(Ed Note:(On December 15th, 2011 we released this blurb in the news feed of the old site. This world of horizontal plane pulling went on to become a mainstay of a lot of the climbing programming that was done as prep for worlds. Now with Worlds behind us it is time to return to this critical missing link in programming for climbing training.)
We neglect horizontal pulling.
When new clients are introduced, when possible we start them with some form of a horizontal row on rings, and then as they get stronger we progress them on to doing vertical pullups. This is where horizontal pulling ends for many of us. Perhaps there will be some unilateral rowing work with dumb-bells, but a body weight row is now neglected. This is a fascinating exercise exclusion, especially amongst climbers who so often seek after gaining a lock-off or oddly positioned pulling strength. Yet we are faced with the argument that there is little need for horizontal pulling strength as it is far more often that we are working on a slightly off vertical plane.
Recently with the addition of dry tooling to my various climbing activities I realized the need to start training a pulling strength which would help when making moves back across roof problems. This is when I realized that my true horizontal pulling strength is limited, not only in terms of the weight I can move, but also in terms of my range of movement. While a 125lb weighted pull-up is relatively easy, as are one arms, lock offs, and high rep dead hang pull-ups, a true horizontal row is not easy. Assuming the feet are placed at a height where the body stays horizontal it quickly becomes apparent that some very different muscle groups are doing a lot of work. What is more, true one armed variations of the exercise are brutal.
An obsession with training has rapidly progressed my capacities here, but I still find a limited flexibility in my anterior delt limiting the height of my pull [interesting that this is also an area that is regularly inflamed and in pain]. In addition, while I am now able to work a tucked lever variation of this pull, and have even tried it with a 40lb weight vest, I am far from a massive load pulled through a full range of movement. An issue indeed.
When this whole dry tooling nonsense is over in two months I am going to return to this, as I think there is massive room for strength gains with big application in the rock arena if this strength is well developed. Thoughts folks?
Skip forward to May. It turned out that coming back from worlds took a good three months to get over before I was ready to start climbing again. The climbing I was doing was mainly up alpine faces in the alpine to ride down them, and rarely were these faces that technical. So as it was it has been a while since I have reviewed this notion of horizontal pulling I am back on it today. I think Bobbity actually kept up with this over the winter and also is supposedly off crushing everything he gets on right now, so perhaps some subjective evidence there. That being said doing one arm finger pull-ups on rings, feet elevated, has started. Variations of this will be played with in the coming weeks. We’ll see what else I can come up with in terms of bouldering specific climbing training, but this certainly seems to be one of those movements that we use a lot. Especially on steeper problems where we are getting out of a sit start.