In the top right corner of your web browser you might well have a google search bar. I do, and rather unfortunately for someone currently staying with his parents it displays your last search even after you’ve left the computer. Yesterday I left the computer with ‘better sex’ typed in the search bar which was promptly found by my sister and has been the butt of a lot of family jokes ever since. Although it should be noted my parents both seem to agree that what I was doing was admirable, trying to justify this and keep my hard earned reputation as a lotharious machine has been tricky. But I think there are underlying principles which are well worth being reminded of every now and then. I used training as an analogy to try and explain this.
Training isn’t a set list of exercises, it’s the application of a set of principles, namely specificity and overload, to your exercise. Perhaps drawing parallels with the swine flu hysteria of the summer past, this is why we, the sad few, can talk so much about training and still not really know what to do. In other words there isn’t really some-thing to do but rather some-things to think about when we do.
Paradoxically on a philosophical level specificity in your training and overload in your training are at loggerheads. You can only truly train specifically to make that of which you are already capable feel easier as you cannot be both capable of doing something specific and simultaneously not yet be capable of doing it. In other words you can’t train specifically for your project until you’re already capable of doing it. Until you’re capable of your goal route your specific training will always be a compromise; holds will have to be bigger, moves smaller or walls slabbier, at least until someone invents some kind of gravity reduction machine. Training king Rich Simpson said you can’t train until you know what you’re training for but if specificity is prerequisite for the existence of systematic training then even when you work out what you’re training for you can’t train specifically for it and thus can’t train for it at all!
Is there anything practical to be taken from this? Well when you look at the way most people go about becoming a font 9a boulderer in Edinburgh they go about it all wrong. They knock their pan in down the wall for 9 months of the year, getting really strong but not in an entirely specific way, then when they decide based on their form during this unspecific training that they’re on form(?) they go out and try a boulder problem of the desired grade and normally get shut down. A sufficiently strong boulderer could walk out and onsight a 90meter 9a if they were sufficiently over powered that the moves just felt so easy that they could keep doing them all the way to the chain, despite having never trained endurance. But just because it’s possible to onsight 9a through non-specific training doesn’t mean it’s the way to go about doing it. With the same amount of effort directed specifically at the problem, the goal would be reached and exceeded much quicker.
But as we already discussed you can’t train specifically for a futuristic goal. What you can do specifically is consolidate the strength and technique you already have to the point that what once felt at your limit now feels 90% by which point you’ve gotten 10% stronger but you’ve also given you’re tendons and joints a bit of time to get used to the level of force your body can exert through them. I think this is why I’ve had a bad run with injuries. I always want to be pulling harder than I currently am. A healthy ambition perhaps, but not really something to get too carried away with in itself. If you’re injured it doesn’t matter how strong you are.