Skin Hardening Products, Holy Crap

About a month back I purchased some stuff called Antihydral, which was originally created as a cream for people who had overly sweaty extremities. I had other hopes, however, than using the stuff as a replacement for chalk.

See, I've been climbing for about four years, and despite climbing 3-4 times per week, my fingers never toughened up like the should have. I'd get about an hour into a bouldering session and my skin would hurt enough that I wouldn't want to climb anymore; it was just really painful to even touch holds. I'd tell the guys about my problem and they'd give me one of a few typical answers: "Oh, they'll harden up eventually" or "mine got really hard after I went climbing outside last year" or the simple yet infuriating "yeah, I guess my skin hurts every once in a while". Except, it wasn't every once in a while. It was every session. This predicament prevented me from climbing more than once every two days; I couldn't begin to think about climbing more than one day in a row.

So, prior to a spring break trip to the Red River Gorge, I bought a tube of Antihydral to see how it worked out. The directions were pretty simple: apply, let dry, wash off. It came two days before we left, and I started using it immediately: twice a day, morning and night. I quickly realized that, prior to using Antihydral, my fingers would sweat like no other. Like, constant, visible sweat on the tips of my fingers. I've come to the conclusion that I have unusually sweaty, moist skin on my hands, and this is the reason my skin has always been so soft. However, Antihydral prevented that. A few days into the trip, I switched to just once a day, and by that time I was feeling great.

It was like magic. I climbed every day. My only skin related pain was a splitter or two from sharp holds. My skin was starting to feel and look like a climber's hands should- tough, dry, and immune to pain.

After the trip was over, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I immediately started going to the gym daily. My sessions lasted 3+ hours instead of 1. 

I didn't ever feel like there was such a thing as a "game changer" when training for rock climbing; just hard work. This stuff was a game changer for me. I can climb multiple days in a row without a thought. My fingers don't stop me from climbing as long as I want to, and I can instead leave the gym because I'm bored and not because my fingers are killing me. 

Now, that's not to say that Antihydral is perfect. It does have some downfalls. It comes in a small tube, and costs about $30 if you include shipping. To me, that's pretty expensive. And considering how much I need to coat my fingers, it goes pretty quickly. I anticipate that this tube would last me another month or two, if I gave it daily use. The cream itself is pretty messy: it's a whiteish-yellow paste that you smudge over your fingers and leaves a white residue on anything you touch. Some climbers say they sleep with it on; and while I have no doubt this is the best option, I wouldn't go near a clean bed wearing it. I usually applied it in the morning before climbing: I'd put it on, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then rinse it off. 

A week or two of daily applications of Antihydral reminded me of my younger days, when I bought an extra strength antiperspirant called CertainDri for my pits. CertainDri is a roll on liquid antiperspirant that pretty much trumps all other antiperspirants. You'd apply it at night, it burns a little, and after a day or two, you literally stop sweating. Which had me thinking, what if I used it on my hands? So I rooted around in my medicine cabinet and found an old bottle of it, and tried it.

My hands have literally never felt as dry as they did the next morning. Which was actually kind of interesting. It definitely worked better than the Antihydral, but perhaps a little too well. I definitely wished I was more careful when applying it, as the skin in the joints of my fingers felt a little crackly and slightly painful when bent. 

The effects, however, lasted for a few days, unlike Antihydral, which I had to apply daily. After a day or two, it would wear off enough that my hands felt dry, yet moist enough to not crack or hurt.

The perks of CertainDri are: it's low price ($5.18 at my local pharmacy in Wisconsin); it's non-messiness; and the fact that I probably only need to put it on every other night / every third night. 

Both products are a lifesaver for me, and I'm pretty excited to see how I'll improve at climbing now that I'm not limited on quantity. So far, climbing daily has been awesome. My technique is way better from all the extra practice. I also feel like I can focus on one thing at a time, instead of feeling like I won't get a chance before a route gets taken down. And also, the pressure of performing well has gone down too, because, hey, I'll be back tomorrow anyway.

Hope this helps all you excessive sweaters out there...

The Weak Machine

Eva Lopez's Blog

I was recently linked to Eva Lopez's blog, creator of the Transgression hangboard that has been popping up seemingly everywhere lately. She's written quite a bit on finger strength training, and I'm excited to dig a little deeper into her posts. 

Give it a look.

-The Weak Machine

Reddit Question: Advanced Weighted Pull Up Programs

I few weeks ago I posted this question on Reddit about what I should do for an advanced weighted pull up program. I got some pretty awesome responses and I thought it would be helpful for anyone looking for ideas once they've hit a pull up plateau. The ideas posted within will be suitable for anyone who can do a pull up with 50% of their body weight in addition to body weight. 


The Weak Machine

New Diet Report: Vegetables, One Month In

Prior to starting this new diet, I ate pretty healthy. A history of stomach pain, involving some hereditary ulcers, made that pretty mandatory. Basically, I didn't eat: fast food or soda, I drank little alcohol, was gluten-free, made most of my meals from scratch, and emphasized protein and good fats. My meals were generally centered around a meat; generally, lots of chicken and pork and occasionally a nice cut of steak. Add a carb to the meat (usually gluten free bread, tortilla chips, or quinoa) and I was good to go. 

Then again, I loved dessert (and I still do), I drank tea with large amounts of sugar, and would often over-emphasize the carb part of my meals. 

I tried the paleo thing for a while. The diet itself made a lot of sense to me. Whatever your impression of the diet, it's main tenets are pretty hard to deny: Don't eat processed shit; eliminate sugar except in its most natural forms (fruits and vegetables); protein and fat are really important, while carbohydrates not as much as we thought; whole foods are good.

However, found it hard to cut out grains, sugar, dairy, beans, and soy from my diet at the same time. It was especially hard when I would spend 13-14 hours a day in another city going to school and working, and at that time, without facilities for cooking. 

A month or two ago I realized how much I was sitting on a day to day basis. I still lifted four times a week and was climbing every other day, but I'd spend most of my days with classes sitting, from about 7:00am to 8:30pm. My legs protested; my hamstrings and butt would get incredibly sore and I would fidget incessantly until I could move again. I had recently quit my job at the running store, which meant I didn't spend 8 hour shifts every other day standing on my feet and scrambling around to get things done. 

I was pretty paranoid that my fitness would go downhill, and started to feel really guilty when I indulged in less than healthy foods. My body image went drastically downhill, even though I doubted I'd gained any weight and I was stronger than ever. I wanted to make a change, but I was concerned that my failure at Paleo would just be a repeat affair.

It then hit me that little steps were the key to making a diet last. I looked back on my history of managing what I ate, and realized that over the years I had slowly adjusted my diet to be more healthy. In high school I gave up soda, then soon after, fast food. I could still make disgustingly fatty or sweet foods, but I'd have to do it in the comfort of my house. My freshman year of college, I gave up gluten. At the time, this more targeted at helping my months worth of stomach pain, but had the added bonus of taking out a lot of empty carbs from my diet. Shortly before my NOLS trip to India, I began centering my meals around lean meats, emphasizing protein and fat over carbohydrates. 

So, I decided to make a small change now. Nothing crazy, but enough to make a difference. I had four rules:

My nearly-finished bowl of vegetables at work. 

My nearly-finished bowl of vegetables at work. 

  1.  Replace all grains in my diet with vegetables
  2. Only one mug of tea per day
  3. Only one dessert per day (the horror)
  4. Do whatever the hell I want on the weekend. 

So, I stocked up on frozen vegetables and started replacing all the gluten free bread, GF pasta, quinoa, rice, and tortilla chips. With regards to the tea and a nightly dessert, I realized that both of these things contributed significantly to my daily happiness and would make the failure rate of this diet much higher. 

Basically, my meals all consist of a large bowl (2-3 cups) of 4-6 types of vegetables, and some form of protein. I usually cover the vegetables in olive oil or butter, a bit of salt, and some spices, then microwave them until they're cooked. I've found some favorite vegetables that I would have totally denied as a kid (there are TONS in the freezer section of the grocery store): sugar snap peas, lima beans, broccoli, carrots, and butternut squash. Among others I use are brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and sliced peppers. Occasionally, corn too if I want something sweeter, though I know it's technically a grain. 

After a month of this, I can say it's been going pretty well. Frozen vegetables make an awesome, hearty filler that are easy to transport. On days with classes, I'll grab a quart-sized tupperware, fill it to the top with frozen veggies, and I won't have to worry about them unfreezing from 6:30am until whenever I eat lunch.  I don't worry about not having enough to eat anymore, which is really nice; the equivalent calories' worth of rice or bread would keep me full for an hour or two, tops. As for my gigantic bowl of vegetables, it usually takes me two-ish hours to finish and I'm left really satisfied. Not only that, but I've really started to like, and crave, vegetables too. 

I've also found that I crave dessert less at the end of the night as well. I guess that means I tend to crave less sugar when I eat less sugar, which is kinda cool. And I feel less guilty about eating dessert when I really want it. But mostly, I've been eating less. Which is great, but I'm also just a little bit concerned that I won't hit my goals for lifting, as I won't have the calorie surplus that I used to have in order to build muscle. I'm hoping this isn't the case and that a healthier diet will better promote recovery. 

Overall, I'm pretty excited about how this is going and I think I'll keep it up for a long time. 

-The Weak Machine

Advanced Weighted Pull Up Programs: Smolov Jr

According to, Smolov jr. is: "a three week program that comes from the Russian squat routine known as Smolov. A big difference is it’s 1/5 as long and not nearly as taxing on your body. Another difference is Smolov jr. can be used on other lifts besides the squat, and is actually quite commonly used on the bench press. The majority of users report that they add 20-35 pounds to their squat or deadlift, and 15-25 pounds to their bench press(some even claim numbers up to 40 pounds)."

Now typically, you won't find many people applying this kind of program to the pull up, because most people only do pull ups as accessory lifts rather than training theme extensively. 

Reddit user psicicle, however, experimented using Smolov jr. with his weighted pull ups to awesome success. His report, on reddit, is here.  

He does recommend having at least a 50% BW added weighted pull up before beginning, so that lower weight sets don't require removing weight.

I'm really excited to experiment with this program over the next month. I'll post my results here when I'm done.

-The Weak Machine

My Butt Hurts

After finishing my ultramarathon last May, I've been pretty much exclusively climbing and lifting. Unlike when I was running a lot, my lifting has become more leg focused. Lots of squats and deadlifts. Reached some pretty cool milestones too, like 2-plate deadlifts (finally... I always hated deadlifts), and a new squat PR of 5x215.

Something I've noticed though, since classes resumed last September, is that the longer I sit, the worse my legs and butt hurt. Not necessarily after lifting (although I do get super sore pretty often), but in general. 

I can't sit anymore. The other day I had roughly 10 hours of straight classes and work at my desk, and I'm pretty sure I freaked a dude out on the bus home by doing dips on the seat armrests when I couldn't take it anymore. 

Suddenly it seems like a superpower for people to be able to comfortably relax in a chair for more than half an hour without having to alternate butt cheeks, do butt and hamstring-flexes to get blood moving, or to take fake "bathroom" breaks that are really just "stretch-my-hamstrings-oh-god-they-hurt-so-bad" breaks. Standing for more than just the transition period between classes feels like a godsend. 

If I ever get a real job, a standing desk is looking like a must-have. 

An Awkward Swole: Insecurity and Muscleyness


It's weird to think that I would ever feel uncomfortable in my own body after lifting. Almost everything about working out to me is satisfying: the sense of tiredness, accomplishment, strength, and visible results in my body are the reasons it's something I do almost every day of my life. 

Yet, while many women work out, few women work out in a way that puts on large quantities of muscle.

Which is cool. I mean, I was a runner most of my life until recently.  I look up to a great number of exceptionally talented runners whose body type is the polar opposite of that of a bodybuilder. Climbers, even, are known for being tiny except for their hefty lats and forearms. 

Yet, as I have been lifting the last year, I hardly ever see women who look like me, or train like me.

It's weird. Where are all the buff women at? Are they concealed under winter layers, hidden in plain sight? Am I genetically gifted, do I just happen to build muscle really easily? Why don't women want to lift like I do? Does that make me weird/gross/awkward?

Why do I feel so alone?

For me, gaining muscle was never really a goal, it wasn't something I needed to feel attractive or satisfied with myself. But it just so happens that the best way to train for strength, when lifting, produces a large amount of muscle in the process. And I definitely wanted to be strong.

To this day, I've enjoyed the benefits of being strong and looking strong. People complement me fairly often on my muscles. I usually say "thanks", and feel pretty good about myself for the rest of the day. But sometimes, really, I want to tell them how insecure it makes me feel.

Yet, after someone complements you in passing, it's hardly the time to tell them how you wonder if you stand out, or if it makes you look unattractive, or if you'd be happier if you just looked normal again. I want to tell someone how I feel awkward in short sleeves, and how I get nervous when dressing for anywhere except the gym. That I really wished someone else looked like me, or at least worked out like me, in my social sphere, so I didn't feel like the only one.


One-arm Progress Update

Before I go on with the post, a friend of mine posted this video on my Facebook wall. I have to admit that, even though I knew I was supposed to be inspired, this video was kind of a downer for me. Because even though I have always been working on the one-arm pull up for myself, there was definitely the motivator of getting to be the first woman to ever post a video of herself doing a one-arm. But it definitely colored my experience, in that I felt like I was in a race against humanity to get a one-arm before any other woman. And ultimately, that wasn't what I wanted it to be about. I had to realize that I'm doing it for the challenge itself, and knowing that if I succeed, I'll still be in the 0.00001% of women who can. A day or two later and I'm not really all that bummed, and it's nice to know that I'm shooting for something that really is possible. 

So in June I made a post that I'd finally gotten my first one-arm lockoff, which was a pretty big deal for me. I'd mostly gotten there through the use of my pulley and pull-up bar combo and a lot of assisted negatives and lockoffs. Whenever I achieve the next milestone in my one-arm goal, it always feels like things will progress really quickly from that point onward, and I get really optimistic about one-arm training. Queue the Rocky theme music, and I start dreaming about eventually posting a video of myself doing a real, genuine one-arm pull-up.

And I'm always proven wrong. This summer was a summer of setbacks, including a month-long trip of no one-arm training and the proceeding month of (depressedly) trying to get all my one-arm fitness back. Fast forward to September, and I finally felt like I was getting back to where I was in June.  

My training from there was a lot of assisted one-arm negatives, programmed in sets of heavy singles on the pulley. The problem was, I could do lockoffs, but I couldn't do a negative anywhere near slowly enough to be effective training. So I slowly worked my way from 25lbs of assistance to none, and last week, I finally did a one-arm negative, with no assistance, that I could be satisfied with. That is, four months after my first lock-off. It actually feels pretty good. Campusing while climbing is starting to feel very possible, instead of the mess of haphazard matching and swinging around that it used to be before I started training pull-ups. 

Today I'm hoping to do, for the first time, a set of more than one proper negative in a row. Maybe eventually I can add some weight to my negatives, too. 

Happy training,

-The Weak Machine


New Pinchy Thingys!

Recently, I googled "how to improve pinch strength for climbing," and I found this really awesome article, which, despite the spammy-looking link, is really really informative about training pinches.  Pinches have always been a weak spot for me, so a few months ago I built this: 

Pinchy-pinch trainer

Pinchy-pinch trainer

to train pinches. I'd always known you could cheat pinches a bit if they were on a vertical wall, because it felt like I could always hike my fingers to the top of the pinches to avoid having to utilize my thumb as much. The idea in my head was, if I could train pinches on a less vertical surface, the hold would be more thumb-dependent.  Unfortunately, I bought pinches that were a touch too difficult and I made little progress. 

So, flash forward to this week's googling, and I discovered I could make these:


The nice thing about these trainers is you can continually add weight to see how much you can hold, and if you've got the tools, you can vary the width of the wood pieces for further training. And, you can't really cheat them. Either you can hold them, or you can't. 

Right now I'm up to 40lbs per hand after about a week. 


-The Weak Machine


Heavy Finger Rolls are Literally Hitler

Not Eric Horst. He's the best. Heavy finger rolls, however, are worse than Hitler, Stalin, and that guy who made people into lampshades

Not Eric Horst. He's the best. Heavy finger rolls, however, are worse than Hitler, Stalin, and that guy who made people into lampshades

So, since early November I've been bogged down from climbing by a slew of hand and wrist related injuries. My initial theory was that they were related to drunken graduation party antics, specifically that of doing handstands and subsequently falling over. A later theory attributed them to the lift I added to my workout: heavy finger rolls (which have actually injured me before...). Either way, I have an intense pain in my wrist when pinching or using slopers, yet feels okay when crimping. My final deduction is the weirdest injury I've had to date: a tendon strain of the right pinky finger and a light wrist sprain to boot.

Injuries have always been tough for me, like every other climber out there. While climbing or training, I have this constant mentality of "I'M TOO FAR BEHIND I HAVE TO CATCH UP AND TRAIN HARDER AND BE STRONGER NOOOWWW." Shitty climbing sessions lead to longer hangboard sessions, high gravity days creating late nights spent thinking about how I could reform my workout to be better suited to strength gains. I consistently analyze my weaknesses and devise elaborate plans to improve, followed by results nearly opposite of instantaneous improvement.

So, you can imagine, when I can't train or climb altogether my mind practically explodes."Wait, you mean, not only was I improving at an abysmally slow rate, I now can't actually climb at all?" which translates to "YOU WILL NEVER CLIMB 5.9 AGAIN, SMALL CHILDREN WILL LAUGH AT YOU, AND YOUR FOREARMS WILL LOSE ALL MUSCLE TONE. OH, AND YOU'RE FAT."

So I sit idly and I let small tears escape when I pick up, for example, a glass of water, and it causes my fingers to scream in pain. As an extra special "fuck you," my gym also got a system board and training area a few weeks back. Excuse me while I go weep beneath it.


"They will soar on wings like eagles, for their lats shall fathom the earth"

But those who hope in Brodin will renew their strength (given adequate rest and proper nutrition). They will soar on wings like eagles, for their lats shall fathom the earth; they will lift and not grow weary, for their posterior chains will be as iron; they will walk and not be faint, for they seek no comfort in fattening foods, empty calories nor daytime TV.
(Gain-o-Zyzz 16:43)

(quote, user soapygopher, from Reddit) 

 "Their lats shall fathom the earth;"

 "Their lats shall fathom the earth;"

Some Thoughts on Hangboarding (2 months in)

Doin' work on my homebrew pinch hangboard

Doin' work on my homebrew pinch hangboard

So I've been hangboarding for just about two months now, and it's been going really well. The gains in finger strength are slow, but noticeable. The grade I occasionally onsighted, I now onsight consistently. The grade of problem where most of my projects fall are no longer plagued by the constant 1-2 impossible/improbable moves, but are instead dropping in about 2-3 sessions. My other weaknesses have been revealed and I'm pretty excited about that progress.

Here are a few things I've learned and experienced along the way:


3-finger pockets are an awesome way to work up to 2-finger pockets, which I found very painful and difficult when I had just begun hangboarding. I divided my hand into two overlapping parts: "Inner 3" (3 fingers closest to the thumb) and "Outer 3" (3 fingers furthest from the thumb. The "inners" are significantly easier than the "outers" and you'll probably find that they progress similarly to your 4-finger crimp strength. "Outers" are subject to a little more torque and decreased strength, so work these up slowly. 


Be careful with pockets, and progress slowly. Pain is never a good thing, but not necessarily a limiting factor. I had trouble with finger placement on pockets, because I'd try to slot my fingers in too far on my hangboard, which would cause a lot of torquing. If you experience this, slide your fingers out of the pocket slightly (heh) so that the joint of your finger is just at the edge and your fingers can lay flat (I call this a relaxed grip, as opposed to half-crimping within the pocket).

However, at the same time, realize that a lot of load is being placed on a few fingers and make sure to work up to pockets by doing a lot of 3-finger hangs if you feel uncomfortable.  When I add weight to pockets, I do them in really small increments (2.5 pounds added per workout) so as not to injure myself.

Someday I hope by doing these I'll work up to the fabled mono pocket... but I'm guessing that'll be awhile.  


Within a few weeks of doing hangboard workouts, I noticed a marked decrease in tendinitis in my forearm. I'm chalking this up to my fingers being overall pretty weak and needing some extra stimulus to strengthen. Overall, bouldering has been hurting less and I hardly think about my tendons while climbing anymore. 


If you're like me and want to work a thousand different grip styles, you may want to consider hangboarding in an A/B day fashion. I recently split my workouts so that I do crimps and pockets one day, then slopers and pinches the next workout.  


In climbing you can often turn a terrible crimp into a decent hold just by pinching it. Many of us, however, have terrible pinch strength and can benefit from some targeted pinch-strength training. However, pinches are a little bit rarer to find on a hangboard, and therefore it may be necessary to install some pinch holds on/around your existing hangboard surface. Here's a picture of a re-settable hangboard I built in my basement (all the holds are removable and replaceable). 


Now that finger strength is somewhat less of a limiting factor, you realize all the other stuff that has been holding you back. Like technique... and power... and endurance... 


Or at least, some time attempting to climb for maximum strength. Even if you distribute your hangboarding and subsequent climbing throughout the day, you won't climb as hard as you like until you've gotten appropriate rest. In my case, I pretty much never get fully-rested bouldering sessions in anymore, as I hangboard every other day. If you predominantly climb routes, this may be less of a problem for you.  


In a month or two I'll post another review and my progress. I also recently began doing heavy finger rolls, which in the past have caused me some injuries (I believe due to inefficient warming up). I'll let you know how these work out.

Until then, enjoy all your hangboarding adventures!

 -The Weak Machine


Some Recent Updates to the Woman Cave

So when I sit around in my basement gym, "resting" between sets, my mind starts working. You see, my equipment is right next to a huge stack of 2x4s, a few power drills, a miter saw and heaps of screws and different hole-drilling-bit thingys. 

Woman Cave + Power Tools. 

Woman Cave + Power Tools. 

 And what ends up  happening is I skip my next set and get totally distracted building something else that will "improve my workout". 

In the last few months, I've created the following:  

  • An angled pinch hangboard, complete with Atomik Climbing Holds 

Close-up view. 45 degree angle, mounted on my (also home-built) squat rack!



  • PVC Pinches, complete with skateboard grip tape. These puppies are HARD! Just worked up to holding them for about three seconds. Rough!
PVC Pinch Holds (HARD!) 

PVC Pinch Holds (HARD!) 

  • Made this dip station a few months back. I can't always do bench because I don't always have a spotter, and found that dips were a good substitute! Great for those mantle-press-to-top-out kind of climbing moves.  Cool thing is, it uses the safety bars from my squat rack. 
Dip station (also built, PVC paralletes on bottom left and bouldering wall behind. Apologies for the terrible placement of the pinches...)

Dip station (also built, PVC paralletes on bottom left and bouldering wall behind. Apologies for the terrible placement of the pinches...)

  • Prior to buying the pinches shown above, I made some beginner ones out of wood:
Vertical wood pinches. 

Vertical wood pinches. 

  • Well, I didn't really make the Beastmaker. But it looks pretty sexy next to my Metolius hangboard, doesn't it?
I guess I didn't build this beastmaker... but I mounted it!

I guess I didn't build this beastmaker... but I mounted it!

  • And I know I posted it before, but here's the pull-up bar I mounted along with pulley:

Well, that's it. The squat rack and hangboards are pretty much my baby, and I can't help but think about how much I'll miss them when I move out. I'd like to say it's the boyfriend/climbing gym that keeps me in town, but that wouldn't be entirely truthful...

 Oh well. I'm still pretty proud of how much training equipment I've managed to shove in a small space. Next up, probably a preacher curl station. I have no idea how I'm gonna manage that one..

Keep training y'all!

 -The Weak Machine


Article: A Guide to Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

Lifting for running makes a lot of sense for me as I have always struggled with nagging soreness and injuries that came as a result of increased mileage. Specifically, I have experienced a gamut of different injuries including, but not limited to: hamstring cramping; tightness and soreness in my hips; plantar faciitis; and tendinitis in my lower ankle. I have a strong inclination to believe that many of these injuries stem from a strength imbalance, as previously while training for large running events I incorporated very little lower-body strength work in my routine. 

 The first and primary argument against lifting for running is that it builds muscle, which can make sustaining aerobic activity more difficult due to the weight gain imposed by lifting. This author however states that, given the catabolic nature of running, strength-based lifting will produce an appropriately balanced and stabilized musculature that will facilitate healthy running without a large increase in mass.

From the article: 

You may be wondering why any of this matters- it matters because these same muscle groups are vital to the run- any imbalance that exists will be amplified significantly given the repetitive motion of endurance training. Once an imbalance is identified though, simple measures can be taken to restore balance and therefore allow for better form, and no runner has EVER suffered from having hamstrings that are strong or flexible, or having a lower back that is TOO strong.

Whether it be gym bros with an intense hatred for cardio, or skinny marathoners who shun the idea of picking up a heavy weight, running and lifting should never be mutually exclusive.

Read more here.

(Also interestingly enough, a few months ago I posted the reverse article targeted toward weight lifters regarding the benefits of doing cardio. See! It goes both ways...)

Happy Lifting! 

-The Weak Machine


"Diary of a Ladybro"

By user cAtdraco, from Reddit's "Swole Acceptance" subreddit:

Thursday morning, 11am:

I take a break from stringing paperclips together and minimising browser windows hurriedly to join the other staff at the morning tea table. Today's topic for discussion is 'Feats of Athleticism', whereby each staff member relates stories of their physical prowess. It is a longstanding ritual in the break room, along with 'Stories About Children' and 'Funny Things That Happened at the Supermarket'.

The bookkeeper begins:

"I went for a walk this morning on the beach with my dog. It was really lovely - I love early morning walks! We walked for about forty-five minutes, and I threw a ball for her a few times."

The ladies around the table murmur their approval and smile. Everyone knows that cardiovascular exercise is difficult and tiring, and clearly the bookkeeper is a responsible pet owner. Dogs are also cute and friendly, and everybody likes them. The dog is definitely a nice touch.

The compliance officer adds her story:

"I went cycling with my husband on the weekend. We rode along the waterfront, and afterwards we stopped off for ice cream. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I'm not sore at all from the ride! We might go again this weekend."

This is a more entertaining tale than is immediately evident, as there is a subtle allusion to last week's report which ended with a seat-sore backside and many laughs around the table. A sore bottom is a badge of honour in this office, and the ladies giggle in unison. Sore bottoms indeed! Oh, the things we endure for the sake of health and fitness.

The discussion continues, however, as the receptionist also has a feat to reveal:

"I played netball last night with the girls. We won! But I hurt my knee again. I don't think I'll play next season."

At this, a beam of sunlight slices through the office window and swathes an appreciative path across the table, illuminating the receptionist with a golden glow. She smiles beatifically as the ladies break into spontaneous applause. Sore bottoms may well be a source of pride, but an injury sustained through the bonding experience of team sports? I surreptitiously lean backwards to examine the receptionist's shoulders, in case a pair of seraphic wings has taken root in her moderately developed trapezius muscles. I do not see any wings, but I will check again later when I ask her to mail some things for me.

It is now my turn to offer my achievements.

"I'm actually feeling pretty good today. Last night at the gym I hit a new personal record - I deadlifted 115kg for the first time!"

I wait expectantly for recognition. Perhaps another round of applause, or possibly even the appearance of a small choir singing triumphant anthems sotto voce, crescending gradually as my co-workers do some quick sums in their head and realise that 115kg is equivalent to approximately two of them.

The table is silent.

I look around the table at each co-worker. Noone is sipping their tea. Steam curls hesitantly from each cup, as if it too does not know how to digest this information and would really rather leave the room as quickly and soundlessly as possible.

After what feels like a year and a half or possibly as long as an hour on a stationary bike, the bookkeeper asks,

"But why would you even want to do that?"

I confess I am confused, as while I understand each of those words in many different contexts, strung together like this they are essentially babble. I ask her for clarification.

She repeated, "But why would you even want to do that? Why would you lift something so heavy?"

I falter. This is not the response I expected. In hindsight, perhaps a choir was an unreasonable expectation: it is true that in the eye of Brodin, one hundred and fifteen kilograms is undoubtedly a pleasing offering but he has devotees with far more skill and physical prowess than I have yet accomplished. I have dreadfully overestimated the value of my offering, and I sense that humiliation may result from this inappropriate disclosure. I think quickly, understanding that my social cachet will stand or fall upon this answer.

"Because I can. Because it is heavy! I like picking up heavy things. They are weights, why wouldn't I want to pick them up? That is what they are for, and I'm getting stronger. Look, see my arms!"

I curl my arm up in demonstration, to show the ladies the firm curves of my bicep. They seem unimpressed, so I pull my arm forward and fold my fist backwards. "Look! Triceps!" I point at the muscle in question, and wait for admiration to ensue.

Somewhere over near my desk I hear a fly beating it head frantically against the glass as it attempts to make its embarrassed escape from the room. The clock ticks loudly in an attempt to mask the silence that has fallen across the room. There is a faint smell wafting from the air conditioner: the tone in this office has been irrevocably lowered and awkwardness ensues. Everyone shifts uncomfortably at the lunch table.

My cup clatters in its saucer as I hurriedly stand. I don't quite run to my desk, but I retreat expeditiously to my work station. I hear whispers in my wake.

Back at my computer, I secretly raise my knees and lower them under the desk while I type, crunching my abdominal muscles.

Perhaps I should buy a cake and bring it to work tomorrow to smooth things over. I think the ladies like cake.

I hope that something funny happens at the supermarket.

I'm not saying that because we're strong we're better than other women, but maybe just a little bit. A tiny reminder to keep on lifting, ladies.  (Or climbing or all of those other awesome things you do.)

"May your lifts be heavy and your progress linear" (also from Reddit, user decubate)


 -The Weak Machine


Hangboarding For Finger Strength

Bouldering hasn't been cutting it for me and the dreaded plateau has really started getting to my head. So recently, I assessed my weaknesses and realized finger strength was up there in the things I needed to work on. Therefore, I started hangboarding and I've been LOVING it.

Hangboard Log

Hangboard Log

Now, several months ago I would have told you the opposite story about hangboarding. Three months ago, my exact words would have been "hangboarding is a pain in the ass and doesn't work to build finger strength". Luckily for you, I've had a turnaround and it mostly had to do with reducing the "pain-in-the-ass-ness" that hangboarding can often be. There was a few key things that made a difference for me: 

  • This app (Hang Timer, iOS) . Seriously. I didn't think it'd make a big difference but it really automated what I find to be the most annoying part of hangboarding: timing hangs, rest, and counting reps. With this app you can have it manage how long you hang, how many hangs you want to do, how much rest you need between hangs, and how much time you need between sets. My previous attempts at hangboarding involved watching the second hand on a clock and being generally frustrated when I'd forgotten when to stop/start/rest. I can recall several sessions in the gym when I'd shut my timer off in anger and stomp away from the board to whine about the lack of training tools at my disposal. Oh, how I was wrong. 
  •  Learning how to warm up. The best place for me to hangboard is in the comfort of my home. I can do my workout without distractions or little climbers running beneath my feet. I don't have to "work in" with other climbers, and my hangboard is maintained un-greasy with just my fingers using it. However, this poses a problem: how do I warm up efficiently without ample climbing walls to do so? Through trial and error I found a series of progressively harder hangs that I found, when finished, give my forearms a good pump and leaves my tendons feeling warm. 
  • Finding the right workout.  Some of the popular workouts I've tried seemed too random and varied (I'm looking at you, Metolius) to produce consistent, linear improvement in finger strength. Here I referenced my background in weight lifting to produce a simple, easy workout that targeted all the grip styles and could easily measure improvement. With this workout, the general format stays the same but gets consistently harder each session. With my handy workout log, I can look back three weeks and see how much I've improved without all the guesswork. 

Okay, so here's how it works... 

The Warmup

    I like this warmup because it's easy and consistently leaves me feeling warm with the least amount of time/effort. 
    Step one. Pick the three largest holds on your hangboard (for me it's the jug, easy sloper, and big edge). Do three sets of 20-30 second hangs on each hold (9 total hangs). Get a massive pump.
    Step two. Sit down and do range of motion exercises: wrist circles; practice opening your hands all the way and then closing them several times. Finally, thoroughly massage your forearms and hands until the pump feels mostly gone. Everything should feel warm. 

      The Workout

        Pick 8-10 different holds. On my hangboard I use a: 2-pad crimp/edge; 1 pad crimp; half-pad crimp; easy sloper; hard sloper; three different two-finger combinations; and a set of pinches. 
        Typically in a workout you'd do your hardest holds first. I like to extend my warmup and do some of my easier holds first before I get into the real crimpy/slopey stuff. I weight them heavily to make them difficult, but the holds aren't small enough to be tendon-busting.  
        Set up Hang Timer or your preferred timing method of choice. Each "rep" is a 5-second hang. A "set" will consist of 5 reps with 3-5 seconds of rest in between each rep (I like 5 seconds of rest because it lets me really chalk up well between hangs). Between sets you will have 3 minutes of rest. You will do a different hold each set. It will look something like this:

      Example Workout

         Set 1: Big Edge
          Rep 1. Hang 5 seconds
          Rest 3 seconds
          Rep 2. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 3. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 4. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 5. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 minutes
        Set 2: Medium Edge
          Rep 1. Hang 5 seconds
          Rest 3 seconds
          Rep 2. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 3. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 4. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 Seconds
          Rep 5. Hang 5 Seconds
          Rest 3 minutes
        Set 3: Small Edge

      Adding Weight

        This iwhere the meat of your strength gains comes from. During your first workout all your hangs should be unweighted. If you can complete a hold set (all 5 reps on one hold type without coming off), add 2-5lbs to that set next workout.
        For example:
        Workout #1:
        Big Edge: 0 lbs  (Success)
        Medium Edge: 0 lbs (Success)
        Small Edge:  0 lbs (Fail)
        Workout #2:
        Big Edge: 5 lbs (Success)
        Medium Edge: 5 lbs (Fail)
        Small Edge:  0 lbs (Success)
        Workout #3:
        Big Edge: 10 lbs
        Medium Edge: 5 lbs 
        Small Edge:  5 lbs
        Continue adding weight every workout to each individual hang until you cannot complete a certain grip type without failing. If you failed on a particular hold/set last workout, try the same weight a few more times and write down your progress. If you plateau, take some weight off and try to work your way up again or try an intermediate weight. 

          And Then...

            Once you've added a significant amount of weight to your hangs (50lbs added is a good upper limit), pick more difficult holds or attempt some one-arm hangs on good holds. Continue from the beginning (starting at 0lbs and moving your way up). 

            Programming Hangboarding Workouts

              One difficulty about adding hangboarding to your regimen is that you can be doing these workouts 2-3 times a week. Unfortunately, difficult finger workouts before climbing don't create sending environments later at the gym. Therefore, if you plan on doing hangboarding and gym/outdoor climbing in close proximity, I've found that it pairs well with technique-based workouts rather than projecting your next hardest route.
              A good plan would be to cycle hangboarding on and off throughout the year, or to cut back on the number of hangboard workouts during the week. My current plan is to wait until my hangboarding workouts plateau somewhat, at which point I will cut them back to once or twice  week to allow for recovery and other finger strength workouts. 

                      Assorted Articles on Hangboarding


                      Hangboard Training for Average Climbers (Power Company Climbing)
                      Bare Naked Hangboarding  (Power Company Climbing)
                      Fingerboard Training Plan (Moon Climbing)


                      V5.12 Hangboard (Detroit Rock Climbing Company)
                      Moon Fingerboards (Moon Climbing)
                      Beastmaker (Beastmaker)
                      Slopeymon (SoILL)


                      Back from Vacation

                      It's been about a month since my last post and the reason for this was my extended annual climbing vacation! Here are some of the trip highlights: 

                      • Climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon (just outside Salt Lake City)
                      • Sheep! 
                      • Bouldering in Joe's Valley
                      • Free Soloing the Flatirons (three times!!!)
                    • Bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park (Lower Chaos and Emerald Lake) 
                    • 1004885_10153032910720007_212533394_n.jpg
                      • And bouldering in Boulder Canyon

                      Now that I'm back I'm unbelieveably psyched to get back to training. 


                      One-Arm Pull-up: What I Learned from Pulley Assitance Training

                      Soon after I started one-arm training it became clear that my intermediate goals were a one-arm lockoff and one-arm negatives. I distinctly remembered doing negative two-arm pull-ups to achieve the same, and I remembered that progress came quickly after I had incorporated them into my routine. 

                      As my progress stalled in my initial method of one-arm training (weighted pull-ups, one-arm lat pulldowns), I hypothesized that, if I could just perform a lock-off, my progress would speed up considerably. Nonetheless, I was stubborn and reasoned that I wasn't strong enough to move to a pulley yet and my time was better spent on my current method of lifting. Month after month, from late January to early April I saw little change in my strength; my two-arm weighted pull-up had stalled and my progress on one-arm lat-pulldowns were gradually grinding to a halt. During April to early June I continuously altered my training in hopes that I might confuse my muscles into getting stronger. 

                      After many months of vacant stares at the rafters in my basement gym and dreams of building a pulley system, I finally tried a hack method with the materials I had laying around: old biners, worn out slings and gymnastic rings. This rudimentary pulley failed miserably: the rope sliding over the biners was fraught with friction; the weights slammed into my body as I pulled up and down; not enough vertical height for the weights to move freely without touching the floor or hitting the top of the pulley. 

                      More recently, I decided to go all-out. I built a pull-up bar that was free-standing from my hangboard-on-a-squat-rack. It hung neatly from my basement rafters and out of the way of my other equipment. I purchased skateboard-style grip tape from the internet and wrapped it around the bar to provide extra grip, which made a significant difference in my pulling power. 

                      I then assembled the pulley, as documented my prior post.  This was pretty exciting. I learned upon my first trial that I needed 35lbs of assistance to perform a lock-off and negative slowly on my right hand (45lbs on my left). I incorporated negatives into my routine, performing them in a 2x5 fashion (setsXreps), with the third set being an all-out lockoff-to-fail / slow-as-possible negative. 

                      The most amazing part is that this training yielded incredibly fast results. I had heard that the eccentric, or lowering phase, of the lift could produce quick gains, but I didn't know just how MUCH. Two weeks after starting pulley training I was down to doing 2x5 sets of negatives with only 17.5lbs of assistance on my right arm. Nearly 20lbs of improvement over the course of two weeks seemed infinitely better than the 5lbs per month progress I was seeing on my one-arm lat-pulldowns. 

                      Then, randomly a week and a half ago, I attempted a one-arm lockoff in a similar fashion to how I had in the past six months of training. Lift up with both hands, attempt to hang in the locked-off position while removing one hand. Usually it resulted in a quick, defeated descent. This time, however, was different. I managed to hold on for about half a second, a marked improvement from all my months of attempts beforehand. Despite the lameness of this achievement, I was pretty elated. 

                      A couple days later and a workout stronger and I was now locking off for around two seconds without assistance. Months and months of training with no results and suddenly, with the pulley, I'm making gains I didn't expect to see for months. 

                      Now, I'm back to dreaming big. This morning I achieved the slowest un-assisted negative I've ever done (still pretty fast, but hey). Soon, multiple sets of negatives which will hopefully give way to the eventual one-arm. 


                      I'm pretty excited.  


                      -The Weak Machine