Ask Eric – Round 164

I’m using the 4-3-2-1 periodization program, and I’m currently beginning the 3 weeks of strength/power training. I’m doing the 2 days of climbing (30-60 min of max intensity bouldering followed by strength exercises), however, I am not sure what to do the rest of the week (can I do additional hangboarding?) I climb outside on the weekends, so I’m not sure how it fits to this training…in terms of pushing myself on the rock? What grades should I climb outside? How many rest days should I take? – Oya (North Carolina)

Hello Oya, Putting a complete program together can be confusing and complex, especially when you are doing weekend climbing. Thus, it’s best to do a dedicated 4-3-2-1 cycle during an offseason or break from outdoor climbing….such as mid-winter or mid-summer. Anyway, to answer your question….the Max Strength and power block is tough to integrate into weekday training when climbing outside…since it’s hard on the nervous system. If you do hard Tuesday and Thursday sessions, it’s unlikely you’ll be 100% for weekend climbing. Best bet is to do one strength/power workout on Tuesday (with bouldering), then more of a power/strength endurance workout on Wednesday (with roped climbing)…then rest Thursday and Friday, so you are fresh for the weekend at the crags. This is the DUP program outlined in my new 3rd edition of Training for Climbing.

Hi Eric. I’ve recently come across your playlist on EpicTV. Everything I have been reading online says waiting at least a year or two before even touching a campus board, but I’m wondering if an earlier start (I have only been climbing for 6 months) is possible given my circumstances. I’ve been a manual press Screen Printer for 5.5 years using pull strokes almost exclusively. The muscles, joints, tendons, and motions, in my head, are almost identical to campus board training. I guess what I’m getting at, Eric, is that while I know the wise thing to do would be to wait, is it possible for me to start with some light campus exercises shown in the earlier videos of the playlist, and gauge whether or not there is crossover/if I am ready? — Rayce

Hey Rayce, Given your screen printer work, your finger tendons are likely more developed than the typical climber of just 6 months experience. The big question is not the volume of activity your fingers have been exposed to but the force? In campus training the tendons are exposed to a high percentage of your total body weight–and in the case of dynamic drop down campusing much more than body weight! Thus, the injury risk a climber faces when campus training. You’ll need to do the calculus on your own, since only you know the force loads your previous work has placed on your finger tendons (higher force loads, increased gradually over many years, are what make tendons stronger). When you do venture onto the campus board, do so in very low volume and initially only with feet-on campus movements. Good luck!

Hello Eric, I have recently started listening to your podcasts, and I am hooked. I appreciate your passion for exploring the science behind climbing. I really have learned a lot. I have been climbing four years now, but it’s been pretty inconsistent. I started back in college at our rock wall and seemed excel fairly quickly. Climbing 5.10-5.11 range within 2 years. I stopped going to the gym and thought that climbing was enough. I got a bad pulley injury climbing a 5.12b right before going on a trip to the Red. My strength and conditioning did not match the level I was climbing at. I nursed back to health and didn’t climb anything higher than 5.10a after that. Anyway, my love of climbing has only grown from there. Since listening in to your pods and checking your book out from my local library I have tried to put together a program and have struggled. Left feeling overwhelmed and just go back to guessing. Mainly just doing laps as slow as possible in our gym. I also have a finger board I never use and I made a max pull pull-up bar as well. I am reaching out in hopes of maybe getting some nuance to my climbing training. I think I would be classify as an intermediate climber? I would like to climb 3 to 4 times a week, or train. Thanks so much for your time and thoughts! — Tyler

Tyler, Thanks for the feedback on the podcasts! These are fun topics to study and talk about, and I’m sure you can leverage the information to climb better each season going forward. Of course, staying uninjured is key–the setbacks (lack of climbing and training, due to injury) accumulate over years and ultimately keep you way below your potential. So as a relatively new climber, it is best that you don’t train too hard (too high intensity) nor get on super hard climbs that are way over your head–both carry high injury risk. Of course, I can’t give you specific training advice without working in person…but perhaps you can find a good coach nearby? Otherwise, keep studying and learning…and gradually elevate your training year over year. Training technique and the mind is paramount, but so is getting at least 2 or 3 physical workouts in per week (climbing, core, aerobic, and some specific rotator cuff and pull muscle training). Hope this helps!

Hello Eric, Let me start off by saying how much I enjoy your podcast and how impressed I am with your most recent Training for Climbing book. Really great work! I have a question about climbing programming. Me and my family (wife, 3 year old, and 5 year old daughter) will return to Spain this winter for 3 months to climb and live in Chulilla. This will be our 2nd year doing such a trip and we feel very fortunate to do such a trip again. I am 5 weeks into a 13ish week training program leading up to the trip. In general I follow a conjugate periodized training program. My main question is: I did an ok job last year of doing maintenance strength workouts to keep my strength up while getting pumped silly on monstrous 35-50m routes, but in the end lost lots of strength and have been trying to build it back ever since. I have considered really pushing my strength phase pretty close to departure, and tailoring down a bit on the endurance work as I will likely get quite fit in Chulilla. Thoughts on this? Thanks Eric! –Sol (Washington)

Hey Sol, Sounds like you have a good plan. No doubt you’re anaerobic capacity/reserve will develop quickly once you begin climbing in Spain, so the focus now should be on max strength (weighted hangboarding and bouldering), rate of force development (campusing), and topping off your climbing-specific VO2 (aerobic power). I’m sure you’re dialed in on the first two items…but on the latter there are many approaches/options out there…and in your case I suggest high-intensity climbing intervals on a Treadwall or bouldering wall. Doing two full sets of 4x4s (20 – 30 minute break between the two sets) can accomplish this as long as the between problem breaks aren’t too long.

Here’s the approach we use on our Treadwall: “45/20/45 Intervals” in which we climb on the smallest holds possible, making lots of big powerful arm movements, for 45 seconds, then step off the wall for a fleeting rest of exactly 20 seconds, followed by another 45 seconds at near-maximum climbing. Now take a rest of exactly 2 minutes, before commencing with another 45/20/45 interval. Once again, a training partner with a timing App is essential to get it right—it’s also nice to have them as a cheerleader! This protocol takes just under six minutes to complete. Now rest for six to twelve minutes and execute another two sets of 45/20/45 intervals. Advanced climbers can do up to four sets and add a small amount of weight (~5 to 10lb weight belt) for some of the early sets to enhance difficulty. Once you arrive in Spain, you’re game plan sounds smart. Of course, rest MORE than you think you need to…in order to get those truly fresh “100%” kind of days. Let me know how it goes.