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 . 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 .
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 . In the video below, you can see him in action on Bonderomantikk 8B . Stian consistently sends 8B problems and is a certified physiotherapist who has worked with the Norwegian national team .
Video 1: Martin Mobråten on Bonderomantikk 8B .
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 .
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 . 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 . 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) .
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 . 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 exercises, suspension training, and weight training. Another important factor that is considered in this section is proper load management. It turns out that most injuries don’t happen due to hard training, but because of sudden spikes in training load, and methods of training load calculation are laid out.
Nonetheless, if you ever get hurt, it’s good to know how to act in order to minimize the damage and speed up the recovery. The authors do a good job of guiding you through all sorts of nasty finger, shoulder, and elbow injuries, to quickly get you back on the track once the damage is done. What I maybe missed here is a section on the importance of massage and myofascial release therapy, particularly in relation to elbow and shoulder injuries, but this topic is hardly ever tackled in climbing literature. Still, nothing beats a visit to a good physiotherapist.
Chapter 6: Training plans
One of the most frustrating things about training is that progress is not linear. You can’t just go on about doing Repeaters or MaxHangs throughout the whole year and expect to keep getting stronger – sooner or later you will hit a plateau. This is where training periodization comes in handy and this concept is explained together with other principles of progression. In the final chapter of the book, you will learn how to set your goals, and how to take advantage of your strengths and weaknesses. You will also find out how to set long term and short term plans, and how to design your training sessions. There is also a very informative interview with Tom Randall, one of the founders of Lattice Training .
The Climbing Bible – Summary
I think “The Climbing Bible” is a solid release that’s addressed mainly to beginners. It’s got everything you need to get you started as a climber. A lot of emphasis is laid on the visual presentation of the publication. There are hundreds of high-quality photos that are bound to get you super psyched for climbing and training. Although the information given is mainly fundamental, it’s clear that the authors’ knowledge extends far beyond the book’s contents. What you can find here is only the tip of an iceberg. I believe that their intention was not to overwhelm the reader with the sheer volume of information but to keep it simple and useful. Indeed, simplicity is one of the book’s fortes.
It would be interesting to read more books by Martin and Stian, exploring the separate topics in-depth. It’s possible that we won’t have to wait long because they’ve already confirmed that they’re working on a new, more practical book, with loads of exercises, covering technique, strength, and power training in detail .
With that said, I believe that even advanced climbers can find some new helpful stuff here. In particular, those who’ve been overly focused on the physical aspects of climbing are likely to find the chapters on mental training and tactics engaging. But will the book actually attain cult status and live up to its title? Only time will tell.
- M. Mobråten and S. Christophersen, The Climbing Bible – Technical, physical and mental training for rock climbing, Vertebrate Publishing, 3 Sept. 2020. (link)
- J. Moffatt and N.Grimes, Revelations, Vertebrate Publishing, 25 Jan. 2010. (link)
- P. Whittaker, Crack climbing – Mastering the skills & techniques, Vertebrate Publishing, 15 Jan. 2020. (link)
- R. Fawcett, Rock Athlete: The Story of a Climbing Legend, Vertebrate Publishing, 01 Aug. 2011. (link)
- UPclimbing.com, Martin Mobraten sends his first 8C!, 27 June 2018. (link)
- Martin Mobråten, Bonderomantikk 8B, vimeo.com, 19 Sept. 2014. (link)
- Stian Christophersen, www.apexklinikken.no. (link)
- Eva López Blog – Fingerboard Training Guide (II). Maximal grip Strength and Endurance Methods and Load Training management, May 23, 2018. (link)
- J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Eva López MaxHangs hangboard routine for finger strength, Apr. 29, 2019. (link)
- M. Levy, Interview: Jakob Schubert on “Neanderthal” (5.15b), Rock and Ice, 15 Jan. 2019 (link)
- Magnus Midtbø vs. Neanderthal, vimeo.com, 27 June 2013. (link)
- Grønhaug, G., 2018. Self-reported chronic injuries in climbing: who gets injured when? BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med 4, e000406. (link)
- latticetraining.com (link)
- Vertebrate Publishing, Author interview: Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen, The Climbing Bible, 28 July 2020. (link)