Round 122

Hey Eric, I have been climbing for about a year and a half, and I frequent the gym at least 4 times per week. I have rapidly progressed to bouldering V5/V6. In order to boulder harder should I just keep climbing or should I add actual strength training elements to my routine? –Will (Connecticut)

Hi Will, Bouldering a few days per week is key, but doing a few supplemental strength/power training exercises (twice per week) can certainly help. You need to be careful both training and climbing, however, since you are right in the “phase” that many new climbers get a finger or elbow injury (due to rapid strength gain and ability spike, while tendon strength lags). So be aware of this and cut back what you are doing at the first sign of any pain in the wrong places. Three exercises you can probably add now: 1. Weighted pull-ups…add 10 to 20 pounds and do 3 sets of 6 pull-ups…add more weight if this is easy. 2. Fingerboard hangs….hang on first pad crimp holds for 5 seconds, then rest 25 seconds, and repeat 5 times. Rest 3 minutes and do two more sets. Add some weight (belt or vest), as needed, to make this routine feel hard. Again, be careful not to overdo it (common mistake from enthusiastic climbers). 3. Campus laddering…using the largest holds on a campus board, climb arm over arm up and down the board in a controlled fashion (not wildly slapping). Do three sets with two minutes in between.

I have a question about a tendon injury I sustained during a training session. About a month ago I was doing pull-ups on the shallow two finger pockets on my hangboard (open-hand grip), when I felt a definite pop/strain in my left hand ring finger. I felt pain in and around the A2 pulley, but in my palm and wrist as well. I stopped immediately and iced it, and slowly stretched it (I had full range of motion, w/pain though). I searched around online for injuries similar to mine, and found that a “flexor unit strain or partial rupture” best matched it. However, I did not find anything on rehab or estimated recovery time. After a month I tried to ease back into easy training (e.g. light really easy boulder sessions, dead hanging on the biggest campus rungs) but still had really painful open-hand grip with left hand (pain in the finger and palm). I have stopped training altogether, and am now hoping the adage “time heals all wounds” comes true. What advice to you have for me? –Dalan (Alaska)

Hey Dalan, Sorry to hear about your injury—if it makes you feel better, this is the most common injury…and it’s happened to me (left ring) a couple times over 37 years of climbing. So it’s part of the game for many climbers. It’s impossible for me to assess the degree of damage, and hence there are no firm timelines. Pain is the best indicator—any sharp pain while pulling and it’s too early to return to the game. Very light exercise and gentle stretching and massage is good therapy—squeezing a tennis ball, opening and closing your fingers (like flicking water off your fingers), and similar will encourage healing. But you really do need to take a few more weeks off from climbing to get the healing on track, rather than rush back and keep reinjuring it. For passionate climbers it helps to find something else to do and focus on for a month or two–another physical activity to keep you moving and busy, so you aren’t tempted to climb. Good luck!

Eric, I would appreciate some advice on when/how to add HIT strips to my new home wall. I just built a woody in my backyard (after 2 years away from climbing), and I’ve been eyeing the HIT system for my wife and I to train on. Questions: How do we gauge our readiness for HIT System training? What angle is best to begin with…45, 50, 55 degrees? Finally, I’m 5’8”, but my wife is is 5’4”; do you have a suggested/common distance between strips that is a good compromise for our heights? Thanks for any advice! –Jared (New Jersey)

Hey Jared! Glad to hear you are building a wall—HIT would be a good addition, but I don’t think it’s essential at this point. You could mount it and dabble at body weight , but I’d hold off using the HIT protocol of adding weight to your body for another season. Movement training and getting strong at all the weird different moves/positions is key…and just setting many different bouldering routes that you can lap is the ticket for both you and your wife. 2 to 4 days per week of this kind of wall training will really help your climbing! When you do go with a HIT system….standard spacing will work fine for both you and your wife. She may use different feet than you, but that’s good training for shorter climbers….to learn how to build up their feet to make longer reaches. 50 degrees is the best angle—if you haven’t built the wall yet, you may want to make the whole thing 50 degrees past vert rather than trying to make little wedges for the HIT strips. They will work on 45 degrees, but they are pretty incut, which isn’t ideal.

First of all thanks for all your wonderful books, they are a wealth of information. They are amazing well researched and comprehensive. I mostly boulder indoors (2 to 3 days per week), since outdoors is at least 4 hours away. I have been climbing for a year focusing on skills, and I’ve made great progress. I’m now beginning your 4-3-2-1 training cycle, but I’m wondering as a boulderer if I need to do the 4-week stamina part of the mesocycle? –Stuart (Australia)

Hi Stuart, Yeah, if you just boulder, then doing the 3-2-1 makes the most sense. As a relatively new climber, you do need to be careful not to overtrain and get injured—many fast-progressing, enthusiastic boulderers end up with a finger or elbow tendon problem around the 1 to 3 year time frame (due to muscles getting stronger faster than tendons). So rest a lot, warm-up well, and train smart!

Eric, I saw a video of your Treadwall and your great home training center. Could you please answer me some questions about it: How do you like it? Do you use it a lot? How is the noise-level? How often did it break down and how long do you have it? Thank you very much, –Jorg (Florida)

The Treadwall is amazing, but it took me a while to really sort out how to best use it. The initial gut sense is to always use it to simulate a max route, in which case every workout is a massive pumpfest. Big mistake! Like any training schedule you need and intelligent program design that targets different physical constraints and energy systems. Thus, I do three different kinds of workouts on the Treadwall: low-intensity aerobic sessions, brief near-max intensity power sets, and the longer, pumpy anaerobic endurance burns. I’ll write more on this in the future, but it’s a fantastic tool if you know how to use it! Oh yeah, it’s not too loud (we can hardly hear it upstairs), and it’s never broken down, despite two years of heavy use. We do use it a few days per week—sometimes just for easy climbing warm-up before training on our regular bouldering wall…and sometimes we do a full sessions on it. I endorse it strongly!