Round 120

First of all I’d like to say that I’m a big fan. Unfortunately, for the past year I’ve been struggling to improve my maximum strength, without adding another entry to my long list of injuries. Here’s my problem: When bouldering I’m amazingly strong on my first try (sometimes do V9-V11), but after just a few problems (or tries) I’m simply awful—I struggle to climb V4! Is my anaerobic endurance lacking? What can I do to improve? –Davi (Brazil)

Hello Davi, Yes, your endurance of strength (anaerobic endurance) should be worked on, but I also think aerobic endurance may be a limiting factor. To train anaerobic endurance, focus on doing very brief, near-maximal movements and exercises that take between 10 second and 45 seconds—no longer. For example, take a moderate boulder problem (say V5) that you can climb in under 45 seconds. Now do this problem 4 to 6 times in a row with only 2 minutes rest in between. Then rest 10 minutes and do the same problem again 4 to 6 times with only 2 minute rest in between ascents. Do this training two or three days per week, and in about four weeks you should notice a significant uptick in your endurance. Change your program for a few weeks (may do some roped climbing or some power training), then do go back to the program above–this time, try to do V6 problems with the same format above….and build from there in successive cycles until you can do V8 or V9 a few times in a row! (This may take a year or more.) Of course, you need to select problems that don’t have dangerous holds/moves that might injury you—so be smart in what you decide to do.

Also, you should still do some periods of less-difficult roped climbing or long traverses (for aerobic endurance). These workouts should not pump you up, but instead only give you a very light pump—climb for up to 30 to 40 minutes (total) with very little rest, so again the climbing must obviously be quite easy. Do this once per week–think of these aerobic endurance sessions as “recovery workouts”—long term they will in fact build your stamina to climb harder, longer. Good luck!

Do you think it’s a good idea for me to add some P90X to my training for climbing? I usually train on my hangboard and campus board two to three times per week. I want to do something to improve my core strength—what exercises do you recommend? Thanks! –Santiago (Mexico)

Hi Santiago, Doing PDX90 once or twice per week is fine for general conditioning, but don’t spend too much time on this as it will not help your climbing a lot. Instead you need to focus on more sport-specific workouts and exercises. If you have access to an overhanging climbing wall, I suggest you do some traversing using long reaches between good holds, but only small feet—this will bring your core into play and make it stronger. Other standard core exercises like crunches, knee lifts, and such, are helpful, too.

Hi Eric, Thank you for your reply. I’ve recently purchased both Training for Climbing and How to climb 5.12. My partner and I are on our last session of HIT today, before taking a couple weeks break and/or revising our macrocycle of training. I just have a couple questions: I have a 30lb weight belt and we’re both nearing that maximum amount. We add 2.5% body weight each time we exceed 18 hand movements. Questions: 1. As we continue to do this, is there a weight at which point we shouldn’t exceed or should we begin doing two sets of each grip? 2. Where do HIT workouts fit into my training cycle? Thank you again for you time and excellent literature! –Josh (California)

Hey Josh, You can keep adding weight belts up to about 40 pounds, after which it starts to get ridiculous…and cumbersome! At that point, you want to make things harder by doing Complex Training, as described in my TFC book. That is, coupling a HIT set with a set on the campus board—back to back with almost no rest between the, too. This adds excellent stimuli with not a lot of extra fatigue. Also, you can start to cycle in some hypergravity handboarding–hanging on crimps and pockets with up to 60 pounds. So you can combine these various exercises to elevate the workout. Just be careful not to do too much, since too much volume digs a deep hole to recovery from. It’s a “feel” thing, so you’ll need to suss out what your body can handle without slipping into overtraining. BTW, HIT/campus/complex/weighted fingerboard are all exercises for the max strength/power phase of the training cycle. Good luck, and keep me posted!

Hello Eric,
First of all, I have become completely obsessed with climbing, and I find you book, Training For Climbing, beyond fascinating! I do have a few questions about it though, as a newbie climber (4 months) who’s quickly advanced to climbing 5.11d/V6. So how do I categorizing myself (beginner, intermediate or advanced), when I’m climbing at a pretty high grade in just a few months? I’m not sure which of your training programs is best for me. Second question: I want to get into sport climbing, and my endurance is horrendous—I get pumped so fast! What can I do to improve this? Third question: I want to get better pull strength as well, so I’m doing either explosive pull-ups or weighted pull-ups as part of my full body routine 3 times/week, plus climbing 3 days/week. The problem is, I recently developed signs of tendonosis–nothing bad, just a dull ache in the elbow, so I’m taking a week off. Am I overtraining? –John (Cedar City, UT)

Hey John, Congrats on your rapid progress on the rock—but watch that elbow! People who progress quickly (V6 is amazing for only a few months climbing!) are most prone to get tendinitis, since the muscles strengthen so much faster than the tendons do. Until your elbow ache passes, I suggest cutting back on all supplement exercises and focus mainly on climbing (roped climbs, if possible), since max bouldering and targeted upper-body exercises (like weighted pull-ups) may compound your elbow problem. So short-tern, I suggest a focus shift to longer, submaximal climbing—work on your technique and mental constraints, and back off on the heavy strength training. Of course, do daily elbow stretches and some of the elbow exercises in my books.

Once our elbow pain is gone, get back into harder training—weighted pull-ups are good, as are weighted fingerboard hangs (assuming no finger or elbow pain). It’s a fine line to walk for many climbers, however, between getting stronger and getting injured. So be quick to pull back on training with onset of any pain. Again, as a newer climber you’ll keep improving by working on technique and the mind—these two things will help your endurance a lot, because you’ll waste less energy while climbing!