Scaling an eight meter high climbing wall may not sound like a particularly tough challenge but if, like me, you’re not a fan of heights, it’s a palm-moistening prospect. That’s the task I faced this week when I joined three other members of the MF team (opens in new tab) for a session of Aerobi Climb, a new climbing fitness class at The Third Space gym in central London. It’s more fitness based than a standard climbing lesson because you have to do repetitions of climbs with minimal rest between efforts.
At the start of the session the instructor, Jack Griffiths, ran through some basic techniques. I learned that you should use your legs, rather than your arms, to power yourself up the wall and that grabbing holds with straight arms is easier than clinging on with your elbows bent.
The wall was peppered with holds of different shapes and sizes. Among the multi-coloured arrangement were big, reassuring yellow ones, modest pink ones and grey ones so small you could barely see them.
Even though I took the yellow route, it wasn't long before I got stuck and started to feel a bit jittery. Sensing my unease, Griffiths started instructing me where to place my feet. I followed his orders, tried to remember that I was only five feet off the ground, not half way up El Capitan and started to edge my way to the top.
With Griffiths’ assistance I made it all the way up, something I wouldn’t have been able to do had he not been there. Having an expert around certainly helps you keep a clear head and not get bogged down by irrational fears. Next time I play football I must remember to invite Eric Cantona along.
By the end of the hour I’d worked up a right sweat (not just on my palms) and my upper back and forearms were burning. That probably just means I’ve got shocking technique but, as someone who needs to develop forearm strength so my lower arms don’t let me down when I’m doing deadlifts (opens in new tab), it was useful and a lot more fun than doing sets of wrist curls.
By the end of the week I was facing that common problem of wanting to go to the gym but not having enough time for a proper workout. But rather than skipping the session, I decided exercise cramming via the means of German Volume Training was the order of the day.
It may sound like preparing yourself for a Bavarian eating competition, but it's actually a time-efficient way of training where you do ten sets of ten reps of an exercise. I did it as superset (opens in new tab) (where you do two exercises back to back without rest) mini circuit, comprising bench presses and bent-over rows. I had to take a short rest after the fifth and eighth supersets and by the time I got to the final rep of the final set I was redder than a Communist worker.
Not a very scientific approach but it felt like a good workout and, possibly because of the work I did in that climbing session, my forearms didn’t let me down during the bent-over rows.
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