Round 109

Hey Eric, I started bouldering last year and have been training incredibly hard 4 or 5 times a week. I do campus training, LDIs, hangboarding, and Max bouldering – I also cross train with a lot of crossfit, plyometrics, cardio, horseback riding, muay thai, and long pump endurance sessions on our gym’s boulder. After training this winter, I was really stoked to get back on real rock because I’ve been dying to get to V7, but last weekend when we finally got out I realized that I’ve gotten way stronger indoors with major improvements, but outside on the boulders, I seem to be stuck at V6. Is there something more to my training (other than getting back outside every weekend) that I need to add to bust through this plateau? Thanks a lot for the help Eric! –Megun (Tennessee)

Dear Megun, Wow, I love your enthusiasm and I wish I could train as hard as you! Seriously, be careful that you don’t overtrain and get injured–common among people who “live at a gym” and newbie who go at it too hard the first year or two. If you ever have a session that feels “off” (weak), it’s a sign you aren’t recovered and you need to take another rest day. Sometimes less is more—train too much and get injured and you’ll really hit a plateau! (Sorry, I hope I don’t sound preachy, but I feel strongly about this.) Anyway, your situation is VERY common. Outdoor climbing is way more technical than pulling plastic–not only are the finger holds different, but the footwork and body positioning is much more subtle. Consequently, it’s only a matter of time until your outdoor skills make the next grade jump–you simply need to get outside more often so your body learns to flow through the unique positions of outdoor rock sequences. Your gym strength will transfer nicely and I’m sure you’ll break into V7s this spring–which is really amazing for someone who has only been climbing a year! Sounds like you are a natural, but recognize that progress will slow with each new grade you achieve. Strive to become a complete climber–do some roped climbing–and expand your skill sets. You could learn a lot from my books Training for Climbing and Maximum Climbing–check them out sometime! Good luck, and let me know when you send V7…and V8!

Hey Eric, We just started a training schedule according to your book ’training for climbing’. The idea is to have 4 weeks of running laps on easy routes in the gym (grades 5-6a) or climbing a lot of boulders (60x 5-6a). My first question is regarding rests: for the routes we usually climb 4-5 routes after each other, downclimbing every other route, this gives about 15 minutes of climbing. Is this too little consecutive climbing time? In the bouldering gym I climb 30 boulders then rest and do another 30. After these 4 weeks, we’ll have 3 weeks of strength training. Here I wanted to work hard boulders in the gym and hard routes when going outdoors. When I say hard, I was thinking 7b+/7c routes and 7a/7b boulders where I have a hard time doing the single moves. Does that make sense or should we stick with things that are difficult but still doable? Thanks a lot in advance. Love your books, they have been a big help! –Tom (Limburg, Belguim)

Hi Tom, I think your training program design sounds good (and fun–which is important). During the endurance phase try to avoid failure, whereas make the strength phase maximal and pursue your physical limit (and failure). Sure, you can work some limit problems with difficult single moves, but you also want to do some hard routes that are just below your limit (that you can just barely get through). If you are bouldering indoors, you might want to wear a weight belt and do some submaximal crimp, pinch, and pocket routes to build max grip strength. I’m sure you are aware of this training strategy from the books.

Hi Eric, I am not sure if this is climber’s elbow. After climbing, the lower part of my biceps, right above the elbow feels sore/ somewhat painful. When I was first climbing, this would hurt a lot more, compared to now. This bicep discomfort usually goes away in a couple days or so. Any input on this would be greatly appreciated. –Omar (New York)

Hi Omar, You injury is not likely the common climber’s elbow–it sounds more like mild biceps tendinitis. Two suggestions: stop doing pull-up training for a few months (if you are currently doing any)–just go climbing. Also, put ice on the sore spot after every workout. If the condition gets worse, take a few weeks off from climbing. Good luck!

Hi Eric, I’m really stuck on overhanging routes–I can boulder a really steep overhang, but when it comes to leading one, even a really easy climb I get super pumped really quickly. I was wondering if you knew any strengthening exercises/techniques I can practice that I can do at home because I can only get to a wall 1-2 times a week? Thanks! –Kate (UK)

Hi Kate, I think your problem on leading overhanging routes is both physical and technical. On steep routes you need to be far more efficient than in bouldering–you need to climb smooth and fast in order to avoid a fatal pump. So you can improve in these ways by simply logging more time climbing steep roped routes at the gym (or outside). As for at-home training…that’s a bit tougher. Obviously you want to also improve forearm endurance so that your grip lasts longer on steep lead climbs. You could set up a pull-up bar or finger board and do a series of hangs on them. For example, hang for 15 seconds, rest 15 sec, hang 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, hang 45 seconds, rest 45 seconds, and then hang 1 minute. This is one “set.” Now rest a few minutes, and do this same sequence again. Doing several sets like this will train the forearms in a favorable way. Still, actual climbing time is more effective, so try to climb for your workouts whenever possible.

Hi Eric, I just set up a small HIT wall (50 deg) at home and I am in the process of putting up a small 11 (wide) x 9 bouldering wall. For the HIT wall, I have installed the first strip a bit too high so I am not able to grasp the first hold while sitting before I start, is that important enough that I should move it? Also, I am a female, short, 5’5” with a negative ape index of about 6 inches, should I be spacing the strips at 18” or should they be closer together, I am finding it a bit far but then I usually find steep and dynamic routes hard. I cannot move off the pinky team and pinches at all so I have just been hanging with feet on for those 2 grips for as long as I could, is that a good way to work towards it? I have had 4 short sessions on it so far, and am surprised that I could manage less now than my 2nd session, maybe I need more rest but I felt like I didn’t do that that much on it since I didn’t manage that much. I am also still climbing routes at the gym 2x a week. –Chui

Hi Chui, You could lower the HIT strips (and put them slightly closer), but as a shorter climber it’s good to train reach and lock off, so I’d advise not putting them closer. Regarding recovery: The first few HIT strip workouts hit the neuromuscular system in a new way, and so it takes longer than you might think to recover. I advise doing HIT strips only twice a week on average, although you can do other climbing in addition (up to a total of 3 or 4 climbing/training days per week). Also, try to use the same foot sequence and body position with each lap (and session) on the strips, since this affects the difficulty. I guarantee you’ll get much strong in a few more sessions! Many people struggle with pinch and 3rd team 2F pockets–hanging on these with your feet on is a good way to develop the strength, although it’s better to grip hard for 5 seconds, then let go and rest 5 seconds, then grip hard again for 5 seconds, etc. Do this 5 to 10 times for one set on each pinch and 3rd 2F. Hope this info helps. Good luck!