Round 110

I have never really trained for climbing before and am looking to begin now because I struggle getting past V5s and I definitely want to improve my general abilities. I know that technique will be a greater asset, but I feel I also need to improve my grip strength (bear in mind that I live in an apartment so I can’t install a fingerboard). What do you suggest? – Ben (Denver, CO)

Hi Ben, First, strive to climb outdoors whenever time and weather allows—this experience is critical for improvement, since it will develop your technical and mental skills more rapidly than indoor climbing. That said, indoor climbing is your base training and you can make good progress with a targeted training program. Just “going to the gym and climbing” works for a year or two, but after a while you really need a more targeted program that focuses on improving your weaknesses. Two suggestions: 1. can you hire a climbing coach to develop a program for you (someone at your gym?), and 2., consider reading my book Training For Climbing–this will arm you with many techniques and exercises that you can begin putting to work. Obviously, regular bouldering is an important part of the training process, but some targeted fingerboard, HIT system, and campus laddering will really make a difference. You don’t need to do a lot of this, just a few sets towards the end of your bouldering sessions. Does your gym have any of these training tools? Good luck!

I want to strip some excess body fat–I’m currently 5 ft 8 in and 163 lbs. I was wondering what sort of program I should follow to succeed in this? Do you have any other dietary rules and tips? –Hugo (London, UK)

Hugo, As you indicate in your question, it takes both diet and extra exercise to reduce the fat and lower bodyweight. Going for a 5km run a few days a week will help a lot. But it’s also very important to reduce fat and empty calories from your diet. Strive to cut back on things like cheese, fast food, fried food, alcohol, beer, and sugar, since all of these are calorie dense. If you can get down around 70kg, then you will climb more efficiently!

Hey Eric, I’ve been trying to spend the winter improving some strength on a hangboard, and every time I am on it my body seems to favor a half crimp grip all the time. I would like to train open hand grip more often, but my pinky finger is at least a knuckle and a half shorter than my ring finger, and it is extremely difficult and awkward to hang from four fingers on an edge. Any advice on how I can work around this? –Joe (Brooklyn, NY)

Hi Joe! You finger situation is common. When training on a fingerboard it’s often hard to get the pinky involved. Best way to get it is to work a 2 finger pocket grip with the ring finger and pinky together–this will feel weird and weak at first, but you’ll be surprised how it will strengthen with training. Train all the 2 finger combos and also train 4-finger crimp and 3-finger open hand (pinky not used) so you develop a strong open hand grip without use of the pinky. Make the program progressive (adding weight or hanging longer) and you’ll get good gains long term. Of course, warm up well and be sure to rest enough between workouts.

Mr. Horst, I am a 15 year-old competition climber. It seems that most competition climbers I know are also avid outdoor climbers and that seems to contribute to their remarkable abilities. To excel at this type of climbing, do you have to be a weekend warrior or sending hard routes on your training days? –Blaze (New Mexico)

Hi Blaze, It certainly helps to climb outdoors, especially if you want to develop lead climbing ability and excel in roped climbing comp results. Living in NM you certainly have good outdoor climbing nearby, so I suggest trying to do weekend climbing trips whenever it’s possible. That said, indoor training (both bouldering and lead climbing) is always likely to be your base workout–so you need to stay on a progressive, well-designed program that targets your weaknesses. Hopefully you have a climbing coach who can help you with this. Climbing three or four days per week (outdoor and indoor total) will help you advance steadily in the years to come!