Round 152

I resumed climbing 5 years ago after a 10 year break. I am 50 years old and recently sent my first 5.12 lead in 20 years. I purchased “How To Climb 5.12” when you first released it many years ago and recently purchased your 3rd edition “Training for Climbing” book. I am a physician and I appreciate your attention to evidence-based results. I have noticed huge increases in strength but have battled the soft tissue injury bug, usually with success. Now I have early signs of arthritis in the DIP joint of my middle fingers and I want to know how I should augment my training. I assume that minimal edge strength training is a bad idea, but what about weighted hangs? I never use a full crimp but use the half crimp often on thin moves. Glucosamine has mixed scientific data in humans but works great for dogs. I want to continue pushing my athletic limits but don’t want prematurely end my climbing career due to my enthusiasm. I assume you have similar struggles. Thanks for all you do. –Ron (Texas)

Hi Ron! Yeah, we’re about the same age (I’m 52), and with smart training (and motivation) I’m sure we can both climb at a pretty high level for years to come. Some limited hangboard training would likely be a real boon for you as long as it doesn’t increase your DIP joint pain. IMO, doing some open-hand or open-crimp hangs on a mid-sized edge (around 20mm or just slightly less than one finger pad) with added weight is the best strategy for you. Try using the 7”/53”x3 protocol in my TFC book. First session begin with body weight and do 3 sets (9 total hangs). If that’s easy, do the next session with a 10 lb weight belt (or similar). Continue increasing the weight each session until the hangs get hard (you’ve found the right weight when the 7” second hangs begin to yield failure on the last hang or 2 of the 3rd set). You can do these hangboard sessions twice per week, ideally on gym climbing days—cut your wall climbing a bit short and finish up with the hangs (this way you are well warmed up). Of course, terminate the hangboard training if your DIP situation gets worse (hopefully if wont). Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Dear Eric, I’ve been climbing about one year, and I’m getting pretty good at climbing 5.10 routes and bouldering V3. What is the best way for me to improve my technique? –Brooke

Hi Brooke, Like any technical sport, good form/technique takes lots of practice—specifically, high-quality practice (not lots sloppy practice, as in when climbing tired). So make it a goal to climb 3 days per week, always striving to move smoothly and quickly through hard moves (rather than thrashing). Having the eyes of a good coach or veteran climber helps a lot, too…as they can give you tips and point out moments of poor technique, tightness, and other energy leaks that a costing you. Of course, developing mental skills goes hand-in-hand with developing the technical skills—climb with the intention of fostering acute-awareness of your thoughts, focus, and fears. Be proactive in taking control! You can learn a lot on these topics in my book Training for Climbing—check it out sometime!

Hi Eric, First of all, a huge thanks for all the material that you have produced over the years on the matter of climbing and training. I thoroughly enjoyed your Training for Climbing book, as well as many of your articles, videos and podcasts. Thanks for everything you’ve done for climbing and training for this beautiful sport–you’ve certainly been a huge inspiration to me!

I’m UK based and started climbing just under 3 years ago. Most of my climbing friends aren’t as keen on pushing their climbing as I am and so I find myself spending a lot of time wondering where I should put my training efforts. The self-assessment in Training for Climbing was an interesting start; but I am curious to know if you have any other recommendations or know of any existing material that I could leverage to gain a deeper assessment? Michael –United Kingdom

Hello Michael, Thanks for the kind note–I appreciate your comments and I like your passion and energy! First, finding a coach to work with you in person is the best solution–it’s really tough for me to work with people remotely, so I encourage you to look around for a coach you might travel to visit once per month (or season). If that’s not an option, then I bet you can become an effective self-coach—that is studying deeply (my books and others) and trying to apply the training techniques effectively. No doubt you can continue to improve for many years to come as long as you stay motivated, continually self-assess and correct course on your training, make your training progressive year-over-year, and stay injury free. Hope this helps! Let me know when you break into the next grade! Best, Eric

Eric, what is your opinion on complex training as a part of general fitness training as it relates to climbing?
I understand that at my level (5.9+), climbing more would most likely be the best training. However, winter provides fewer climbing opportunities and the nearest climbing gym is 100 miles away. I do have a small home wall in the corner of the garage, but quite frankly, it’s not the best. I am simply looking for methodologies to incorporate into my general fitness routines that would have carryover to the rock. –Jeff Sanders (Tennessee)

Hi Jeff, I’m not exactly sure what you’re considering “complex training”—as applied in my books, a “complex” involves marrying a difficult hangboard set with a campus board set…which is NOT really appropriate for you yet, given your experience. As you point out, actual climbing time is where the money is at for you. But given your situation, there’s obviously a need and benefit to staying active and building strength and conditioning between gym visits. While doing some running, core exercises, and push muscle (antagonist) training each week would be a great thing to do, the most effective training for directly improving your climbing would be 3 days per week of pull-up training (with weight added, if you can do more than 8 – 10 pull-ups per set) and a limited amount of fingerboard training (i.e. hanging on ¾” – 1” edges for 10 seconds at a time, followed by at least a minute or two of rest). There are several protocols outlined in my new 3rd edition of Training For Climbing that you can apply to get stronger this winter. Do all of the above (including the running and antagonist exercises) and I’m sure you’ll be climbing much harder in the Spring!