I read a lot. I mean A LOT. Rock climbing training sprouted out in the early 90’s and I was all over it. The only book on the subject was Dale Goddard’s and Udo Neumann’s Performance Rock Climbing and it was gospel as I made my first forays into training climbers at Austin’s first rock climbing gym, Pseudo-Rock. No A/C, dirty pea gravel and the first, often flawed, climbing specific training devices. The amenities were few, but the stoke was high and our clan was dedicated. It was obvious the training was paying off and people were sending grades that were on the bleeding edge back then. Glorious times, and the times are changing. Much more knowledge has been garnered into the tiniest details pertaining to rock climbing training and performance, some academics solely focused in minuscule details affecting the smallest of margins of climbing. Knowledge is expanding about training for our beloved sport, but compared to other sports, it is still in its infancy and there is plenty of information that is unproven, simply hearsay or just flat out marketing BS. I have read most of them and well, it’s my job, but maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to waste time perusing everything under “rock climbing training” in Google. Let me parse it down for you.
Here is my current list of suggested reads for the performance oriented rock climber looking to gain knowledge to hone his or her craft. I have chosen resources I consider readable to someone not degreed in exercise physiology or have notated otherwise. I have carefully chosen books, that in my opinion, offer the most to gain in applicable information in the least amount of time, or again, have notated otherwise. So read on and pour some power into your noggin. Understanding why you are making the effort, withstanding the struggles or even listening to my babble, makes it all more palatable and rewarding.
Becoming A Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett, THE mobility resource for athletes, a must-have for anyone seriously chasing performance
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, easy to read and understandable resource on the Paleo Diet
Climb Strong Logical Progression, by Steve Bechtel, theory and application of non-linear periodization
The Rock Climbing Training Manual, by Mark and Mike Anderson, sound training principles and methods written by some of the most analytical guys around
Training for Rock Climbing, The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance, by Eric Horst, another solid source of training information, backed by research, written by one of the original authors and trainers in rock climbing
Vertical Mind: Psychological Approaches for Optimal Rock Climbing, by Don McGrath and Jeff Elison, pretty much what the title says, great information but dry, clinical writing. Drink coffee and focus, good information.
The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons, by Arno Ilgner, the OG in mentally training climbers to stay in the moment and eradicate the fear of falling. Great reads if you can process the sometimes strange and very esoteric writing voice of Mr. Ilnger, the master of this very specific field of mind training.
9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes, by Dave MacLeod, burly climber and researcher, read it and be forced to be honest with yourself about what is limiting your gains in performance. Another great read, thought provoking, but another strange writing style that may be hard to decipher. Somewhat like reading someone’s college notes.
Make or Break, Don’t Let Climbing Injuries Dictate your Success, by Dave MacLeod, same notations as his book above. Preventative care and acute care of the most common climbing related ailments.
Neuromechanical Basis of Kinesiology, by Roger M. Enoka, very clinical read, a college textbook. If you want to go down the rabbit hole of biomechanics, this is the beginning of that hole. Your body is a system of levers, pulleys and pivots, and understanding this helps decipher efficient movement. It’s not at all about just trying harder
Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance, by McArdle, Katch and Katch, when you want to make the rabbit hole above the size of your house. It is basically a freshman Exercise Physiology 101 textbook. The start for me in this field. I made an A by the way and it was one of the only classes I didn’t skip to ride my bicycle or go climbing
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes, this was THE eye opener for me in terms of diet. Proved my nutrition education in college was all wrong, made me a government conspiracy guy. DRY reading, very clinical and research oriented. If you were my family member, I would force you to read it
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, more of a story to shrink the disconnect many have with the food they eat. Somewhat a sociopolitical statement of the food industry
The Rise of Superman, Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, by Steven Cotler, sort of a mish mash of stories, research and anecdotal evidence of the rare “flow” state we all chase, and in theory, it can become addictive
The Pilates Body, by Brooke Siler, if you are so inclined to give Pilates a try, there is no better book for the beginner to reference. You will be humbled.
Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence, by Dr. Eric Goodman, highly recommended for anyone approaching or in middle age/advanced age/not a kid anymore. Even for my professional athletes, this simple exercise system has successfully kept lower back pain free if done regularly. May have to raise this to a must-have.
OK, this is a short list, if you want even more knowledge as power, just ask! Happy reading Grasshopper.