Lattice Training Log Part 1: Why Lattice? Predictions, Onboarding.

After about 15 years of bouldering, and about 5 years of training myself, I decided to try hiring a coach. I have listened to hours of training podcasts, read probably hundreds of blog posts and dozens of books and research articles on strength training, climbing training, anatomy, physical therapy and skill acquisition. The result of all this effort is that I feel really anxious when heading to the gym. Am I training the right muscles and energy systems? Am I spending enough time bouldering? Am I trying hard enough? Am I trying too hard? Should I rest more? etc…
All in all I feel like I’ve learned a lot, but I have a ton of trouble synthesizing all the information into a coherent plan. I think it would be good for my climbing, and my mental health, to hire someone else to put all the pieces together. I want to show up at the gym with a plan, and leave confident that I am doing the right things to progress.
Sports performance in general, and climbing specifically, are still very young sciences. When I have dug into research papers I found that the science is very specific. For example, much of the research on strength training is done on untrained individuals, and done for periods of 6-12 weeks. A protocol that’s effective for beginners over a 6 week period isn’t necessarily right for an experienced athlete over the course of decades.
All of this is to say that climbing is an incredibly complex sport with a small base of evidence. Because of this, I think that currently, it is best to rely on the experience of coaches, who have seen many climbers progress on their journey. It’s not scientific, but I believe that this is simply the best source of applicable information that we currently have.

What does my training look like now?

I am a boulderer. I’m 34, 5’10 with a 0 ape index. I weigh 155lb. I spend 3 days a week at the gym. I warm up for 5 mins off the wall and 15 minutes on the wall each day. I spend ~5 hours per week bouldering, and ~1 hour doing off-the wall training, totaling about 7 hours of training time per week.
Most of my climbing time is spent on plastic. I’ve climbed outdoors, though due to my commitments to work and family, I’ve always found it difficult to get out consistently. Even when I did, I would often feel very stressed and guilty about it. So eventually I decided it really wasn’t worth the stress. I still get outside every once in a while, but I’m not in a place where I can project anything in a meaningful way. Despite of that, I have 3 outdoor V8 tops under my belt. I’ve also gotten tantalizingly close on a V10, and made meaningful progress on a V11… so I feel like those grades are definitely within reach.
At the gym, I alternate between limit days (once per week) and moderate days (twice per week). At my current gym, I flash V6s. I can get V7s in 1-5 tries, and I find V8s quite challenging (typically requiring more that one day to complete). So on a limit day I’ll throw myself at several V8-V9 cruxes. On a moderate day I’ll be on V6s and V7s, focusing especially on repeating sequences that feel awkward or uncomfortable.
During off-the-wall training time, I will pick 1-2 movements that work different muscle groups, and do them once or twice per week. This has been very successful for me, and I’ve progressed a bunch of things to places where I feel happy with them.
  • I started with Pavel’s Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister. 100x one-handed swings and 10x getups. I progressed it to using a 70lb bell.
  • Then I worked on one-handed pushups and pullups. I progressed the pushups by starting with my hand on a box and gradually lowering to the floor. I trained bodyweight offset pullups on campus rungs. I was able to progress those to being able to do 2x 1h pushup on the floor on each hand, and a 1h pullup on my right arm. Curiously, just by doing the offset pullups, I found that I could get into a front lever for ~1s.
  • Most recently, I was working on hangboarding and deadlifting (The Steve Bechtel Classic). I progressed it to being able to do a 2x bodyweight deadlift for 2 reps. I focused on full crimp for hangboarding (since it was significantly weaker than my open hand), and progressed it from +35lb (+22%) to approximately +55lb (+35%) hanging 10s on a 20mm edge (though I need to do a max strength test on it still).
I really enjoy this sort of training. Pursuing a goal like a 1h pullup feels kind of like projecting a boulder problem. Focusing on two movements at a time keeps things simple, and leaves most of my time to do actual climbing.
If this sounds very similar to Steve Bechtel and the Climb Strong team’s training philosophy, that is no coincidence. I find their approach to be a good fit for my personality and schedule.

Why Lattice?

Since I feel confident in developing my own strength, I wanted to see if I was strong enough to climb V10. I know several coaching teams out there have spent time doing assessments and collecting data about climbers and would be able to easily answer that question.
My impression is that the Lattice team has been doing assessments for a long time. Because of this, they should have a really robust corpus of data. Also, they have had a chance to iterate on their testing protocol to figure out what mattered, and iron out all the details.
Aside from the testing, I wanted to push my own comfort zone and get a fresh take on what training can look like. Many of the things I see on the lattice youtube and crimpd app feel uncomfortable to me (endurance / power endurance, mobility/flexibility routines, elastic bands?!). So I think a lot of the training I will do with Lattice will be new for me. (I would buy a training plan from Udo Neumann in a heartbeat).

What are my expectations?

I wanted to make some predictions about what I feel are my strengths and weaknesses as a climber, before taking the assessment. I have no idea what the assessment will measure, so I figured I’d just write about everything I can think of. It will be interesting to reflect on this list in 2 weeks, once my assessment result is done, and see how accurate my perception of my own strengths and weaknesses is.

Strength & Power

I think that physically I am quite strong. I doubt that I will need to focus on something like pulling or pushing strength, or core strength. However, while I am strong in the typical movement patterns, I don’t really know if the same is true at awkward ranges of motion. For example, I can do a bodyweight shoulder shrug on one hand, but spinning around the arm (like in some of the ways that Udini showcases in his videos) feels a lot harder. Inspired by Udini’s videos, I did a training cycle a year ago that I dubbed “awkward strength” that focused on this sort of weird range of motion. I’m not sure if it really did anything. I’m curious if the Lattice folks assess anything like this, and whether it will be a part of their training.
I can do a 1h pullup but can’t hang 1h on a 20mm edge. Because of this, I’ve always felt like my finger strength was a bit lacking compared to my pulling strength. Open-hand is my preferred grip position, and I know for sure that my crimping strength is lagging, so it has been the focus of my training recently. I think this is something I still need to continue working on, and I’m curious if the Lattice assessment will identify this as a need and whether it will continue to be part of my programming.
When it comes to power, I’ve tried a couple of cycles of training on the campus board (basically 1-3-5 and progressions), and a cycle of working on my vertical jump (trying to “slap” as high on the campus board as I could). I didn’t really find any “aha” moments during those experiments, so I keep going back to limit bouldering, since it feels a lot more specific. I expect that, like strength, power is unlikely to be a weak point for me.

Energy Systems

I anticipate that I am really weak on endurance. I never really thought that it applied much to my goals (bouldering), so I never prioritized it. I wouldn’t really expect Lattice to force me to do a bunch of endurance work, since my goals lie in bouldering, but maybe there’s some way in which endurance work can be useful that I don’t really understand. Either way, if they tell me to ARC for 3 hours a week, I’ll do it.
I haven’t really wrapped my head around power endurance. I feel like I can do long boulder sequences decently well, so I have never prioritized it. Despite that, I suspect that my power endurance is likely to be poor, since I never explicitly measured or trained it. Judging by the youtube channel videos and the crimpd app, the team at Lattice seems to focus on power endurance a lot, so I’m hoping to learn about how to measure it, how to train it, and whether it will unlock anything in my bouldering in the coming weeks.

Mobility / Flexibility

I did wrestling when I was younger, and they had us stretch consistently. From that, and a few years of yoga in college, I still feel like I’m pretty mobile. I can touch my toes easily, for example.
On the other hand, reaching my hands 180 degrees overhead while keeping my back flat against a wall is quite a challenge. Also, I feel like I could never quite get the pancake stretch to feel good. So maybe my hips and shoulders are actually quite stiff?
I’ve tried to figure out how to improve this, but was never totally convinced that I really had to, and never figured out a routine that stuck. So I do a bit of mobility work as part of my off-the-wall warmup. I’m curious if that has been enough (I suspect it hasn’t).

Movement / Technique

I’ve been bouldering for a long time, and I feel like my movement quality is quite good. I read 9 out of 10 climbers pretty early on in my climbing career, and consistently focused on awkward sequences and problems that felt hard for the grade to me. I pride myself on unlocking the weird beta on the sandbagged V4 that no one at the gym can crack. I routinely return to boulder problems that feel awkward or scary during my training.
Having said that, I noticed a big drop in my climbing grade when I moved recently. When I climbed at gyms in Western Mass, I easily flashed V7, often sending V8, and would project V9/V10. At the new gym, V6s suddenly felt really challenging.
I think this is attributable to a few factors (the stress and disruption of the move impacted me more than I think I would have wished). And I’ve gotten my level back to some degree over the past couple of months after the move. But I still think there’s a lingering difficulty I have adapting to the style of this gym.
The setting in Western Mass was very outdoorsy (bad holds, delicate positions), while the setting at the gym I currently climb at is a lot more modern. There’s more coordination and dynamic movement. The holds are pretty big but the body positions are odd. I think it took me a while to adapt to it and my body is still learning.
My one achilles heel is the ultra-modern comp style bouldering. I really suck at run-and-jump traverses, paddle dynos, or dynamic toe-hooks.
I think that’s something I probably need to get over (like my aversion to crack climbing). I bet there’s a lot to learn from this style and it will probably improve the rest of my climbing. But I don’t really know how to train it, other than trying dynamic moves and dynos during my on-the-wall warmup, and committing time to working those kinds of problems.
So far technique development doesn’t seem to be a part of the training plan I’ve purchased, but I’m happy to be pleasantly surprised. I think that if this is still something I want to pursue after this training session, I might try getting coaching from the Power Company, since they seem to spend a lot more time talking about this aspect of training on their social media. At the same time, I wonder whether this is something that can even be done remotely. I suppose it possibly could, if I collected a ton of video for my coach to analyze, but as far as I know that’s not really something any of the online training plans will have you do. So maybe I’d need to look into seeing someone in person to work on this aspect of my climbing.

my experience so far - signing up, onboarding and initial communication.

So far I’ve signed up and completed the intake form. I had to wait a few weeks before a coach was available, and during that time filled out a questionnaire about my climbing experience and my goals for this training. The next two weeks are going to be committed to doing the assessment and getting familiar with some of the training sessions I might be doing during my training plan. After that, I have two 12-week blocks of training ahead of me.
I wanted to mention some things that I felt could use some improvement, for the sake of completeness (before ending on a positive note that I think Lattice deserves).
When we do code review at work (I’m a software engineer) we label feedback like this as “nitpicks”. It doesn’t directly impact the core product, but rather is an opportunity for that extra touch of polish (in the opinion of the reviewer, which may safely be ignored).
  • there are two separate apps (crimpd and my.lattice). I initially assumed that they would work together, as they have many workouts in common. However, they are completely separate. The my.lattice app is considerably less polished than crimpd.
  • When I signed up to my.lattice it didn’t correctly set my password. In the process of trying to make it work, it locked me out of my account for too many failed logins. We sorted it out over email, but as a software engineer I was shaking my head in judgement throughout the experience.
  • The descriptions on my.lattice aren’t completely fleshed out. For example, there’s a “daily mobility” routine that has several movements that you should perform. The movements are listed in a table. Then there’s a set of images, but some of the movements don’t have a corresponding image. I can certainly look up what a cobra pose is, but it seems like there’s a lack of consistency.
  • On a related note, it would be nice to have a follow-along video for some of these daily routines. I ended up using a tabata timer app to program in the sequence to make it easier, but that would have been a nice touch (and something I expected the crimpd app to provide).
In any case, these are details, and they probably jump out to me particularly because of my occupation. I think that ultimately, if the training plans help me improve my climbing, these things won’t really matter. I understand why a coaching business might dedicate resources to other priorities.
With the waiting, the “official” start date, the upcoming testing and the 6-month commitment, I feel like I am about to embark on an epic journey. It feels great! I am anxious to start. I feel like I will be motivated to figure out the new sessions and stick with my plan for the first few weeks. I can’t tell if this is an intentional design by the Lattice team, but if it is, kudos to them!