The Climbing Bible – Introduction

When Vertebrate Publishing invited me write an honest review of their most recent release, “The Climbing Bible”, I was quite thrilled [1]. Vertebrate is known for many successful publications, such as Jerry Moffatt’s “Revelations”Pete Whittaker’s “Crack climbing” or “Rock Athlete: The Story of a Climbing Legend” by Ron Fawcett, to name only a few [2][3][4].

The authors, Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen are renowned Norwegian climbers with years of coaching experience. In 2018 Martin repeated Daniel Woods’ Spray of Light 8C in Rocklands, which earned him a place among Norway’s top boulderers [5]. In the video below, you can see him in action on Bonderomantikk 8B [6]. Stian consistently sends 8B problems and is a certified physiotherapist who has worked with the Norwegian national team [7]

Video 1: Martin Mobråten on Bonderomantikk 8B [6].

The Climbing Bible – Content overview

The book is divided into six chapters that address different aspects of climbing.

Chapter 1: Technique

This chapter includes information on the fundamental climbing techniques, such as fronting, flagging, or hooking. The authors focus on the principles of efficient movement and explain the importance of proper foot placement and balance. After reading this chapter, you will become familiar with the most common grip positions used in climbing. There is also a short section dedicated to crack climbing, in which the principles of jamming are briefly laid out. In addition, the chapter gives some general advice on how to climb in different rock formations, how to clip the rope, read routes, and set your own bouldering problems. There are also some very practical tips on choosing climbing shoes, depending on your climbing style and climbed rock formations. 

Chapter 2: Physical training

This is the part of the book that I was most looking forward to reading. However, I found it a bit too short for my liking. The authors begin by explaining the importance of finger, arm, and upper body strength, and why “just climbing” may sometimes “just not be enough.” Then they quickly move on to describe the most effective training routines for finger strength. A lot of attention is devoted to different variations of deadhangs, and a basic training progression is explained. However, don’t expect any details related to exact load calculation or muscle recruitment. It’s just the elementary stuff that can let you safely begin finger strength training. One of the highlights of this chapter is an interview with Eva López, where she talks about her MaxHangs methods and gives hints on how to prevent progress stagnation [8][9].

In the next sections, upper body strength training methods are explained, but the topic is limited to a couple of paragraphs on pull-ups and lock-offs. The following part of the chapter is devoted to how bouldering can be used for strength training. The discussed methods include maximum intensity bouldering, pyramids, and Moonboarding. What I liked was the quick campus boarding course with pictures of Magnus Midtbø executing the drills. The strength training part is concluded with a section on core training that describes a fair deal of routines to help you keep a good body position on the rock and maintain pressure on the footholds during steep climbing.

After strength comes endurance training, and this section is a bit more comprehensive. Both the mental and physical aspects of endurance are discussed, and the most effective methods of endurance and power endurance development are described. You learn about ARC (Aerobic Energy Restoration and Capillarisation), circles, all sorts of interval training and deadhangs. Even the McClure method is mentioned, which I found quite effective in the past myself.

The final part of the chapter is devoted to mobility training – an essential aspect often overlooked both by beginners and seasoned climbers. Good mobility can help you climb more efficiently, e.g., by letting you keep your center of gravity loser to the wall. What is also crucial, drills such as the lotus, splits, or the rotating shoulder press can help you stay injury-free, which will let you focus on the continuous strength development of your prime movers.

 

Figure 1: One of the many beautiful illustrations adorning the book/source: “The Climbing Bible”.

Chapter 3: Mental Training

The strongest climbers are not always the best climbers. Confidence, the ability to make quick decisions, focus, and ways to overcome stress play a significant role in defining the fine line between success and failure. In Chapter 3, you can read about the SMART principles, about daring to try, and daring to fail. How to overcome the fear of falling? How to stay motivated? Why are rituals and visualization so important? All these questions are thoroughly answered to help you unlock your full climbing potential.

Chapter 4: Tactics

I liked this chapter a lot, primarily because it’s full of practical tips on the basic stuff, such as choosing your shoes, taking care of your skin, or warming up. There is also a very interesting section written by Magnus Midtbø on his struggles with redpointing Neanderthal, a challenging, long, and steep route established in Santa Linya in 2009 by none other than Chris Sharma [10]. I had no idea that Magnus ever attempted that route and put so much effort into working it. Here you can watch a short video documenting his tries [11]. The remainder of the chapter focuses on different strategies for on-sighting, flashing, and redpointing routes and boulder problems, as well as aspects related to climbing competitions. 

Video 2: Magnus Midtbø vs. Neanderthal 5.15b (9b) [11].

Chapter 5: General Training and Injury Prevention

Whether we like it or not, practically all climbers get injured at one point in their career, and over 60% of climbers suffer from chronic injuries [12]. However, general strength training is one of the means to minimize the probability of getting hurt.

The chapter starts with an explanation of the advantages of general strength training. The routines discussed include bodyweight