The North Face is introducing a new approach to preparation, to help you reach your outdoor goals. Whether you're a novice or seasoned athlete, Mountain Athletics offers training plans and exercise demonstrations that are specific to your needs. Professional rock climber Daniel Woods uses Mountain Athletics to improve his strength training. Follow his tips on what it takes to push the limit.
At just 24 years old, Daniel Woods is already considered one of the world’s best rock climbers. He recently won the American Bouldering Series championship for a record eighth time and will next attempt a first ascent of Grandpa Peabody, a 50-foot-high rock with a 55-degree overhang that’s generally considered one of the most difficult bouldering problems in the world. To train for it, Woods employs the Mountain Athletics strength and conditioning program—along with a few other tricks we got him to share.
What do your workouts look like?
To get prepared for a national or world-cup competition or groundbreaking outdoor rock-climbing ascents, I use Mountain Athletics. I notice that when I spend time inside training with Mountain Athletics my body becomes stronger and more durable. The workouts I do are simple yet strenuous. For example, for endurance workouts I pick out four boulder problems that are two to three grades below my max level. The goal is to complete each boulder without resting. After all four are completed, set one is finished, then I rest for a minute. After I rest, I complete this process three more times. By the end of the workout, I have completed 16 problems with a total of three minutes rest. This exercise is my go-to when preparing for competitions, since the format of a comp is similar to this workout.
What about strength training?
The important thing is to have strong fingers and a strong core. When my core is strong, everything else clicks. I train four days a week. Each session lasts 2.5 hours. That includes climbing and strength training. The majority is climbing, with 30 minutes of conditioning after the climbing. The goal is to have a high strength-to-weight ratio, so I don’t put undo pressure on my joints. I’ll do exercises like ring push-ups, one-arm pull-ups, planks, and front levers, where you hang from a pull-up bar, your torso perpendicular to the ground, your feet pointing toward the sky. One of my favorites is Campus Board Reaches. I take the lowest wooden finger grip on the campus board (it should be low enough that when you hang on the wooden edge, your feet do not touch the ground) with both hands, pull my body up and reach with my right hand as far as possible. The goal is to grab onto another wooden finger grip. I do this three times in a row with my right hand, then do three power squats and three sit-ups (this gives your fingers a quick break while keeping your heart rate at a neutral level). I then repeat this same process with my left hand. After you complete both, round one is finished. I do it six more times to help develop strong fingers, accuracy, and upper-body power. I obviously do lots more strength training, which you can find here.
What fuels you?
My wife is studying nutrition, and we do lots of juices using kale, spinach, strawberries, and ginger. The juice provides lots of vitamins to rejuvenate the body. When you’re working out really hard, you need to replace those nutrients, or your body will eat itself. Other than that, I’m on a low-carb meat and veggie diet. I use this diet to stay lean. Climbing is unique: the test is to see how small a hold you can hang onto. Sometimes you’re only using a quarter pad of a finger to keep yourself on the rock. When you’re lean, you feel like a feather hanging from these holds.
Do you use supplements?
I just started taking a supplement called Go Gnarly. It’s a meal replacement that I take right after I climb, so I get the most out of a workout. If you wait too long to get protein and carbs in your system, your muscles don’t benefit as much from the workout. In Europe, you often have to eat whatever is presented, and it’s often not all that nutritious, so I’ll eat Go Gnarly then, too, to make sure I’m getting all my nutrients.
How do you stay focused?
I’ve been working on my mental approach. I’ve been trying to be present with each move and enjoy the moment. Before, I was focused on the past or future. I’ve let go of past performances and enjoy what I’m doing instead of feeling like it’s a job. When I’m in the moment, I’m able to enter the zone. It feels like time has stopped.
How do you recover from tough workouts or competitions?
For recovery I see a chiropractor and put my fingers in a bucket of ice for five minutes every night. And I stretch for half an hour each day. Bouldering is a lot like doing yoga on wall. I’ll touch my toes, do pigeon stretches, and do lunge stretches. It’s important to keep my hamstrings and hip flexors loose, because it allows me to have a wide range of motion in those areas, and that allows me to get into big split positions on the boulder. I also try to get eight hours of sleep each night, and I try to go to bed before 11. If I don’t, I feel groggy.
What motivates you?
Lately, I’ve been motivated by boulder problems that are dangerous and difficult. Something that I know I need to get in the best shape to complete. I’ll have dreams about it at night. I’m pretty self-disciplined when it comes to training. Climbing is a selfish pursuit, but I like doing things the way I want to do them. But I also love training with friends that are around my level because it pushes me to do better. Also, when I see somebody do something I haven’t been able to do, it shows me how I can do it. All of us a need a little push from somebody to help us achieve our goals.
Anybody in particular that you like training with?
I look up to Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, and Alex Honnold. I try to pick Alex’s brain to find out how he keeps his composure when he’s 2,000 feet above the ground. He likes to overcome that power that’s greater than him. I share that feeling.
What are your goals?
Down the road, I want to be a well-rounded rock climber—from traditional to sport to bouldering to competition. When you’re able to do all these things, you can travel any place in the world and do all these different climbs. I’d love to go do La Dura Dura in Oleana, Spain. It’s just difficult and beautiful, and it’s something I want to do in the next couple of years.