Mountain Strong vs. Gym Strong
Many of the fittest and fastest mountain athletes in the world achieve their goals without lifting a single weight in a gym. Article by Uphill Athlete.
To begin, we must first answer a crucial question: what is strength? Putting aside the history and various ways to develop it, we define strength as an ability to perform the most work with the least amount of effort. Under this, we can account for a broad swath of applications, from the Olympic weightlifter who can snatch 300lbs, to the mountain runner who runs a marathon with 8,800 feet of climbing in 3:45 (as Kilian Jornet did in July 2017). In both cases, a significant load is placed on an athlete and they in turn leverage an ability (their “strength”) to accomplish that load with great efficiency.
Let’s go further: strength is also speed. When a track sprinter like Usain Bolt steps to the line of a 100m sprint, his muscles and tendons tension with incredible potential energy, and at the moment the gun goes off his brain communicates a nearly-instantaneous signal to those muscles to contract with tremendous power, propelling him off the blocks and into a world-record performance. In this example, we can identify Bolt’s strength in two capacities: the contractile force of his muscles, and the neuromuscular efficiency which his central and peripheral nervous systems use to command function from those muscles at incredible rates. That too, is strength.
The above example leads us into an important distinction: that of the person who exercises in a gym with lifting weights as an end unto itself, versus the athlete who uses gym strength training PLUS other means in order to develop their full performance potential for their mountain sport.
An athlete who is interested in maximizing their performance should first look at what component parts make up their “ideal” of fitness.
Taking the mountain runner as an example, we can identify the following pieces of this puzzle:
♣ Aerobic efficiency: Essentially this is a metabolic ability of the body to utilize fat as fuel while running (or skiing or climbing) at a given power output.
♣ Speed: This is an expression of strength.
♣ Muscular Endurance: The ability to produce a high work output of the muscles over longer durations and in a predominantly-aerobic state – another form of strength.
♣ Form/Technique: Proficiency at moving quickly over terrain. Including an ability to avoid injury and maintaining good form despite accumulating fatigue – yet another form of strength!
Our hypothetical running athlete now may look at those pieces and decide how to train each one, first individually and then gradually combining them into complex, very specific workouts as they approach their most important performance or event of the year. The correct strength training workouts in a gym will in turn help you on the trail or at the crag by directly increasing your performance and hone your fitness to a knife’s edge of specificity for your sport.
Interested in learning more on the subject of mountain strength? Check out the full series of articles:
• Mountain Strong. Part 1: What is strength to you?
• Mountain Strong Part 2: General vs Specific Strength
• Mountain Strong Part 3: Assessing Strength
• Mountain Strong Part 4. Muscular Endurance: The Money Workout
This article was written by the professionals (Sam Naney) at Uphill Athlete. Uphill Athlete is a platform for openly sharing proven training knowledge for the sports of alpinism, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, ski mountaineering, skimo racing, and mountain running. They offer free educational resources, sell well-designed training plans, and coach amateurs and experienced athletes to maximize their fitness and succeed in the mountain sports they love. Learn more about Uphill Athlete at http://www.uphillathlete.com/.
Some great days spent skiing with Laura and co. on an improv version of the Haute Route, spending more time in Verbier and finishing in Arolla. A super week of skiing and enjoying the mountains.
We’re just back from an amazing few days ski touring in the Silvretta Alps, Tyrol on the border between Switzerland and Austria. Lead by IFMGA guide Miha Habjan we enjoyed great snow conditions far away from the crowds. Stay tuned for our winter 2019 course dates.
What a week, they called it the Cape Epic and it certainly is that. 8 days, 658km, 13,350 climbing, 41 hours and 14 minutes of riding on the best trails around Cape Town. 1 snapped chain, 1 shredded tyre, 3 days of horrible illness but no falls!!
A really great event, pushed us to the limit physically but also mentally, there were some dark times but all forgotten now as we tuck into a beer overlooking Table Mountain.
Thanks to all those who supported us …. C and N Cycles, Trek UK, and Santini SMS.
– Andy and Chris
Our first Haute Route group of the spring ski touring season endured challenging conditions and mixed weather but made the most of it with a courageous spirit and some really enjoyable ski descents. Battling high winds most of the way, whenever the sun did come out it felt extra special and some great powder turns were had. Thanks to the group for being a great team!
If you are looking to join one of our future trips follow this link for more information.
We spent a few days churning out the miles on this cycling paradise island in preparation for the Cape Epic in March. Progressing is coming along nicely but more work to do. Feeling the strain of the challenge ahead but that’s what it’s all about. Thanks for all the support and stay tuned for more updates!
“The fabric was pressing against my face as I vainly tried to stop the tent from tearing away from the side of the mountain. My partner Andy was desperately trying to get the stove lit in the front of the tent in order to start the crucial task of melting water. It was 3 a.m. on September 30th and we were at 7,300m on Mount Manaslu in Nepal, the 8th highest mountain in the World.” – co-founder and IFMGA mountain guide Kenton Cool and our adventure addict owner Andy recall their trip to ski Manaslu, Andy’s first 8000m peak.
Adventures like this run deep in our company DNA and, thanks to the help of Trek Bikes, Andy and business partner Chris are training for their next adventure. But this is not just any adventure. It is regularly listed as one of the toughest endurance races on the planet and will no doubt be their toughest challenge yet.
Stay tuned to our blog and be sure to follow Adventure Base on Instagram to see their journey unfold through their build up to the race and to what they hope to be a successful finish.
Working Your Core
The following article was written by Scott Johnston (Uphill Athlete co-founder and coach, co-author of Training for the New Alpinism) for Adventure Base clients to understand and execute a proper core strength workout.
Whether you are gearing up for an Everest summit, or trying to perfect your winter ski conditioning, Uphill Athlete has created the perfect core strength workout for you. Remember that all full body movements originate with the core musculature. A strong core provides a solid base from which the big prime mover muscles of the limbs can do their job in athletic movements. If done correctly, these exercises are meant to build a high degree of general core strength that will be a base for more sport-specific movements.
The goal of this training is to build strength, not endurance. The idea is to hold the best, strictest form that you can manage regardless of how few repetitions you can do or how short your hold time is. Make all the movements slowly and with strict control. Quality is far more important than quantity.
You should shoot for four to eight repetitions of any exercise or hold any position for only a few seconds. Do this routine in circuit-style with 30 seconds between exercises. Add resistance whenever you can complete more than six perfect reps. Resistance can be added by using a weight vest, heavier shoes, ankle weights, or a heavier dumbbell. As you gain strength, drop the exercises that become easy and spend more time working on your weaker ones. Be guided by the principle of maintaining maximum core tension for the full exercise, and keep trying until you get them all perfect.
Core Strength Exercises Video:
Notes on the exercises
1. Strict Sit-Ups: Straight back, all the way up and all the way down. Hands on chest, behind your head, or holding a weight to your chest progresses the exercise from easy to harder.
2. Bird’s Dog: The hip rotates through its full range of motion.
3. Windshield Wipers: Keep the legs straight. Hamstring flexibility is a limiter for some.
4. Three point/two point: Highly relevant for contact strength when poling.
5. Kayaker: Highly relevant for turning the skis and kick-turn motion.
6. Super Pushups: Shoulders and spine. Push through, then back. This will be the hardest exercise for many SkiMo racers.
7. Hanging Leg Raises: Start with knees bent if you can’t do these with straight legs. If straight legs is easy, do these as Hanging Windshield Wipers, as per the video tutorial.
9. Gymnast L-sit: If you can’t do it, try crossing your legs in front of you for 10 seconds. Try straightening your legs each time, it will come. Difficult for many.
10. Side Planks: Without weight or dynamically with a dumbbell. 5 reps per side/10 in total.
11. Bonus: Turkish Get Ups: The grand-daddy of core exercises. Hits every major core stabilization group.
About Uphill Athlete
Uphill Athlete is a platform for openly sharing proven training knowledge for the sports of alpinism, mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, ski mountaineering, skimo racing, and mountain running. We offer free educational resources, sell well-designed training plans, and coach amateurs and experienced athletes to maximize their fitness and succeed in the mountain sports they love. Learn more about Uphill Athlete at http://www.uphillathlete.com/.
Fit to Climb: How to Get the Most out of Your Next Summit with Adventure Base
The following article was written by Steve House (IFMGA-Certified Mountain Guide, Uphill Athlete co-founder, coach) for Adventure Base clients to understand the importance of training for their trips, and training the correct way.
During the years prior to my professional climbing career I worked as a mountain guide and was privileged to lead climbs all over the world. The one thing that stood out, consistently separating the successful from the disappointed guests, was physical preparation.
People that come into a climbing trip, whether it be a Mont Blanc climb or an Everest Base Camp trek, with a high degree of physical work capacity can handle the daily physical demands that come from back to back multi-hour days of travel in mountainous terrain. In my experience, the best way to approach training is to bring an intellectual framework to your climbing or trekking goals, and then use that framework to apply established principles to your problems, and create tangible plans to overcome them. Going from nearly-sedentary, to successive days of climbing, is a recipe for disappointment. But what does that all mean?
The professionally-built training plans and coaching options that Scott Johnston and I have created adhere to a structured and systematic application of carefully calculated training amounts, types, and durations of exercise aimed towards achieving a performance result or goal (i.e. the summit of Mont Blanc). These contrast with a “do-it-yourself” and/or hire a personal trainer approach, which typically result in (random) exercise and general health. While that may be fun, it does not take into consideration a proper analysis, understanding, and build up to a specific goal.
For example, in order to reach the summit of Mont Blanc you need basic, supportive, non-mountaineering-specific fitness. Our training protocols allow you to build up to true mountain fitness and will put you on your way to the summit. We show you how to train like an athlete so you can reach your highest potential. There is a reason people don’t train for Mont Blanc by climbing Mont Blanc. Our approach works. Everyone we have coached (who stuck with their training) has had a much higher success rate than average. Of the first 14 climbers we coached for Everest, 100% of them reached the summit.
Both a good training plan and a good coach will utilize the following important principles:
• Continuity: Your training needs to be consistent. This means regular and systematically planned workouts. Overdoing it on the weekend, and then doing nothing for five days will not prepare you.
• Gradualness: As you become fitter with regular training the training load needs to gradually increase to give you the needed stimulus to keep increasing your fitness.
• Modulation: Hard days and weeks need to be followed by easy ones to allow your body time to adapt to the new stress being placed on it.
We understand your goal, know what it takes to achieve it and are experts in preparing a plan so you can reach it. Uphill Athlete offers both established training plans (prices range from $39 to $99) and custom coaching options (prices range from $289 to $499) to help prepare you for your planned trip, whether it be ski touring through the Chamonix backcountry, a summit of Mont Blanc, or an expedition up Everest. No matter how you choose to prepare for your trek or climb, remember that it is time well spent. Not only is it great for your health, but you’ll get more out of your experience with Adventure Base, and the mountains. Curious and want to learn more? Visit us at www.uphillathlete.com.
A fantastic week ski touring the classic Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt with a great team. We had cold temperatures and a fresh layer of snow which made for a little more of a wintery feel, but we wrapped up warm and enjoyed the fresh turns. Especially down the Valle d’arpette from the Cabane du Trient, which was one of the best conditions we’ve had on this trip over the years.
Thanks to a great team and our friends in the refuges along the way for hosting us.
Join us in 2018: Book Now
Climb Mont Blanc Video
Climbing Mont Blanc typically takes two days, but we add in a spare day in case of bad weather to maximise your chance of success.
We start by driving to Les Houches (10min) and then taking uplifts before walking to the Tete Rousse hut (3167m) for an overnight stay, followed by an ascent via the Gouter/Bosses ridge.
On the return you will spend the night in the Gouter hut (3813m) and head back to Chamonix on the Saturday. This will depend though on a number of factors, including weather and hut availability.