Round 100

Hey Eric, After many years of climbing I’ve realized that I always wear out my left shoe (tip of the big toe) before my right. I know that my left foot is slightly bigger than my right which may contribute to this uneven wear, but could this be indicative of a footwork issue? If the problem is within my footwork, what drills would you recommend to help with this? –Mike (Maryland)

Hey Mike, Many climbers (myself included) observe the same thing…and I do think this uneven wear is largely a factor of it being a larger foot. People with really poor footwork tend to blow through both shoes fast, so I don’t think that’s your problem. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to work on improving footwork further. Two things to think about: look at each foothold for a full second (rather than just a quick glance) and try to find the “target”–that is, the best part of the hold to position your toe on. I call this target practice! Next, as you weight each foot, try to feel the hold…and then try to feel your center of gravity move over the foothold. This is more difficult, but if you can develop this fine awareness it will elevate your game.

Hi Eric, I am a 14-year-old climber (been climbing 8 months) and just getting into competition climbing, and am trying to find a good training program that will improve my grip strength, forearm and shoulder strength, and core strength. Also, I am terrified of lead falls, especially after I fell wrong and got rope burn a little while ago. What can I do to help with this? Thanks! –Ashley (Virginia)

Hi Ashley, Good to hear from you! No doubt, you’re going to get better really fast…I can tell you have great passion for climbing. That said, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Eight months is a short time to be climbing, so I’m impressed that you are already learning to lead climb! Getting used to falling comes with “practice”–you need to get on steep climbs and, with a good belayer, take a few short lead falls each week. Over time you’ll get used to the feeling and learn to push yourself harder on lead. Also important is the experience to know when you are in a “no-fall” situation–one that will make for a nasty fall. These are the situations you should consider downclimbing out of, rather than risking a serious fall. As for strength training: Most people new to climbing can benefit from a variety of pulling and core exercises. It’s impossible to give you a program via email—does your gym have a coach you can work with? Also, you might find my book Training for Climbing useful, so that you can learn exercises to play around with. Most important, however, is a regular schedule of climbing–2 to 4 days per week will make you a stronger, more skilled climber, that’s for sure. Good luck, and have fun!

DPM magazine has a recent article on using a bucket of Rice for finger training. The emphasis here isn’t on getting much stronger, but on rice’s potential for correcting muscular imbalances which climbers are prone to develop from overdeveloped flexors. What do you think of this training method? Are there any drawbacks? –Danger (Taiwan)

Hello Danger! There are no drawbacks to doing the RICE training, but you can work the opposing muscles other ways as well. Regardless of your method, it is important to train the muscles that extend your fingers—doing some basic, low-resistance training of your rotator cuff muscles (shoulder) is likewise prudent.

My new year’s resolution is to climb a 5.13a on sport lead outside or a v8 outside (I currently lead 5.11a). I’ve been working hard for the last 3 months, but made little progress. I do about 80% climbing and 20% training since I have few training tools. What do I need to change to make this happen? –Mark (Colorado)

Hi Matt, I’m sure you can achieve 5.13a, but it will take time. If 11a is your current limit, I think 12b would be a great goal for this year and 13a for next year. Anyway, the most important thing for improvement is dialing in your technique and mental game—tough subjects to coach on via email. I like that you climb more time than you train, since this will grow your skills. However, some targeted strength training can help—if you can identify your physical weaknesses and target them with specific exercises. So your first job is to determine what is your limiting constraint–power, forearm endurance, fear, climbing too slow, other? Identify your weaknesses and turn them into strengths, and soon you’ll break into 5.12…with 5.13 now far beyond that!

Dear Eric, First i’d like to say that I really liked your book “How to Climb 5.12“. For many years I thought 5.12 was out of reach, but now I can redpoint many 5.11 and I really feel 5.12 is attainable for me! (I even wish I can reach 5.13 within a few years.) I try to train indoors 2 to 3 times per week, and at the end of each climbing session I like to do a few pull-ups. My question: I’m wondering if it was better to do these pull-ups BEFORE doing climbing routes, when my pull muscles are still fresh? –YT (Montreal, Canada)

Hi YT, Thanks for the kind remarks–no doubt, you can achieve 5.12 and 5.13! As for targeted training (like pull ups, dips, core, fingerboard, etc.), do it all at the end of your climbing session. You always want to climb routes fresh, so that you can climb your best…and work on improving technique and gaining “feel” for more efficient movement. All of these things become harder when you are really tired. At the end of your workout, do a few sets of pull-ups (and other)…but stop short of completely emptying the gas tank! Good luck, and let me know when you send your first 5.12!