine as necessary — I might go through it two or three times before I jump back on the rock. Keep the bar low for a bit, staying on easier, more vertical terrain until you feel normal, healthy blood flow returning. You may want to massage and stretch before each route for the rest of the day, and forego the proj. I’ve suffered week-long cases of BFS when I didn’t listen to my body.

Matt “Spaghetti Arms” Samet is Senior Editor at Climbing.

Author:
Eric J. Horst & Matt Samet
Illustrations:
Mike Clelland
Source:
http://climbing.com
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