Ask Eric – Round 159

Hello Eric, First, I thank you for your articles and podcasts! Here’s my situation: I train throughout the winter in the gym, in order to hit the road and climb my best for 8 months. The problem is that I lose a lot of power along the season, which is quite understandable, but frustrating. My question: what can I do on the road to maintain my power and strength? Should I do some supplemental hangboard training? –Levy (Canada)

Hello Levy, Most climbers do begin to lose max strength and power after just 3 or 4 weeks of roadtrip climbing. As a result, some pros limit trip length to about 4 weeks, then go home to train another cycle before traveling again. If you’re going on the road for many months, however, then I like your idea of a (brief) hangboard session once per week—and, if possible, just a bit of campusing to fully recruit the nervous system. Doing this once per week should keep your high-end power and strength up, as long as there’s enough recovery time. Integrating this with your climbing days is the tricky part, and it will likely require taking an extra rest day. So you would climb 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on (with brief fingerboard/campus at end of this day 2), then rest 2 full days. This could work very well for you! (But if you’re older like me….it might take 3 rest days after the workout day to get back to 100%). Of course, acute self-awareness is key to get the scheduling right for optimal results. (Using HRV technology to monitor your nervous system could be hugely helpful.) Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Dear Eric, I have strained the DIP joint in my right middle finger by pulling on a crimp too hard, most likely causing it to hyper extend. I can climb open handed just fine, but as soon as I full crimp anything I feel pain. I can also feel the tendon and muscles running down my finger are sore when I apply pressure to them with my other fingers (but not necessarily while climbing). With the outdoor climbing season underway, I’m desperately looking to fix this issue. Do you have any advice for how I can speed up the healing process? –Derek

Hi Derek, Any type of connective tissue finger injury takes time—there’s really no way to shortcut the healing process. While some activity (mobility and strength exercise) can be good for healing, excessive strain like crimping hard likely slows the process…and perhaps risks further injury. “Climbing through” a painful finger injury usually results in a long drawn-out affair, whereas taking a few weeks off from serious climbing and doing rehab movements and general conditioning might get you back to pulling hard in a month or so. So, unfortunately, there is no quick fix—just try to be patient and err on the side of going easy on it the next few weeks so as to avoid injuring it worse.

Hi Eric, I’ve never followed an actual training structure for sport climbing but have just bouldered inside as my training. Long story short, I don’t have the best bouldering gym available right now, and so I am looking for some guidance on supplemental training. Do your training books provide a macrocycle with details? I just started your 7 on/53 off hangboard regime, but I’m feeling a bit lost on how to structure my training in the long-term. Any advice? Thank you for your help! –Ash

Hi Ash! Yes, the 7/53 protocol is great for intermediate to advanced climbers! Of course, you must cycle your training, as you have aptly acknowledged. In the case of intensive hangboard training you should change things up after 3 to 6 weeks (at most). The new 3rd edition of Training for Climbing does provide lots of high-value info you can employ. Also, I’ve posted some free programs (including meso- and macrocycles templates) on my site, here: http://trainingforclimbing.com/training-programs/. I hope you find this resource useful in guiding your training and reaching your climbing goals. Happy training!

Hi Eric, A friend of mine recently started climbing, but his main hobby is weight lifting. While possessing good general strength, he obviously lacks the movement skills and finger strength. Despite being relatively new to climbing, do you think that a weight lifter is less prone to finger injury because of the previous years of lifting (i.e. deadlifting a 100 kilo requires good grip and tendon strength). Might he be okay to do some hangboard training? –Bastian

Many years of deadlifting will make the finger tendons somewhat stronger, though not in the exact same way as climbing does (due to difference in grip). Of course, excessive weight lifting (heavy and high volume) will make one bulky and too heavy to climb their best; therefore, I believe serious climbers should limit weight lifting to brief sets of a few key lifts (to train the nervous system, but NOT hypertrophy). Anyway, newbie climbers should climb 2 to 4 days per week for the first year or two as their primary method of finger training. Given pain-free/injury-free fingers, a climber of two to three years’ experience can begin to dabble with some body weight hangboard training and feet-on campus training. However, it’s best to hold off on beginning an extensive hangboard and campus board training program until after three years of experience—thus, giving the finger tendons plenty of time to adjust to the unique stresses of climbing. Hope this helps; have fun!