Round 113

Hi Eric, What age do you recommend youth climbers begin training on the campus board and finger board?  – John (Georgia)

Hi John, There’s no hard and fast rule for using these training boards, but rather a “safe age” for specific exercises.  For example, an athletic kid can begin doing a little campus board “laddering” at age 10 or 12—that is, go hand-over-hand up the board (on the largest strips) then jump off from the top (or lower down slowly). This is a good power-building exercise that’s still relatively low-stress on the fingers. However, youths under the age of 17 should never do the more dynamic (and far more stressful) “double dyno” campus board exercise as this may result in growth plate fractures, especially during the years of peak growth velocity (12 – 16). As for the fingerboard…doing a set or two of pull-ups on a medium-sized crimp or deep pocket holds is likely safer than some of the severe bouldering moves youths are now doing in ABS bouldering competitions. However, I would not advise any serious fingerboard training—or adding weight, as in Hypergravity Training—until at least age 17. Most important: parents and coaches should monitor closely the training and climbing schedules of youths, and require a break from climbing at the first sign of any pain in the fingers. Furthermore, a climbing off-season and participation in a second sport is a very wise thing for all youth climbers. Hope this helps!

I really enjoy reading your books and website–they have helped me break into the 5.11s this year! I particularly enjoyed the self-assessment as it helped me pinpoint my weaknesses. I am concerned as I progress that my height is becoming a limiting factor. I am 5’6” tall and weigh 165lbs, and I’m now finding a lot of the routes that I fail on involve big reaches. Is there anything a short guy can do? –Marshall (Alberta, Canada)

Hi Marshall,  While your height may limit you in some areas (especially granite and vertical routes, which can be reachy), I feel that 5’6″ is NOT too short to climb really hard at many climbing areas, especially limestone and sandstone areas which tend to have many intermediate holds. There are many men and women climbers between 5’0″ and 5’6″ who climb very hard, so I don’t think you should worry about this. One thing you may want to work on, however, is body weight–165lb is somewhat heavy for someone your height. Without seeing you in person and working with you, I can’t give specific advice, but if you introduced some running and drop, say, 10 lbs it would make a noticeable difference in your climbing performance. (The running would help cut some bodyfat as well as thin excessively bulky muscles which can be a liability to climbers). Good luck!

Any suggestions on a weighted belt or vest to buy for training in climbing? –Joshua (California)

Hey Joshua, Yeah, a good weighed belt is hard to come by. I have tried to work with a couple of companies to make a good belt for climbers, but it has yet to come to fruition. For now you just need to search the Internet and see what you can find–there are several companies that make decent belts that can be adjusted. I suggest wearing 10 lb belts (I often wear 2 or 3 at a time) for climbing wall exercises like HIT System—this places the weight near your center of gravity, so there’s little negative impact on your movement and technique. These belts will also work well for hypergravity training on a fingerboard; however a weight vest works best when you need to add really heavy weights (40 to 60 lbs).

Hi Eric, I went for the first time to an indoor rock climbing gym and I failed miserably. I started out on the easy wall and barely got up as high as 5 feet before my hands and arms gave out. Is there anything I can do to improve my arm and hand strength? I find rock climbing interesting and would like to continue doing it. –Liz (Connecticut)

Hi Liz, Hopefully you’ll give climbing another try! Make sure that your instructor don’t put you on overhanging walls…which are very hard for beginners. You should be mainly climbing on walls that are a little less than vertical–this way there’s more weight on your feet than on your hands. Climbing is a movement sport, so learning to climb with your feet and moving smoothly over the rock is important. This will come quickly and you should find yourself climbing better with every visit. But again, stay on easy climbs with relatively large holds for the first few weeks/months. Over time you’ll develop more strength in your arms and hands. Climb 2 or 3 days per week and you will get stronger—and hopefully have a blast!  BTW, check out my book Learning to Climb Indoors–you will learn a lot from it, include technique drills, mental strategies, and basic strength training.

I have read your Training for Climbing book, and it has been a milestone in my training methodology. It is really good to see so much experience and research together in one book. I am following the 4-3-2-1 periodization program, and I have just started the strength and power (3 weeks) phase. I have noticed that during the first 4 weeks I climbed a lot, in high volume. But now, in the strength/power period I spend more time resting than climbing. For example, I do a strenuous climbing problem that last not more than 30 seconds and rest 3-5 minutes. At the end of the training session I feel like I have climbed very little, compared to the 4-week skill/stamina phase. Is it normal? –Fernando (Brazil)

Hi Fernando! Thanks for the kind words about the book. Yes, the strength phase will be less exhausting than the climbing stamina and AE phases. Your goal during this 3-week phase is to do a series of brief, but intense boulder problems with adequate rest between problems (enough to make good efforts each time). So, yes, 30 seconds hard bouldering (As in doing a steep problem) should be followed by 3 to 5 minutes rest. If each 30 second effort is truly hard, you will get all the stimulus you need. Do this for one hour of clock time, so you will make 12 – 16 of these very hard efforts.  90 minutes of bouldering would give you 20 to 25 of these max efforts. More is not needed. After the climbing is done, however, you can do a few supplemental strength exercises such as weighted pull-ups, fingerboard, and campus board laddering (if you are ready for this). Combined, this will be a heck of a 90-minute to 2-hour workout, even if it doesn’t feel as exhausting as the endurance climbing sessions.