(pic from the website Climb Strong, I have no rights on this image)
Steve Bechtel is a US certified Coach specialized in climbing, weightlifting and cycling. He is one of the few “gurus” I follow on social media and this is the first time I have bought one of his books.
Over the years I have collected a big library about climbing and training so it is unlikely that I still buy books related to these topics. However something Bechtel wrote when presenting the book stuck with me. He described the classic issue with common training plans, that you constantly sacrifice one aspect of fitness to improve another one but you are never in a state of “balanced” fitness, unless you decide to not focus on anything. He then offered a solution with his book. OK, I told myself, I´m in, I´m buying it!
Steve offers a nonlinear periodization, a concept that I have always liked and implemented. My schedule is too unpredictable to set a non-flexible plan: I usually train 4 times a week but I do not really know what I will train until the day before or the same day.
The book is kept simple, not too long, with schemas and pictures. Knowing by myself the scientific literature, it was a pleasure to see that Steve heavily relies on it.
Another focus of the book is the performance in the long period. Steve explains that there are other training plans offering better improvements for a season, for short time; nevertheless, his plan is the best for the long period because it is affordable and effective and we can follow it for our lifetime.
He also writes that his book is more a sort of guide rather than a handbook. It should give new ideas and we are free to implement just one or few of his advices because we will see improvement anyway. The biggest results will be reached of course by applying the complete plan, so it is up to us and to our life hectic.
The plan is different for beginners, intermediate and expert climbers and is divided in 3 or 4 training categories. Described drills and routines are well picked up and never boring.
For the moment I am only following the strength-training category. It is in my opinion the most innovative part of the book and I find the plan challenging but funny. Exactly like it should be!
I should now mention what I did not like of the book. Basically 3 things.
- Steve´s training appeals to men. You notice it when training and flexibility drills are described. Some strength exercises like the front lever are really difficult for ordinary female climbers, while all flexibility exercises are no big deal if you are a woman. Since my husband and I follow the same plan, I would have liked more gender specific exercises.
- When going in details about the training categories I have “lost the train” and had to go back to the introduction chapter in order to understand which category Steve was talking about. Considering the fact that training aspects are the foundation of this plan I would have written here a clearer explanation. Same thing with hangboard protocols, they lack clarity in my opinion.
- In order to follow the strength-training plan, you should be able to weight lift and use the hangboard at the same place and time. For me it is no issue because I have dumbbells and hangboard at home. However, not everybody can do it at home and very few climbing facilities – I have visited lots of them! – offer both. I would have informed the reader about this at the beginning of the book and not while in the heart of the training plan.
To sum up, Steve´s book is a step forward in comparison with the other books in my library. It is modern and delivers what it promises. I recommend it to every climber looking to pimp his/her training!!
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