Ask Eric – Round 166

Hi Eric! I’m a shift worker–nights, days, weekends and always changing. I have no set routine but I can make it to the climbing wall 2 times a week and I have a fingerboard at home. What should I prioritize to get the most bang for my buck…strength-power, power endurance or aerobic endurance? My goal is to climb harder sport routes (5.13). Any advice is appreciated. –Phelim (UK)

Hello Phelim, Yeah, that’s a tough schedule to train around—a consistent training (and sleep) schedule is vital to getting optimum results. But with some planning, no doubt you can get it done! Here’s what I suggest:

1. Two days per week, do a hangboard workout at home–one session focused on max strength (the 7″/53″ x3 x4 protocol detiled in my Training For Climbing book with added weight) and one session (3 days later) that is a strength-endurance protocol (such as 7″/3″ x6 x6). Do a slow, gradual warm-up before hitting the board. Of course, you’ll want to work some max strength pulling exercises as well (eg. weighted pull-ups, uneven grip pull-ups, one-arm pull-ups). Also, you can do some antagonist training on these days and, perhaps, some generalized aerobic training (important if you are a rope climber). You can also do a variety of core muscle exercises.

2. Two days, go climbing at the gym and do: 1. One day of hard bouldering and power-endurance intervals (like 4 x 4s) and the other day do roped climbing (including some hard redpointing) that really gets you pumped. This schedule will leave you with 3 days of complete rest per week–get sleep as much as you can. Hope this helps!

Hi Eric, I have a training question concerning our 10 year-old daughter. She is on the youth team (and excelling) at our local climbing gym, and my question is regarding what type of additional training can we help her with at home, outside of the climbing gym? Do you have any articles or advice that is geared to training for kids? I need some expert advice. – Leland (KS)

Hello Leland, I’m happy to hear about your daughter—climbing is such a great sport for mind and body! That said, I strongly recommend kids also participate in a second sport—burn out and injury are frighteningly common among youth climbers, especially those that do the comps…and take it most seriously. Growth plate finger injuries are increasingly common…in girls they occur age 11 – 14 during the growth spurt. Hangboard training and dynamic campus training are NOT recommended during this time—quality coaching is key. Climbing 3 or 4 days per week is the best training—developing the mental and technical game—so there’s really no need for additional training at home. Sounds like your daughter is gifted for climbing, so you don’t need to do anything to special/extreme in terms of training (yet). Once she reaches near adult height (age 14 or 15), then she can train (safely) like an elite climbers.

I’ve written extensively on this topic. You can begin your research on youth training here.

Hi Eric, I’ve read Training For Climbing from front-to-back multiple times and I must commend–and thank–you for the wealth of information you have provided. I do, however, have a question on structuring my antagonist training. My current antagonist/mobility workout is quite long…DB Shoulder Press, DB Chest Press and Dips; TRX T’s and Y’s, Scapular Pull-Ups, Reverse Wrist Curls, Wide Pinch Wrist Extension and Internal/External Rotations, and also sometimes Squats & Deadlift. As you can imagine, my “rest-days” from climbing are no longer really a rest day! Am I doing too much or is there some way to shuffle everything around if all these exercises are necessary? –Cameron

Hey Cam, Glad you like the book! I suggest two antagonist days, four climbing (and climbing-specific exercises) days, and one day of complete rest each week. Obviously, the antagonist days can’t get too long or fatiguing–this can certainly happen if you “do everything” I have in that chapter! So you need to pick and choose….and, perhaps, eliminating squats and deadlifts for now would be best to save you some time (and fatigue). Something else: Do the Wide Pinch Wrist Extension and Scapular Pull-ups on climbing days, since these obviously work the finger flexors and other pulling muscles–do these towards the end of your climbing workouts twice per week (usually on the days we’re also doing hangboard work). BTW, here’s the link to the spreadsheet exercise programs….which you can use as a template to build your program in the future.

Dear Eric, I will soon be turning 53, and I’ve revived my climber career after about eighteen years of soccer and little league. My sixteen year old son and I are training in the gym using your training programs. (His warm-up routes are my projects!) I would like to know if you have any advice for a climber my age who is trying to get back into the game and dreams of climbing 5.11’s again? –Ben

Hi Ben! We’re about the same age, so I relate to where you are in life (my boys are 15 & 17). First and foremost, is to do nothing that seriously tempts injured. If you’re just getting back into it, then progress slowly–don’t be in a rush to climb 5.11….instead make it a one- or two-year plan. Weight loss (if needed) and getting back into the groove of moving over stone are your primary goals, although doing a moderate amount of strength training is important, too. Don’t get overly specific (no weighted hangboard or campus boarding just yet), but focus on pull-ups, body weight hangboarding, and most important, getting your shoulders strong and bullet proof again Consult the 3rd edition of my Training for Climbing book for all the exercises. Good luck, and have fun! Let me know when you do your first 5.11!