On a mission to serve and grow Chicago's vibrant climbing community.

Training Tips: what is ARCing, anyway?

Training Tips is a series written by the climbing coaches from Redpoint Training. If you’re looking to improve your climbing, check out the Redpoint Assessment. You’ll walk away from your Assessment with the knowledge of your opportunities for growth and a personalized plan to help you make gains.

You’ve probably heard of ARC training before. You know, that dreadful thing where you climb for what feels like forever without getting off the wall. Is it endurance training, or a mild form of torture?

Well actually, ARCing can be a very soothing way to increase your climbing proficiency, discipline, and endurance. Most things worth achieving in life don’t come easy. Building a solid climbing endurance base is no exception. Staying on the wall for that long is a battle of the mind more than anything else. If you can push past that mental block and learn to enjoy endurance training, the payoffs can be quite enormous.

Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity (or ARC) Training, is a training approach to develop aerobic endurance by encouraging vascular development in the forearms. The goal is to climb for 20 to 40 minutes without surpassing your “anaerobic threshold”, the point where you start developing a strong “pump” (that stiff, fatigued feeling) in the forearm. You’re looking to sustain a mild warm pump that is continuous throughout the entire session. It will take a few sessions to find the right intensity: too much pump will put you in power endurance mode, and too little pump won’t help you develop increased endurance. ARCing is traditionally done by traversing or using a scatter board like the ones at First Ascent Avondale, but you can also use an autobelay. If you use an autobelay, just make sure there aren’t others waiting for it. Try to keep your autobelay ARC sessions to off-peak hours.

ARCing is very good for general conditioning, and great for long sustained routes that lack a crux. It takes longer to see the results, but the results are longer lasting, with a longer payoff. ARCing also provides you with a fantastic time to work on footwork, breathing, and drills as you go up and down the wall, improving fitness and technical skills simultaneously. I recommend climbers find 2-3 technique drills to work on while ARCing so by the end of their season they have improved exponentially. 

Here is a quick video I recently put together to explain ARCing in depth:

It will take a few sessions to figure out the right grade for your ARC training. Example benchmarks you can start with are listed below. Start on the low end, then work up a letter grade until you find the sweet spot for a full 20-minute session, or move down a grade if you feel you feel relentlessly pumped out. Once you’ve found the right starting grade, I recommend working up to 30 minutes for a session before moving up to the next grade. While you’re at it, try to select routes that target your current goals.

Level Of ClimbingArc Ballpark
5.9 / 5.105.7+, 5.8+

Like anything else, one ARCing session won’t do much for you. You’ll need to put in 3 or more weeks of ARCing 3 times a week to see gains.  If you’re consistent, you will see significant gains, and you’ll surprise yourself with how long you can hold on when working your next project.

Cheers and Happy Climbing!

-Branden LaCour

Learn more about Branden and his tips for training at

The Ledge: FA’s New Co-Working Space


“The Ledge” What is it?

The First Ascent team is proud to announce “The Ledge” at the Avondale gym. This is FA’s new co-working concept, designed to provide office spaces to our community to work on their projects between climbing their projects. 

Starting today anyone who comes to co-work at Avondale will obtain access to one of a number of portaledges – hanging from our 60-foot tall walls – fully equipped with (at minimum) a lapdesk, a power-strip to plug in all essentials and a small basket to hold office supplies so they don’t roll off and fall to the ground. 

An office/work adventureDSC_0021

The elevation chosen – in 10 foot increments – determines the cost and amenities when reserving space at The Ledge.

Here’s a breakdown of the five elevations co-workers can choose from (each upgrade in elevation gain gets everything the lower elevation portaledges get):

The lower level 10-foot-off-the-deck The Ledge office includes the essential lapdesk, power-strip and a basket.

At 20 feet the portaledge office is beamed access to 20% quicker Wi-fi, and complimentary bottles of water are belayed up when ringing a small bell (included).

At 30 feet one gets a desk to sit in, a chair, a lamp, a wide-brimmed gardening hat with a bottle of 30-spf sunscreen to combat the effects of harmful UV rays at higher elevations, and cans of spray paint to unleash your inner Banksy on the wall behind your portaledge when inspiration strikes.


At 40 feet, a Lazyboy is provided along with delivery of espresso drinks or drip coffee (hot or iced) via drone from our new FA Quick Coffee app (available on Android and Iphone)… optional cream and sugar is precision-dosed and premixed prior to the flight’s departure in the cup’s insulated carriage; Instagram-worthy latte art included on all lattes, cappuccinos and traditional Italian-style macchiatos. (note: FA will not serve decaf… decaf is basically just dirty water… so just don’t)

The 50 foot FA The Ledge office includes all amenities the 10-40 foot hanging offices do, but also an optional standing desk upgrade, mini-weather station with up-to-the-minute updates from NOAA, polarized alpine mountaineering sunglasses, oxygen tank for the thinned out air and a push-button GPS tracking beacon that can summon an FA employee to climb up to give on-demand high-fives. For an additional fee at this elevation, a BASE jumping parachute can be provided for those moments when nature calls in a hurry. 


The future of the climb/work hybrid lifestyle

Our mission is to serve and grow Chicago’s vibrant climbing community. We’re excited to invite climbing freelancers, writers, students and anyone else who needs a quiet place for work – or another place for browsing the Internet in comfort – to partake in this wonderful new addition to the First Ascent brand. 

And coming June 31st: “The Mantle,” a fully wired, digitized and optimized conference space for rent on the Anvil (top-out boulder). 


By: Gabriel Skvor

PS April Fools!