Round 106

Dear Eric, I am such an admirer of your books on climbing, and I’m hoping you could help me with a training-related question. It’s about delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Ever since I started climbing (about 4 years ago) DOMS after training has become an increasingly rare experience for me. My question is as follows: keeping in mind the 6 basic training principles and always being alert to early signs of onset of injury, would it be a good training strategy to aim for getting DOMS after every (strength) training? Or am I asking myself the wrong question, and is DOMS of no importance, or perhaps even bad/dangerous to always get DOMS? –Armand (Holland)

Hi Armand, Many climbers/athletes have the same experience–decreased incidence of DOMS as they improve conditioning. This is not necessarily a sign that your workouts aren’t effective, just that they aren’t doing as much cellular damage. If correctly designed, your workouts can trigger the favorable adaptations in the neuromuscular system without doing the damage that causes significant DOMS—this is actually a good thing, because you can do your next workout sooner (perhaps up to 4 days per week). DOMS is most common when adding a new exercise, in particular, an exercise with strenuous eccentric movements (for example, weighted pull-ups, weighted bouldering, or HIT). It may also develop the day after a high-volume anaerobic endurance workout (or long day of climbing). The bottom line: don’t worry so much about triggering a lot of DOMS with your workouts–instead keep focused on  properly targeting your workouts (on limiting constrains) and being sure not to overtrain or get injured (avoid training to complete failure). It is important to keep your workouts progressive, so find ways to make them harder without completely destorying yourself. In the end, consider that training for climbing is an art form…and with knowledge and self-awareness, each workout, season, and year, you’ll become a better painter!

Hi Eric, I just moved to Salem, Oregon and there are no climbing gyms here, however, I have a 16’ by 24’ garage to build my own. So far I have areas planned out for an H.I.T./campus board, a full roof, arête, and mostly vertical traverse. Do you have any pointers for home wall? My main question is giving that I am in the Cascades I want to get into Alpine climbing. What training do you suggest for this style of climbing? My family is getting a home exercise system so I have that to my disposal and I run and mountain bike for cardio (I know I need to do A LOT more of it to condition for Alpine routes). Do you know anyone else that could help me with Alpine training regiments? Thank you for all of your help and knowledge. –Bryce (Oregon)

Hey Bryce, Good to hear about your home wall—an excellent training investment! Considering reducing your square footage of vertical wall or make it slightly overhang (10 degrees past vert), so that traversing it is more pumpy on the arms. Hopefully you’ll have a good section of 45 degree overhanging, since this is the best training angle. As for Alpine training….obviously the cardio is important. You can also benefit from full body exercises that strength your posterior chain–like squats, deadlifts, and other Olympic style lifts. CrossFit style training is also useful for developing full-body conditions for rigorous Alpine ascents. Hope this helps!

Eric, Love all of your articles, books, etc. I recently moved and went from a 50 degree HIT wall to a 40 degree wall. The HIT strips were already getting to be a bit juggy on the 50 degree for serious training for hard bouldering, but now it is ridiculous. Will you ever be shaping a smaller set of hit strips (advanced strips) or one for a 40-45 degree angle? –Calen (California)

Yeah, 40 degrees isn’t steep enough for HIT. I shaped them for walls 45 – 55 degrees past vert, and I wanted them positive enough that you can add weight without risk of slipping off. Anyway, I don’t have plans to make a set for a lesser angle wall. However, you can probably gather/buy a bunch of crimp, pocket, and pinch holds that will work on your new wall angle and arrange them so that you can ladder up and down HIT style. Adding weight is key to getting stronger, so stay with the program!

I have been climbing four years and I’ve been stuck at the same level for a while now. I’m desperate to push to the next level, but I’m struggling with finding new and effective training methods. I’ve been finding weaknesses in my climbing and then training to make them into strengths—this has enabled me to progress up until now. I feel I have solid foot work (5.12slab,5.13roofs), one-arm strength(several one-arms per arm), decent finger strength(door frame full open hangs), but I know there’s something missing. I’m by no means over weight at 5’11, I weigh 165 and have 4-5% body fat. I can train till I puke, I put in the time, but I get stagnant results. I appreciate any suggestions that you may have. –Branden (California)

Hey Branden, Sounds like you are doing great for only 4 years of climbing. Remember, that improvement is not linear; it comes in spells, sometimes separated by lengthy periods of apparently little/no gains.  Anyway, from your comments it sounds like anaerobic endurance might be a limiting constraint, especially if you are attempting steep, sustained routes. Do more interval training (both bouldering and steep roped climbing) –dedicate to a couple weeks of targeted anaerobic endurance training. I must also point out that as a climber of just 4 year, your technical and mental skills may very well be lagging your physical strength. “Energy leaks” by way of flawed technique and mental skills are likely shortchanging you…and costing you a couple of grades. So remain open-minded and strive to improve in all areas. Good luck!