Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review: Uprising climbing holds



I have now bought two packs of climbing holds from Up Rising Holds (a New Zealand company), one of which I have had and been using for over a year now. I wanted to wait for enough time to put in a fair amount of use with these climbing holds before I wrote a review. Now that I have had the holds for over a year (on my rockwall/hangboard), and since bought a second set (for the roof section), I can happily say the product stands the test. Note: I am not in any way affiliated with this company.

The first set of holds I bought

The first set of holds I bought was a large mixed set of jugs, with a number of small screw on foot jibs. I also bought all of the hardware for mounting the holds. Up Rising were extremely helpful in answering my questions about how to build the wall, and the types of holds with would suit my use. The holds feel great and work perfectly for me and have held up exceptionally well. Not that I finally have the screw on holds up, I am very happy with the whole set.

Second set of holds, for the roof section

I have since bought a second set of holds, this one being mostly pinches (which look really cool as well). Like the other set these holds feel great and I have no issues at all with them. I really hope they bring out more holds, and training holds in the future.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Homemade pinch grip holds



I have been thinking about ways to train my pinch grip for a while now, particularly to perform a rafter pull up with a pinch grip. I have built a simple pinch grip trainer, but I needed a way to train the rafter grip also. So I decided to set up some pinch grip holds of various sizes I could attach to my roof section of climbing wall. I decided to make a number of different widths of pinch to test the spectrum between open and closed hand pinches.

I found some off cuts of 20mm plywood at work and cut them to suit a number of different widths. The smallest being 40mm wide as any smaller would likely be too small to set up a bolt. The widest was 120mm, as this is the widest my hands can pinch grip. I also cut holds at 60, 80, and 100mm. All holds were 120mm long. Each of the holds would be two sheets of ply thick (40mm total), although I made one set of holds 40mm wide and 60mm deep.

Each of the ‘holds’ was then screwed together so that I could drill a straight hole through both sheets of ply, which the bolt would run though. The bolt is approximately 8mm, with a 13mm head so I drilled a 10mm hole through both sheets of ply. I then unscrewed the two sheets and drilled an 18mm hole though the top sheet of ply (First draw a line on the side of the hold which can be lined back up at the end). This allows room for the bolt head. Note: First drill a short pilot hole with the 18mm drill bit so that the outside remains tidy. If this is not done the 18mm drill bit will wander around in the 10mm hole before biting in (see the peg board for an example of this).


On the underside of the top piece of ply I used a stone file bit to file out space for a washer to fit between the sheets of ply. This washer will help to distribute the force of the bolt head so that it does not pull through the single sheet of ply. Once this was done I used a small amount of ‘no more nails’ (wood glue) between each sheet and screwed the ply back together.

Note the paddle bit, and scratches on the ply, this is why I used the stone bit.
No more nails, and finished holds

Following this I used a simple sanding block to smooth all the edges of the ply (it was very shape) before mounting the holds on my roof section of climbing wall. I spaced these out so that I could use a pair of hold of the same width. Later I could mix it up.

I found that these hold are far beyond my current ability, though I always knew they would be extremely hard, I enjoyed the process of making them. Currently I can hold the plywood of the roof section and put 80-90% of my weight though that hand will 10-20% of my weight is on a pinch grip. I should be able to include hangs like this as part of my pinch grip training.

Note the placement if holds for hangs

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Rope swings



This was a ‘just for fun’ project of mine, it probably won’t feature much in my training but it was fun to set up, and every now and then I will set it up and swing around. The rope swing was the main reason for setting up the extra pairs of overhead anchor points as the rafters are spaced out quite well to swing one to the next. The rope I used was 3 meters of 1.5 inch rope I managed to get for free from the manufacturer. Ideally I would like 4-5 ropes to swing from but I only had 3 meters of rope and 3 good beams to swing between.

I used a hacksaw to cut the rope (first tape the section to be cut to prevent it from fraying while cutting) into three equal sections and taped up each section to prevent it from fraying, smaller ropes can have the ends melted but this rope is much too thick for me to do that. I then took one end of the rope and folded it over on itself by 100-150mm. I then tied this together and wrapped it up tight before tying off the end of the smaller rope. I would have liked to use more rope for this (wrap it several more times) but I didn’t have enough. The reason for tying the end off like this is to have to rope as long as possible, if I spliced an eye into the rope like I did with my climbing rope, the eye would take up too much room.

Taping and hacksawing
This should tighten onto itself
Once all the ropes were tied I used to simple carabiner to hang the rope from the anchor points. I can set these ropes up to practice swinging between them, but more often I will use these ropes for grip training working on one arm rope hangs.




Saturday, 6 September 2014

Book Review: Spartan up



I listened to Joe De Sena speak on several different podcasts (paleo solution, strong cast, Tim Ferriss, Barbell shrugged) and he seemed really cool, somewhat crazy and intense but how many interesting people aren’t crazy and intense? His particular brand of extreme fitness and mental toughness was intriguing to me so I ordered his book ‘Spartan Up’ to learn more about him and his process

I found the book to be well written and easy to read. I was kept reading by the interesting stories and anecdotes about De Sena’s life, Spatan/Death race and historical people. The book contains many valuable life lessons, the one which interests me the most is the cookie test. The cookie test is about willpower and delayed gratification. We can use it to think about working hard in the present for a better position well into the future. Throughout my undergrad I was able to do little study and pass with mostly B’s. This was fine until I got to postgrad when I would require A’s in order to continue. I had set myself up for a difficult time studying and I wasn’t able to achieve the grades I needed for a PhD scholarship. The lesson from the book and on that I now tell people that hard work early sets us up to work hard later, when it really counts.

Now I don’t want this to sound like a negative review, but other than that point, the book didn’t really speak to me. I believe the book is written for those who are looking to get into fitness, or those just starting off who need a greater push. I am already deep into health and fitness, as well as looking into ways to test myself and become tougher.

One of the central points of the book was about changing your frame of reference (De Sena talks about this in interviews also). The idea being to put yourself in very difficult situations, or do difficult things in order to make the rest of the day, or the rest of your life seem much easier. This could be as simple as a cold shower, or much harder like 300 burpees every morning, or as intense as weeklong adventure races. These stories in the book were interesting and kept me reading, but to me they felt like a repeating rant that people have got to be tougher. It was a bit much for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.

So for me the book was entertaining enough, had some interesting points but over all I found it somewhat lacking in power. This is no fault of De Sena or the book; I just don’t think I am the intended audience to get the most benefit for the book.

If you are interested in De Sena, the Spartan/Death races the book will be an interesting read so I suggest checking it out. If you are just starting out in your fitness journey, or need motivation to get off the couch this book is written for you. If you’re a badass fire breather I would look elsewhere for motivation (unless you are looking to get into adventure racing).

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Overhead anchor points

I set up a pair of anchor points in my garage to hang rings and other training implements from when I first moved in, and I have just added two more pairs so I thought I would get some pictures of the process. It is very simple, the bolts cost $5 a pair and all that is needed is a drill and drill bit.


There were not too many bolt sizes for me to choose from, I choose a larger size (most others were quite small and would likely not support my weight). They did not come with weight ratings, so just use common sense, and if in doubt, go bigger.

Note the size of the drill bit vs bolt

The packet suggested a 5mm drill bit to drill the pilot holes, however I only had 6mm or larger. Compare the size of the drill bit to the size of the central part of the bolt, not the thread of the screw. Ideally the drill bit should be no bigger than this central part of the bolt. Any larger and the thread may not have enough material to bite into when screwed in.

I placed the bolts 500mm apart as this is the standard distance between Olympic rings. I measured and marked the centre of the overhead rafters and drilled a pilot hole the same length as the bolt. I used a large screwdriver as leverage to screw the bolt in. If this is too difficult I am told using a small amount of soap on thread will make it easier to screw in. I screw the bolt in approximately 10mm deeper than the thread. This is just preference once the thread is screwed in.


These anchor points are excellent for hanging rings, and any number of grip training implements. They are cheap and easy to set up, and it helps to have something to hang from indoors when it’s raining.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Why, how and consequences


This article has come out of many years of thinking about why I train, how I train and the consequences of this. I have taken many turns in writing this article so it is much more like talking aloud to myself. When I first started this blog my training revolved about the natural method, and the biggest influence of this was the philosophy of altruism. I decided I needed to be strong and useful so that if something were to happen, I would be better equipped to help myself, or others. I took ‘be strong to be useful’ to heart and begin strength training. I also took up parkour and martial arts. I have made this part of my core life philosophies; I will make myself strong, physically able and useful . . . even to a fault?
Not safe, but fun parkour training
A few years ago I started listening to the Paleo solution podcast, and heard Robb Wolf’s idea of the triple point. The elements of the triple point are health (moment to moment wellbeing), performance, and longevity. Using the triple point we can think of different physical endeavours e.g.:

-Extreme calorie restriction might lead to better longevity, but poor performance and health.

-Extreme performance will come at the expense of longevity and health.

-Optimising health (moment to moment) would mean undergoing no stress (read: training) which would mean low performance and eventually both longevity and health would suffer.

Note: The triple point is affected by nutrition, training, life stresses, environment etc but I will be discussing the affect training has.

After thinking a lot about this I feel as if a reasonably high level of performance should lead to very good longevity and optimised health over that longevity (though not moment to moment as the stress of training is rather high). I have put a lot of thought into the level of performance that would optimise the triple point, and at what level health and longevity would be negatively affected.
I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that it is not necessarily high performance which would negatively affect the others markers, but specialised performance. Too much strength training or endurance training negatively affects health and performance, but a blend of the two would likely optimise it. It would seem the generalist optimises the triple point, maybe even regardless of how high the performance is pushed.

I considered crossfit, as they appear to be generalists but anyone watching the crossfit games can see that level of performance is likely detrimental to health and longevity. I believe this is because regional and games level athletes are specialists in work capacity. The sheer volume of work required is detrimental. Maybe there is an upper limit on performance even for a generalist.

Precision to a rail is never easy
It is at this point I wonder where the line is between optimisation and detrimental performance, certainly it differs for individuals. I often think that the level of performance I am aiming for might cost me some health and longevity. Maybe having just a few performance goals might be okay, but to train the gymnastics, weight training and combative to a high level leads to a level of stress which affects longevity (and possible long term health). Or maybe it doesn’t, and what is considered high level is actually optimising the triple point. I don’t know. At any rate I feel that if the performance levels I am aiming for affect longevity, I will accept that. I believe the altruism of the natural method may include sacrificing some longevity for performance in order to protect yourself and others.

I think the performance affecting health and longevity is most likely true when training combative skills and any structural conditioning that goes along with it. I suspect training martial arts, particularly to a high level likely has a higher injury rate than weight training. One could easy be very fit and able with no martial arts training, and I suspect they would have better longevity. I chose to study martial arts in addition to weight training as it has its place in the natural method and could become necessary to protect myself or others. I’m not saying martial arts training is dangerous in any way, just more dangerous than not training. Unless you find yourself needing self defense skills, I’m not sure where this would fall into the triple point.

Largely the topic is a thought experiments for thinking about how we should train and live our lives in order to optimise the while experience. I want to optimise the triple point, but am willing to sacrifice if I need to because of the natural method philosophy. I suggest you think about the triple point and how your training, nutrition and life affect it.