Round 114

I’m trying to break through a plateau with route climbing and I was hoping you might be able to help. I boulder up to V9 and lead 12+, but can’t break into the 5.13 grade–I’ve tried many, and do all the moves, but I can’t complete the routes.  I don’t think power is normally an issue for me, because  I can normally do all the moves on harder routes (easy 13’s) pretty quickly. I guess I’m just not sure which one (or 2) thing(s) I should focus on to help me break the 5.13 barrier. Any help would be awesome! –Todd (Lexington, KY)

Hi Todd, First, you must consider technique before training—improving on  climbing pace, movement efficiency, and better resting can make a large difference. Perhaps you have this dialed in already, but most people can add a letter grade just by improving a little here. On hard routes, either climb fast or rest—nothing in between.  Training wise, I think a little more high-end strength will help you out (this will actually aid your endurance, since fewer muscles fibers need to work on submaximal climbing if you are stronger). So in addition to your pumpy gym climbing and cragging (which trains mostly anaerobic endurance), I suggest some weighted fingerboard work. Find a way to add between 10 and 40 pounds and do a several sets of these on your bouldering/power training sessions.  Proceed carefully, and gradually ramp up the weight used over the course of a few weeks.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

Hi Eric, I am 15 years old and have been climbing for 8 months. I was wondering if it was a good idea to start fingerboard training and other highly specific strength/power training for climbing? –Nick (California)

 Hey Nick! Climbing on a regular schedule (2 to 4 days per week) is most important, since climbing is a movement/skill sport. Your overriding goal should be to build your technical and mental skills. You should NOT do anything that targets the fingers in a focused/stressful way (i.e. fingerboard and campus board)—save these until you are 16 or 17, and done growing. But doing some pull-up training and various core training exercises is fine. Do this type of thing at the end of your climbing session when you are well warmed up.

Hello Eric, I’m a huge fan of your TFC book! I live in a small apartment and I’m considering a purchase of the HIT Strip system. If I install it on a 50 degrees wall, could the crimps on the HIT strips be used as a campus rung for campusing ? I know campus board are generally at a 10-15 degrees angle but I do not have enough room to have both a campus board and HIT strip wall. Thanks! – Jean-Philippe

Hello JP, The HIT set up is too steep to do any campusing other than “laddering” arm over arm up the strips (which you can do on the crimps, pockets, big hold, and pinches, if you are strong). But it’s not a replacement for a campus board. Best thing with the 50-degree wall, is you can add on a bunch of small hand holds and also do some bouldering and system wall type exercises. It might get boring, but it will help you get stronger! Good luck, Eric

Dear Eric, Would you please critique my workout, which incorporates a home Treadwall. My goal is to send 5.12 which still eludes me after all these years. I’m 60 years, 6’0 and 170 lean. Every other day I boulder or wall climb at the gym for an hour and a half, usually followed by a Treadwall interval workout (6 intervals for 2 minutes at 15 degrees with jugs for hands, chips for feet and 12lb weight belt; 3 minute rests between intervals). –Mark (California)

Hi Mark, I have no doubt you can reach 5.12 (or harder), but you do need to gradually shift to a more focused, periodization kind of program. Your current program will yield positive results for a period of time, however, the lack of focus (and cycling) means it will soon lead to a physical plateau (although your technique and mental skills may continue to improve, since you are climbing regularly). My suggestion is to design a periodization program: spend about 3 weeks doing volume climbing at the gym and doing your Treadwall as you are–then shift gears and begin a 3-week strength/power program of bouldering, weight pull-ups, weighted fingerboard hangs—these workouts will be shorter and less tiring, but that’s okay…it’s part of what makes the program work. The next phase is 2 weeks of strength-endurance/power-endurance, during which your focus should be short, steep roped routes and 1 to 2 minute Treadwall burns on SMALL to MEDIUM holds (large hold Treadwall climbing won’t work here). Do about 6 of these workouts over the 2-week phase. Then take 3 to 7 days off from serious training or hard climbing. After this rest, you are ready to jump on a PR difficult project route and begin working it (find a 12a that inspires you!). Of course, you will then want to repeat the training cycle from the beginning. Let me know how it goes—good luck!

Hi Eric, I’m excited to say that I just built my home climbing gym and I’ve been using it for about 6 weeks now. That said I used to lead 10+ trad (Yosemite & High Sierras), 12- sport, boulder up to V6, but that was a long time and 10+ lbs ago. My question: Do you have a ”get back into shape” concept/program? Also, in the interval training tips description on this site it recommends 2 minute rests regardless of how long the working set takes (30s – 4m). I’m thinking that it should be longer for longer sets, is that what you recommend? –Jason (South Carolina)

Hey Jason, The good news is that your climbing skills of 19 years are hardwired in your brain, so you should quickly regain solid technical form. Strength should come back gradually with several weeks/months of targeted training (bouldering, weighted pull-ups, fingerboard hangs, etc.). But ease back into this kind of training so that you don’t tweak something! Endurance for longer roped routes (especially steep sport routes) will take the longest to come back, and you are correct that interval training is the way to go. I would use longer rest intervals, initially a 1:2 work-rest ratio. After a couple training cycles, you can shorten the ratio to 1:1 which will be more grueling, but help take your high-intensity endurance climbing to the next level for harder sport routes.