Hans, Frans, and beating the pump

‘Ve jus vont to PUMP —(clap clap) — YOU UP!’

Hans and Frans

Professional Body Builders

Saturday Night Live

OH ya! I am all about Hans and Frans and how hot my biceps look after a hard work out. All that blood filling every fiber of my perfectly sculpted musculature, I totally get LMFAO: ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ 😉

OK, maybe not.

But I do get pumped up. Unfortunately, it always seems to happen when I still have four more moves to complete before the end of my climb. And the result is most often a fall, followed immediately by a determination to improve my conditioning (which sadly only lasts about as long as it takes my belayer to lower my dejected self back to earth and then assist me as I try to untie a knot with fingers that couldn’t untie my lace up FiveTens if I my life depended on it).

Now, you know I love training. If you want to improve your conditioning, please stop by on Thursday nights and join your’s truly for my Training Hour. It may make you cry a little, but it will improve your conditioning.

However, today, I want to talk about some things we can do to decrease that pump.

Before we start however, let’s define what we mean by ‘pump’. ‘Pump’, as it is used in climbing, refers to that feeling we get in our forearms after no longer being able to death grip that giant jug. As our muscles contract, we use energy in the form of ATP. With prolonged contraction, as happens on a long climb, our forearm muscles are forced to produce more ATP anaerobically (re: without oxygen due to the fact that continue contraction decreases blood flow to the muscle). The by-product of this anaerobic metabolism is lactic acid and hydrogen ions. As lactic acid and hydrogen accumulate, muscles become painful and less efficient. To make matters worse, due to the continued contraction of the muscle, less blood flow out cause the muscle to swell up while also inhibiting the ability of the lactic acid to be washed downstream. As you can imagine, this causes a vicious cycle of muscle fatigue until eventually contraction is all but impossible (‘dude, I am so totally pumped out!’).

It stands to reason then, that if we contract our muscle less during a climb, we will not pump out so quickly. So the first lessen is to loosen up on that grip. Most people tend to over grip, meaning that we grab the hold with more tension than is needed. This can be due to fear of falling or poor use of our legs to support our body. So chillax, improve your technique, and get those legs under you!

Another trick is to briefly shake hands out during moves. Since most of climbing is contracting our fingers, if we can develop a habit of quickly extending the fingers between moves (think ‘speak to the hand’ ), that will cause the contacting muscle to relax momentarily, allowing oxygen in and lactic acid out.

Finding good rest positions is also crucial. When resting, we want to hang with our arms extended so the majority of weight is on the skeletal system and not the muscular (unless you are lucky enough to find a no hands rest, in which case you are just a total BA and probably shouldn’t be looking to me for advise :o). While in this rest position, we want to alternately, shake one arm out by dangling it at our side and then raise it up to allow gravity to help remove some of the accumulated blood. (Eric Horst coined the term G-Toxing for this techinque).

Proper nutrition, hydration and breathing techniques are also crucial to making sure that we are able to deliver the needed sugers, electrolytes and oxygen to our forearms that they need to keep functioning. So eat your veggies, drink your sport drink, and BREATHE!

Finally, taking the time to warm up slowly (jumping on a hard route without warming up can produce what is called flash pump, a situation that can take hours to days to recover from) and then learning to move efficiently will perhaps make the difference between celebrating a send and having to make more excuses as to why we fell on the easiest section.

And there you have it. I suspect Hans and Frans would not appreciate my attempt to keep your forearms from bulging out of your Under Armor training shirt, but who needs them. Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex has Billy Bob, and she’s much cooler 🙂 .

Climb Hard and Follow Your Bliss,


 Billy Bob
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