Round 150

Eric, I wanted to email and thank you for having me over to your gym…and discussing specific training with me. You and your family are quite the incredible athletes—it is inspiring to see such commitment at that level! I, too, am a highly committed individual…and I am looking to become a more elite climber, and get back to competing and work towards outdoor climbing goals. Any thoughts on how I should design my training? –Jessica (Massachusetts)

Hi Jessica, For an experienced climber like yourself (someone who possesses good technique and is committed to always improving the technical and mental game), advancing through the grades correlates to getting stronger and stronger, season over season. Improving your climbing-specific physical capabilities—rate of force development, power endurance, strength endurance, aerobic endurance—all key off of attaining a higher level of maximum strength. Therefore, this should be your primary mission! Focused cycles of weighted hangboard training, weighted pull-ups, hypergravity bouldering, a modest amount of campus training, and strength training of rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers are all key—read these sections in the new edition of Training for Climbing for details!

A few more things: Aerobic “base conditioning” on the Treadwall or a toprope wall (moderate intensity climbing on good holds with only a light to moderate pump) is important, too. You can do this 2 days per week and the max strength/power 2 days per week. A good winter program! Of course, you do need a good block (2 or 3 weeks) of strength/power endurance training as you near your outdoor performance climbing season (or competition)—short intense Treadwall intervals, 4×4 bouldering, or short, powerful gym routes are the ticket here! Finally, always keep in mind my rule #1 for training—don’t get injured! So process carefully and don’t go “all in” on the first session. Ramp up training volume over weeks and months. Good luck, and let me know how it goes in the Spring!

Hey Eric, I attended your presentations at the USA Climbing Coaches Symposium this year, and I have a few followed up questions for you.

First, you mention hanging for 7 seconds on the minute every minute (7 on, 53 off) and I was curious how long you perform this for and if you take a longer break somewhere and resume it again? Sean McColl mentioned in a podcast that he does a similar routine, but he does it for 20 minutes straight! Would that be good? Second question is about training the anaerobic lactic system on hangboard using the 20 seconds on and off repeaters you mentioned. What is the set and rep scheme on that? How much rest between sets? Final question is about the pyramid scheme on hangboard (hang for 4,6,8,10,8,6,4 with 5 seconds rest between reps and 1-2 minutes between sets). What type of energy system is that training? I assume anaerobic lactic but then what is the advantage of that vs the repeaters you mentioned above vs Eva Lopez’s strength endurance protocol (10 on, 5 off for 4-5 reps and 1 minute rest between sets)? –Matthew (Colorado)

Hey Matthew, Yeah, Sean’s hangboard program is good…but, of course, advanced! If you go that long, you’d certainly want to vary the grip position every few hangs. My base program is 3 sets of those 1-minute intervals (7/53”), then rest 3 minutes and then do another set of three hangs. Do this for 3 to 5 sets. You could build towards something like Sean does.

Longer hangs, such as 20/20” or 30/30” or 30/15” or 60/30”, are all possible protocols for local (lactic) endurance. I recommend a 4-by-4 kind of program (eg. 4 sets of 4 hangs). Your rest break between each 4 hang set can be 4 minutes to start, but decrease to just 1 minutes as you improve (hard!).

Regarding, the pyramid scheme….it really depends on the hold size and the intensity/difficulty of the hangs. If you are using large holds and only getting a light or moderate pump, then it’s more of local alactic/aerobic program. However, if the pyramid is very difficult (big pump!) then it’s much more lactic system program, although the aerobic system works hard during the recovery periods. Hope this helps—good luck!

Hi Eric, I recently spent a day climbing outside—a typical day for me…nothing felt tweaky or sore right after the session. The next day, however, my ring finger on my right hand was sore, but only when massaged—pain was localized right at the base of the finger before the palm (A2 pulley area). It was sore for about 4 days, but then painfree by one week after the apparat injury. Since I hadn’t felt any pain for 3 days I decided to try climbing a little. After a good warm up, I did a few harder problems and soon the finger was hurting again (when rubbed)…so I left the gym. This time I took two weeks off from climbing (and finger training). Questions: 1. Where do you think I might be recovery wise? 2. Should I tape? –Martin (North Carolina)

Hey Martin, You sound smart and self-aware….and you’ve been doing everything right. Kudos for being the exception, not the rule! Sure sounds like a minor A2 pulley tweak. Keep with the rehab (finger movement exercises, but nothing stressful), stretching, and mild massage. If you are pain free you can ease back onto the rock and test it this weekend. With minor strains, I like people to rest 3 weeks, 2 weeks without pain. You DO want to tape the base of that finger on your return and, most important, avoid crimping! Try to climb a week or two without crimps—you’ll need to keep it submaximal. If you can climb open hand grip for two weeks without pain, you should be ready to return full force. But again, I’d tape for the rest of the season. Tendons heal very slowly and you won’t likely be back to 100% (tendon strength) for a couple of months…so stay self-aware and try to make it through the season without re-injury. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Thanks for the great article on elbows, Eric! I was wondering though, what are some common some other elbow conditions that might be misdiagnosed as medial/golfer’s elbow? My pain is dull and a bit vague but comes from the tip of the elbow (not the medial knobbly bone typically associated with golfer’s elbow.) I am just wondering if I have something else? I have been to see a specialist and a physio but they couldn’t really pinpoint what I had. Any idea what it might be? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! –Sami (Berksire, UK)

Hi Sami, Pain near the tip of the elbow is a bit unusual….doesn’t sound like medial epi. One possibility is ulnar nerve entrapment or compression. Typical symptoms, besides mild elbow pain, is tingling in the pinky and ring finger. The elbow pain is mostly felt when the arm is flexed…as in doing a pull-up. Any of this sound familiar? Anyway, if the condition is mild—and not getting worse—then you can likely continue to climb. If the pain becomes worse, then you need to see a medical doctor—ideally an arm/elbow specialist. Hope this helps; good luck, my friend!