Thursday, 30 December 2010

Johnny Dawes Coaching & Route Setting in Scotland with Reach

Dawes on Sad Amongst Friends, E6 7a.
Photo by Neil Foster, courtesy

 Johnny has joined in with Reach Climbing Coach and is now available to coach and route set in the Scottish Region.

For rates and availability in Scotland please contact 

Photo by Simon Nadin, courtesy

Friday, 10 December 2010

GCC Winter Bouldering Competition

Winter Bouldering Competition

The results for the Winter Bouldering Comp are in!

Rob Sutton 154
Will Atkinson 154
Alan Cassidy 117

Natalie Feather 10

Will McKenzie 112
Mark McGowan 109
Nic Bailly 103

Holly Rees 97
Ivana B 61
Lesley Taylor 40

Stewart Cable 139
Sean Gallagher 133
Chris Duddy 132

Joanne Herg 126
Jacqui Sergeant 121
Dawn Thomson 111

Andy Barr 134
Willis Morris 129
Fraser Wiseman 119

Eilidh Fergusen 44 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

'Above Goal' route projecting during a 'power phase'

Comp wall EICA (Photo: Fraser Harle)
 Above Goal  training is key for me for introducing my body and mind to new levels of difficulty or intensity and has proven to be a great tool when used within the correct phase of my Strength>Power>PE cycle

I have found that getting on a route which is at your maximum bouldering capacity during say the end of a strength or beginning of a power phase of a training block really tunes your muscles and can deliver a high intensity session. I went on a tough 8b+ at the EICA main competition wall to test my current finger and upper body strength on the moves of a route which is way above my current red point standard.

The moves that I did felt like hard font 7a+ or V6/7 (up to the 8th bolt) with lots of power being required to take allot of body weight on big moves between small holds. I love getting on hard routes for the experience of trying to understand what I will need to be capable of to complete my goal of on-sighting an 8a.

So why go on an 8b+? For me, I am convinced that I will need that kind of power endurance, capable of red pointing an 8b or even 8b+ to succeed on an 8a on-sight. Red pointing an 8a is obviously allot easier than on sighting one and the physical effort required to manage and compensate for on-sight route reading errors, tensions, pressing etc, is in my view the same as red pointing a much harder route.

And it is easy to say these things but another thing to actually put yourself up there and try way above your goal...

But the aim of this is to increase physical capability of climbing hard on a route as opposed just trying to simulate it through other tactics like bouldering. Getting on the 8b+ is for me a BIG step forward in educating myself on what needs to happen...FACT!

" I was never more certain of how far away I was from my goal than when I was standing right beside it...." (cant remember who said this - but I like it!)

Gurning the moves on 8b+ (Photo: Fraser Harle)

(Photo: Fraser Harle)
EICA Session score card

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Coaching from 6b to 7a Red Point at EICA

After doing my first 4x4 session with the MC Geek in a bid to endure! I topped off the evening with a really good session with Alan to get  his campaign to red point a 7a from a 6b fitness level at the EICA on track for success.

Alan started training consistently all through last winter into spring but missed out on his 7a pudding with the happy birth of a new baby and an unhappy wrist injury from a mountain bike fall. But his tea is out now as we begin the short campaign to get his pudding truly served up over the next 4 to 8 weeks.

He is one session from a 6c red point after our first few hrs climbing together with an adjustment in technique and red point tactics already creating change and hopefully getting us on track for the preparatory session on a 7a of choice...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

British Team 2011 Coaching Structure - Region: Scotland

Mark McGowan of Reach Climbing Coach has been appointed as one of the MC of S Scottish Team Support Coaches

Team Members:
William Bosi
Angus Davidson
Nikki Addison
Dylan McKenzie
Eleanor Hopkins
Rachel Carr
Steven Addison
Jaime Davidson
Jonathan Stocking
Jonathan Field
Paul Williamson
Ross Kirkland

BMC/MCof S British Junior Team Regional Coaches
Neil McGeachy
Ruiradh McKenzie

MC of S Scottish Team Coaches
Alan Cassiday
Gary Vincent
Robbie Philips

MC of S Scottish Team Support Coaches
Rob Sutton
Mark McGowan
Neill Busby
Lynne Malcolm
Tom Bolger

MC of S Scottish Team Mentors
Natalie Berry
Robert McKenzie
Ross Kirkland

Edinburgh International Climbing Arena British Team Contact
Neill Busby (EICA - Senior Instructor)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Basic Plyometrics for the fingers

This is just an introduction to maximising impact on fingers at limit of grip on the 45 board. Although elemental, I have found that it lifts your contact strength quite quickly when a block is done after a finger strength block from finger boarding on maximum grips.

For me, the onus is on holding forced slaps between a few short dynamic moves at one's near single max grip to induce aggressive concentric action for the muscles. I find this quite different on the fingers from slow strength moves that are developed in the strength phase using lock off's etc.

I was doing 2 sessions lasting about 5 mins per set over 3 sets per session with 10 min rests between sets with a minimum gap of 2 hrs between each session to achieve a non lactic state at near full power as possible. I also mix up the moves in a vertical sequence to get the most from each attempt as it seems to help avoid lactate build up during set.

Ross H on f7c+ (Dumby)
Chris E on f7c+ (Dumby)
The goal is to convert what finger strength I have to finger power (strength + dynamics). A stronger climber would not experience this as powerful on their fingers and this is relative to working with grips at an angle on the board that is as close to your 100% max grip. If it's not, then it wont do the job of delivering explosive concentric activity on your fingers.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Power Endurance

Climbers must produce powerful movements and repeat them several times with little or no rest. In order to maintain the same amount of power with each effort, a certain level of power endurance is required.

Power endurance is typically characterized by intense, repeated efforts for a relatively short period of time.

Once maximal strength has been developed (earlier on in the strength program) it can be converted into explosive power through various methods of power training (bouldering, campusing etc). Power endurance training can be used to train the fast twitch fibres to resist fatgiue allowing explosive power to be maintained for longer.

Power endurance training uses moderate loading of 50-70% of max for 15 to 30 moves. Because this can lead to a significant build up of lactic acid, rest periods between sets are long (7-10 minutes). Exercises are also completed in a circuit training format i.e. one set of one exercise is completed, then one set of the next exercise and so on (The Vertical Sequence): Alternating exercises allows maximum recovery and sufficient time for lactic acid to disperse.

This is a critical rule to follow. If rest intervals are too short and sets are completed while the climber is fatigued the result will be hypertrophy (increase muscle mass) rather than power endurance. Sets should not be completed to failure but should end when repetitions are no longer powerful and rhythmic.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Programs For Building Maximum Strength

In order to develop maximal strength for climbing, heavy loads must be exercised, greater than 85% one repetition maximum. This permits only a small number of repetitions, between 1 and 5, per set. Maximal effort is required on each activity and as such this type of training is very taxing.

Long rest intervals to allow recovery are required between sets and only a small number of exercises should make up the sessions .

To further aid recovery and allow maximal effort to be performed a vertical session design is preferable to a horizontal session design. In other words, one set of each exercise should be performed in sequence and repeated rather than completing all the sets for one exercise before moving on to the next.

Bodybuilders tend to isolate a muscle group and work it to exhaustion. climbers on the other hand should train movements rather than muscles.

Unlike bodybuilding, where the only aim is to increase the size and appearance of muscles, strength training programs for sport ultimately must develop either explosive power or muscular endurance. However, rather than immediately embarking on a program to improve either or both of these components, a more effective approach is to first build a solid foundation...

Basic Strength
Basic strength training programs adapt the body for more strenuous resistance training later on. It's objective is to prepare the body by targeting all of the major muscle groups, tendons, ligaments and joints helping to prevent injury.

The less experienced a climber is, the more time they will need to spend developing foundational strength before progressing onto more advanced forms of resistance training. But even experienced climbers should set aside some time during the year to complete a phase of basic strength training. It can help to redress some of the muscle imbalances that inherently occur within intense climbing activity.

Strength Phase for 2 Peaks

Monday, 23 August 2010

Planning a Plyometric Session

The choice of exercises within a session and their order should be planned. A session could:

  • begin with exercises that are fast, explosive and designed for developing elastic strength
  • work through exercises that develop concentric strength
  • finish with training for eccentric strength

(When eccentric only training has been compared to concentric only training, several researchers have discovered that eccentric training yields greater increases in strength than concentric.)

The Vid quality isn't great...but it's not about the vid quality!

I was down at the track taking photos and saw Linford Christie racing at the The Kelvin Hall (around 1990) where I trained and I was frankly stunned at his sheer explosive power...amazing!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Speed Training into Climbing

The general principles for improved explosive power are as follows:

  • Choose a reasonable goal for your project, and then work on climbing at a difficulty which is actually harder than your goal over short work sessions
  • Train at goal difficulty in order to enhance your neuromuscular coordination, confidence and stamina at your desired power
  • At first, utilise long recoveries, but as you get fitter and stronger shorten the recovery periods between work intervals to make your training more specific and realistic to climbing. Also move on to longer work sessions, as you are able
  • Work on your aerobic capacity and lactate threshold, conduct some easy routes to burn calories and permit recovery from the power sessions
  • Work on your mobility to develop a range of movement (range of motion at your hips will effect power) and assist in the prevention of injury
Speed Training into Climbing

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A day at the Anvil - guys on Spitfire (8a+) & Fire Power (8b)

We headed off to the Anvil for a Power Endurance (PE) session on 8a+ and 8b project routes for the afternoon.... Great Day!

Nic on Spitfire 8a+ (Mike Lee)

Wilson on Spitfire (8a+) (M McGowan)

Mike Lee on Fire Power (8b) (M McGowan)

Anvil (M McGowan)

Mike lee on 7b send...(M McGowan)

Arrochar Chippy...

Climbing at the Anvil from Wilson Mackenzie on Vimeo.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Coaching with Reach...

If interested in 1:1 or 1:2 ratio rock climbing coaching with a clear focus on designing a bespoke programme to increase YOUR lead climbing performance, then please get in touch for more details at: or Coaching Inquiry Form

regards Mark


Referrals from clients:

"...This training season I decided to get all the help I can to speed up my improvement. I needed guidance to work towards my goals in long term. I also needed more vision and opinions about my exercises and weak links. I am glad I can share my training with Mark..." (Ville Mustonen, Finland)

" I met Mark in Glen Nevis on his return to climbing to check out some lines he had in mind for me, I wasn't really training at this point but after a day or two talking and training with him I had a much more structured idea of what to do to improve and I did" (Kev Shields)