By Carrie Lane, Director of Sport Performance
In part 1 of this blog, I talked about 4 categories of exercises that an alpinist should target in a weight training program. These four categories were: Stability, Mobility, Rotational/Diagonal, and the Posterior Chain. I listed specific exercises that focus on these 4 categories. But just doing the right exercises isn’t enough. Lets look at how and when to pair these activities with certain training days during your week to gain the most reward from your strength training regimen.
Although strength and power have their place within an alpine training program, you will spend most of your time training endurance. I’ll talk about weight training for strength and power in part 3 of this series, but lets delve into the aerobic energy system and some of the nuances of the proper strength training regimens to pair with aerobic work.
Within endurance training, there are 3 main levels of intensity at which you should target your training sessions. These 3 levels are: Aerobic, Aerobic Threshold, and Anaerobic (or Lactate) Threshold. Much training literature refers to these as Zones 1-3 (out of 5). While training within these “zones,” you should maintain certain heart rate levels that are based upon your own max heart rate. You should be familiar with how to find your heart rate levels that match these three intensity levels. Training AT (not above or below) these designated levels will promote adaptation within your body to become more fuel-efficient in both its energy output and its ability to flush fatigue-inducing by-products from the muscles.
While aerobic, aerobic threshold, and anaerobic threshold training activities can be fatiguing, these activities are fairly easy on your neuromuscular energy system. In other words, at no point during any of your aerobic training sessions were you asked to produce maximum muscular contractions like you would if you had to lift a car off of a pedestrian or make a cruxy move on a boulder problem. So while you may feel fairly “worked” after a long anaerobic threshold training day, you have not demanded your brain to recruit your muscles to maximum effort. This means on aerobic days, your neuromuscular system is actually able to rest. Your strength training program after an aerobic session should therefore mirror the low neuromuscular demands of the day and send your brain the message to “rest the muscular firing mechanisms, continue to enhance my lung capacity.” This message will come through more clearly if you save the ballistic, multi-jointed, highly coordinative strength training days for your power- and strength- focused sessions.
What type of weight workouts should you pair with your aerobic, aerobic threshold, and anaerobic training days? Here are three sample aerobic energy system workouts and complimentary weight training activities that will send a clear message to the body about the objective for the day.
True aerobic training days are good for recovery from your more intense training days. The benefit of a strength circuit on a recovery day is to help your endocrine system kickstart its recovery response. Today’s lift does not need to last long (20-30 minutes will give you benefit) or be strenuous. Use bodyweight activities that focus on posterior and lateral movements to balance the repetitive nature of the day’s aerobic activity.
Sample Outside Workout:
20 to 60 minute hike keeping heart rate below approximately 120 bpm (55% of VO2max)
Sample Restoration Circuit:
30 sec per exercise, 30 sec rest. 3:00 rest after completion of circuit. Repeat 1-2 more times.
Crossover lunges R
Crossover lunges L
Prone crunch alternate R/L shoulder raise
Straight leg tricep dip
Crab position hip lift
Bungee abductor kickouts R
Bungee abductor kickouts L
Since threshold work is a little more intense than the true aerobic day, add slightly more intensity to your strength work. A strength and med ball circuit will work the body through different planes to provide muscular balance. Keep the movements simple, so you don’t over-work the neuromuscular system, but keep your breathing a little labored by decreasing the rest intervals. This slight oxygen debt will signal the brain to start the hormonal response to speed up recovery and will also build muscular endurance.
Sample Outside Workout:
2-4 x 30 minute cycling or running intervals maintaining heart rate at approximately 140-150 bpm (65-70% VO2 max). 90 second rest in between reps.
Sample Strength and Fitness Circuit:
30 sec per exercise, 15 sec rest. 3:00 rest after completion of circuit.
Seated MB taps alternate R/L
Backward lunge R
Backward lunge L
MB scoop pass R
MB scoop pass L
Straight arm scap pinches
Lateral lunge R leg
Lateral lunge L leg
MB rotational slamdowns alternate R/L
Stretch loop bow-and-arrow R
Stretch loop bow-and-arrow L
After an anaerobic threshold day, your glycogen stores are pretty low. But they are not quite fully depleted. Use the sample post-workout strength regimen below to fully deplete your glycogen stores. These are simple, single jointed exercises with fairly strenuous load and effort. Meaning your last two reps of each exercise should be a little challenging. Your body’s response to this deep glycogen depletion will be to restore glycogen even faster than it would if it was only partially depleted. Why is this good? The faster your body can restore precious glycogen, the less rest you will need after hard bouts of work. Less resting means faster climbing.
Sample Outside Workout:
10 x 90 sec uphill hike with heavy pack. Heart rate (HR) needs to be approximately 170-180 bpm (85% VO2 max). Rest until HR gets back to 120 bpm. This workout should last 20-40 minutes depending on your rest time (include the rest period in total workout time).
Sample Strength Circuit:
10 reps per exercise, 60-75 sec rest. 2 times through.
Kneeling cable cross pulldowns R
Kneeling cable cross pulldowns L
Hamstring curl R
Hamstring curl L
Standing DB press
Standing side (oblique) crunch R
Standing side (oblique) crunch L
Weighted sit ups with feet anchored
Landmines to hip alternate R/L
BB upright row
Ab wheel rollouts
You now have three different types of strength workouts to couple with the three aerobic training “zones” that you should be targeting in your endurance training. Strength training on your aerobic days will serve three purposes:
1. Balance the body’s muscular composition
2. Kickstart the body's recovery process
3. Improve your aerobic efficiency
Balance in training all the physical components of mountaineering is important for your health and performance. While you will spend most of your training time in the endurance world, you need to touch on strength and power as well. In Part 3 of the Mountaineer Strength Blog, we will breakdown lifting workouts that will provide strength and power for your ascents.