Sunday, October 28, 2012

Girl, You Can Do A Pull-Up!

My brother asked me, "If you were hanging off a cliff and had to do a pull-up to save your life, you couldn't do one?!"

My response was, "No… hell no. I would fall off and die." I remember saying it in a way that sounded like I was okay with falling to a tragic death, but inside I was horrified. That was about 8 years ago.

I think it's worth saying that in those situations, I believe you would gain some kind of super human strength and probably be able to do a hundred pull-ups if it meant saving your life. Similar to how people can lift cars if it meant rescuing their loved one.

Getting ready for the Climbx Halloween Party

The pull-up conversation came up when I first started climbing in 2006. I wanted to get better at climbing and figured learning how to do a pull-up was one of the first crucial steps.

I figured doing pull-ups (palms of you hands facing away from you) would be more advantageous for rock climbing as opposed to chin-ups (palms of your hands facing towards you) since pull-ups use more of your forearm compared to your bicep. And unless you are using an undercling or doing one of those crazy waitress moves, it isn’t as often you climb with your palms facing toward you.

Although I do more pull-ups then chin-ups, variation is one of the keys to getting stronger. So I do both.

Getting Started

First, you are going to need to get a pull-up bar. I have one that screws into the doorframe but they also have ones that use opposing pressure, so no screws and it’s easily removable. Either one will work.

Ok, so you want to learn? If you stick to these steps a few time a week, you will be cranking out pull-ups like it’s your job!

The “hold and lower,” will be the main training regiment you will be doing to work towards a pull-up. I will outline different variations to mix it up and to engage different muscles. By doing these work outs consistently but also switching between them you will build up enough strength through lowering yourself that you will eventually be able to raise your self, a pull-up.

Start out by holding the bar at a comfortable width, about as wide as your shoulders, maybe just a little wider. Weather you wrap your thumbs or not, I would say just do whatever comes more naturally. You will likely have more power with a wrapped thumb. But again, variation, try it both ways.

Basic Hold and Lower: Start with a solid grip, jump up and without resting your chin on the bar, hold this position for 5 seconds. Do not let your self drop down uncontrolled!! It will be hard, but lower yourself as slowly as you can. This is the most important step. Lowering slowly is where you are getting stronger. This motion (eccentric muscle contraction) is lengthening your muscle against resistance. As opposed to say, something like a bicep curt (concentric muscle contraction) or an actual pull-up. This is where you are shortening your muscle against resistance. Both are strengthening your muscles.

Do at least 10 hold and lowers a day, resting just briefly between each repetition. If it is too hard to jump up to the bar, go ahead and get yourself a chair to stand up on. Again, the most important part is the lowering action.

Frenchy Hold and Lower: For this one you will do it in sets of 3. First jump up, with your chin above the bar, hold for 5 seconds and then lower slowly (the basic hold and lower). Next, jump all the way up, then lower slowly till your arms make a 90 degree angle, hold that position for 5 seconds then lower slowly all the way down. Lastly, jump all the way up, lower slowly till your arms make approximately a 120 degree angle or until there is just a slight bend in the elbows. Hold for 5 seconds then lower slowly the rest of the way down. Those three actions would complete 1 Frenchy repetition.

Do 4-5 Frenchy Repetitions in a set.

Wide Grip Side to Side: Getting more advanced now, the wide grip side to side, is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of having your hands where you normally do, move then about 6 or more inches to the outside. The wider grip and the side to side motion will begin to focus more on strengthening your lats.

What you’re going to do here, similar to the basic hold and lower, you are going to jump up, hold for 5 seconds with your chin above the bar then, begin to rock your body to the far left and far right, 4-8 times (equal number per side). Then lower slowly.

Crazy Full Body Leg Curls: My obsession with pull-ups has slightly been curbed by the introduction of this next work out. Which I can’t think of a better name then the crazy, full body leg curl.

Start from a hanging position, raise your knees up to your belly button, then all the way up towards your ears, keeping your arms extended the entire time. I do it in one motion. If you can’t get it first try don’t worry! Start out by raising your knees to your belly button height then slowly lowering then. Try to do the modified lift 5-10 times a day. Eventually you will be able to rock all the way up. This one targets your abs, but even though your arms are straight it uses a surprising amount of shoulder strength.

Front Lever: We’re getting even more advanced now. When I first saw this done I thought it looked impossible. This one is going to do wonders for your arms and abs. You will be completely exhausted. One of my friends swears these improve his climbing more then pull-ups.

What you are going to do here, as you are pulling up into a pull-up position, extend your legs straight forward, the goal being to get your torso and legs parallel to the ground with out your butt sagging down. For me these are just fun to try and they wear you out pretty quickly. With all these, practice makes perfect. If you just keep trying them, I am confident you will succeed.

10 Minute Pull-up Torture: This work out comes from Eric Horst’s book, How to Climb a 5.12. Every time I do this work out I am exhausted for at least 2 days.

For this one you need a timer, a cell phone works great. Start the timer and immediately do five pull-ups. (You can jump up and lower controlled if you can't do a pull up) Usually that takes me about 15-20 seconds. Then for the remainder of the minute you get to rest. As soon as the timer reaches 1:00 minute, you begin your next set of 5 pull-ups.

Again rest the remainder of the minute. As soon as the timer hits 2:00 minutes, you do another 5 pull-ups. You get it now. Do this all the way to 10 minutes. Theoretically completing 50 pull-up in 10 minutes.

I go for as long as I can doing strictly pull-ups, but once I get tapped out I just switch to “jump and lowers” (with no need to hold for 5 seconds) for the remainder of the 10 minutes.

Conner the hotdog
The ClimbX Crew
All those pull-ups paid off!

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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Enchanted Waste Land

I first heard about the Riverside Rock Quarry from Phil, a few years back, while I was still living in Colorado. I can't remember exactly what he said, but the mental picture I created was of a climbing crag surrounded by a barren wasteland filled with rusty abandon cars, soiled mattresses, broken T.V.s and buzzards flying around. I was also really hung up on the word 'quarry.'

After living at Sunrise Ranch, which was in close proximity to an active quarry, I pictured something like that. Something with excavators, dirt, rock... but also crossed with this image of the quarry that Fred Flintstone worked at. Those walls look climbable!

Not too far off, huh?

Anyway, we moved back to So Cal in July and shortly after that I got to experience the quarry first hand. I think we happened to listen to the Radiolab episode about under-dogs on the way there. I remember thinking that the Quarry was some kind of under-dog that just needed to be given a chance. And I was convinced that it couldn't be as bad as everyone was making it sound.

A new couch and mattress arrival at the Quarry

Welcome to the Quarry!

One of many exciting finds. Frostbitten Barbie.

Ok, so there is a fair amount of garbage. But after just one day of Quarry climbing, this sport crag moved high on my list of favorite climbing spots. It's relatively close, 10 minute approach, high volume of routes in a concentrated area, great friction and some of the best routes I have climbed. The movement isn't tweeky. The routes flow well.

Some of the negatives include, a fair amount of choss. Lots of glue, lots of bird-doo and birds, painfully hot during the summer... The warm-up routes are scarce... some manufactured holds and entire routes. But the whole PLACE is manufactured.

The Quarry was originally mined for it's limestone, sought after by a cement company is the 20's. They dynamited by drilling large flutes in the rock and dropping the TNT down, creating these column like scars in the rock. From my understanding, they basically mined all the limestone out and were left with a beautiful and enchanting granite rock face. It was even documented that the quarry workers dabbled in a little climbing themselves!

So who cares if there's a little glue here or a little chipping there? The ethic is different here from anywhere else I have been. And I am completely ok with it.

Here are a few pic's from today's outting

Clipping away, wanting to get straight to the business

Randy on World Below 12a

After climbing here in July, August and September, I couldn't imagine it ever being cold! Thankfully that day finally come

The World Below repeat. This is actually the first 5.12 I have ever tried on lead, and an onsite! A great line, definitely worth doing.

Streaker 12a - the longest route at the Quarry, I actually bailed off it at the 9th bolt, where there was already a bail biner, conveniently. I thought I was going to get to take it home with me since the route was going really well up to that point, then it turned relatively blank, slightly buldged out. The move was two thin crimps, as if you were trying to open an elevator door, a high foot and a dynamic move to a potentially good ledge. I felt it was more of a mental crux, I didn't even take a fall, just decided better luck next time.

Phil onsiting The World Below 12a

Enjoying the show from the sunshine, even though we only got in 2.5 climbs today, it was a high quality day. I'm looking forward to our trip out there on Tuesday morning.

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Just Keep Swimming

I recently wrote my brother an email saying all the usual stuff, everything is good, So Cal weather is great, dad's getting a little better everyday blah blah blah. And that's what we are obligated to do and say right?

Acey and I somewhere in Baja January 2011

Hi, how's it going?


And if you say how's it really going, then you may come off as depressed, anxious, angry, sad... all those things that you don't want people to know. But, the truth is, well, I have been feeling a little of all that lately.

Since March my life has been a roller coaster ride. Hence my blog going to the wayside along with keeping in touch with dear friends and loved ones. But things are finally on the upside. Leave it to good ol' brother Acey to say just the right thing, a quote from "Finding Nemo."

Dory:"Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills... When life gets you down do you wanna know what you gotta do?"

Dory:"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim."

Just keep swim-ming. Well shoot, that's what I have been doing, just out of necessity. But now I'm kicking it into full gear. No more distressed flopping around! I'm talking, get'chur ass out of bed, eat healthy food, keep the house nice, brush your teeth 2x a day, more quality time with family and not to say that this is the most important goal... but Phil and I have dedicated ourselves to climbing at least twice a week.

The rings @ Santa Monica Pier September 2012

I rock climb because it's fun. But it's more important to me then that. It allows me to be purely in the moment, my reality doesn't exceed further then my fingertips (and toes of course). It enable me to push my mental and physical boundaries. It lets me feel like a dancer, and nothing like the dancer I actually am, awkward. It's being in nature and being with the people I enjoy. And I am lucky to have a climbing partner as great at Phil, always encouraging, always motivated and hey, it's nice to have a good looking ropegun around too.

Parker Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain October 2012

And, with that little bit, My Velvet Bumper is taking a new turn, a turn that will focus mainly on climbing. It's a blog about my adventures and life in general. It was started to detail my experience at Sunrise Ranch then continuing on to the bike tour and well now here we are. Thanks for reading and stay posted for more!

At the summit of Bear Creek Spire, Rock Creek Canyon, Sierra Nevadas October 2012