Sunday, June 12, 2011

Front Support... but why?!

Front support/plank position

A few weeks ago while training in the Co op, Naomi told us that she had read an article that said (and this is my memory of what she said!):

An average climber should be able to hold front support/plank for 3 minutes.

Eager to see if we were all average or not, myself Chris and Ron held front support and while Chris and I buckled after just over 3 mins, Ron looked bored after 4 mins and we all returned to our bouldering session...

Front Support/Plank is an exercise I've always done, without question - it's quite simply crucial in gymnastics. A good front support position is the bread and butter of any Bar Exercise and many of the balance positions held in gymnastics:

It is also crucial to maintaining a straight body position in the air during somersaults.

Gymnastics and bouldering are so closely matched as sports that front support has followed over from my training as a trampolinist to my training as a boulderer...

Whilst at the Co op the other evening, Ron asked what use front support is specifically to a climber - There seems to be so much talk about the exercise and yet what were it's specific benefits to bouldering - I hadn't actually questioned it before but knew that I'd be meeting my friend Frank, who has a good knowledge of these things at Ayton's Cave on Saturday -

In hindsight I totally put poor Frank on the spot, (sorry!) when out of the blue I raised the question about the use of 'front support' as an aid specifically to bouldering -

Admitting he'd have to look into it - he made the fair point that without good finger strength, a solid front support would be of little benefit at all!!!

Everyone agreed!

It's been a long rainy miserably day today and I've admittedly been bored out of my tree since I finished training at 1.30pm. So I decided to look into what help 'front support' can be to specifically help one's bouldering ability...

I've found a few different articles but this one seems to make sense to me the most... whether it's right or wrong, it struck a cord with me and is worth a quick read!:

"...At the climbing wall, bouldering is a great way to develop core strength. If you are working on a bouldering problem, it is typically a shorter sequence of power moves that impacts the body to a much greater extent.

Since you aren't relying as much on your legs to move you in bouldering, your body must enlist other muscle groups to keep you on the wall and moving. Lateral movement forces you to use your shoulders, abs and back to make the moves. On the contrary, you use your arms, legs, hands and feet while pushing and pulling yourself around in top-rope climbing.

Boulderers also use tension moves that require all of their core muscles to be locked off in position to maintain contact with the wall..."

Taken from:

Unlike gymnastics, when bouldering I'll never be in the front support position exactly - however, during a bouldering problem indoors or outdoors, it's important to keep the middle of my body strong through every sequence, and it appears that front support is a crucial exercise for the simultaneous strengthening of my back, front and sides.

"The Plank: The #1 Isometric exercise for Stomach Strength!

The plank is a great exercise to retrain your ab muscles to work more efficiently.

It is an isometric exercise for the stomach. "Iso" means "same", and "metric" means "length". Isometric literally means same length, or isometric simply means that you hold one position without moving.

It is important to include isometric exercises for stomach and abs in your workout routine because they enhance core stability, support good posture, and protect your lower back from excess strain."

So unlike pull-ups or leg raises, while it might not be immediately obvious what 'front support' is used for in bouldering, it's become clear from it's benefits why so many great climbers use it as part of their physical preparation for the sport.


  1. hey trish its daragh i have recently discovered i will be going to font over the summer and finding myself wanting to boulder in glendo a bit more what do you reckon i should try/project hopefull between the 6c to 7a+ range? :)

  2. The Glendo ticklist to the right is pretty good >>

    - but the real classics I'd target are:

    Chillax (6c) - Beautiful moves!

    Chillax Left (7a) - not really 7a but for my money it even better than Chillax!!

    Tim's Mantel (6c) Improbable sitter to a cool top out!

    Pokery (6c) Brilliant over hanging low ball arete

    White Stick (6c) Dynamic throw for the top out.

    Rhythm and Stealth (7a) Lots of pads and lots of spotters for this!! My favourite problem!

    Afro Left (7a) Have seen it being worked and it looks cool!

    Craftsmanship (6c+)
    Quality Control (6c) Both at the same block and both brilliant!

    Nu Rails (6c) Balancey vertical slabby wonderful problem!

    Glendo tends to be quite greasy and sore on the fingers when it's so warm - so early mornings or evening/night sessions are advisable...

    Hope you have fun and enjoy Font!! :)

  3. Oh and you should totally try 'The Fin' (7a+)


  4. thanks thats really good 'rythm and stealth' i think is the one! there is one thing in font i dont no if you have tried 'acrobat' in petit bois the hardest 4+ everrr!!!

  5. Never tried it, but I like that it's called acrobat - will have to get on it the next time I'm there!! :)