Round 16

How often should I supplement climbing with strength training activities?

Q: I climb outside 3 to 4 days per week, and I am wondering how often I should supplement climbing outside climbing with the Pump Rocks exercises you’ve listed on the website? Also, what exercises can my girlfriend do with the pump rocks she can currently do only 1 pull-up? — Ben (Minneapolis, MN)

A: Hey Ben,
The fundamental rule of training for climbing (and climbing) is that you must not engage in strenuous activity more than 4 days per week. That’s total days training (pump rocks or gym) and climbing. So, if you climb outside 4 days per week, any pump rock or supplemental training should be done ON the climbing days (after you are done climbing). Your body really needs 3 days of good rest to recover–otherwise you risk injury and long-term overtraining. My book, Training for Climbing, gives good guidelines for creating an effective training schedule.

Here’s the Pump Rocks strategy for your girlfriend: Help her do 3 sets of 6 pull-ups per workout; that is, stand behind her and help her just enough (by lifting around her waist) to complete the 6 pull-ups. Only help her on the way up, and encourage her to lower as slow as possible between reps. This is highly effective, and I’m sure she’ll be able to do 6 pull-ups (or more!) on her own in a few months!

How can I improve my poor footwork?

Q: I have strong fingers, but I do not have a good footwork. My hardest climb is a 5.12a. What can I do to improve? -Sven (Croatia)

A: Hello Sven!
Your situation is common….maybe people climb with their hands and tend to ignore their feet. You need to make a consistent, focused effort to concentrate and FEEL your feet while climbing. One excellent drill is to practice DOWNCLIMBING routes. Whether on toprope or lead a sport route, attempt to downclimb as much of the route as possible. This will force to you focus on your feet and improve your body positioning and use of footholds. Follow this link for more tips on improving footwork in the Training Center

What’s the best way to rehab sore finger joints?

Q: What is the best way to rehab sore finger joints? After every training session the second knuckle (on most of my fingers) is sore for several days or more. – Brandon (Tempe, AZ)

A: Hey Brandon,
Everyone has a different tolerance to the stresses of climbing. Sounds like your fingers are acutely affected by the strain of climbing. It’s hard to say exactly what your problem is–but if it’s joint and NOT tendon pain, then you should be able to climb through the discomfort without serious side effects. (If it’s a tendon problem, however, you should stop climbing until it’s ` healed.) Over the counter pain medication like Advil will suppress the pain, but not improve the condition. The supplement Glucosamine, taken religiously long term, does show promise for somewhat improving joint health. So, you might want to make a three-month investment into taking this supplement…and decide whether it’s worth the $$. Check out for great pricing on this supplement. A 180 caps bottle (lasts 60 days) cost about $30. That’s the best pricing you’ll find

How can I best juggling climbing and running (to lose weight)?

Q: I’m an avid boulderer and I’d like to lose some weight in order to help improve my climbing. What is the best way to juggle climbing and running without getting too fatigued overall? -Joseph (St. Paul, MN)

A: Great question, Joseph! Yes, running and climbing a lot can generate significant systemic fatigue that will eventually run you down (especially if dieting to lose weight). You are definitely on the right track as far as running to lower body weight, but you’ll need to play around with the schedule a little to see what works best for you. First of all, I would advise you make climbing 3 days per week paramount-you need to keep learning the technique and developing specific strength. So, the question is how to best fit your running around this schedule. My suggestion would be to run in the mornings of your gym climbing days, but not before cragging. If you gym climb, Tuesday/Thursday, then try to get in a run before breakfast (or over lunch); be sure to eat small meals throughout the day so you have energy to climb in the evening (assuming that’s your MO). If you climb outside on weekends, then make sure Friday is a complete rest day. Similarly, Monday is best kept a complete rest day if you climb back-to-back on weekend days. So, you might end up running Tuesday AM, Wednesday PM, Thursday AM…or run one day over the weekend and not run on Wednesday. Hope this helps you out!

What’s the best training schedule to avoid overtraining and further injuries?

Q: Hello Eric, I bought your book,Training for Climbing, and am delighted by all of the information you give in it. I have been climbing about five years but only seriously trying to get stronger/more skilled for about three years. Since then I have seen great strength/skill gains and then it seems inevitably that something will happen that will keep me from climbing. The two latest such occurrences have been getting Mono (which gave me chronic fatigue) and pulley injuries. Anyway, do you think it would be better for me to climb at a high intensity for two to three hours a day, three to four days a week? Or to climb for an extended period on a given day and take more rest days in between climbing sessions? Which method will cause the greatest strength gains in the shortest amount of time? — David

A: David, You’ve provided a great analysis of a common problem: overtraining. Fortunately, it sounds like you have come to understand your problem, and I trust you will successfully overcome your injuries given some adjustment to your training schedule. Every climber has a different tolerance to training volume and intensity. Yours may very well be greater than the average person, however, your pulley injuries and Mono show that you’ve crossed the line (into the dark side!).

First, make it a priority to get your fingers healthy. This may require some time away from climbing depending how serious they are (a call you’ll need to make). Upon returning to gym training, I feel that 2 hours of intense climbing/boulder is more than enough training stimulus–any more digs too deep a hole to recover from and risks injury. Another option would be to consider just doing one 3 hour session on Wednesday’s…then climb on the weekend. This way you could take complete rest MON and FRI, maybe do some running and antagonist training on TUE and THUR. It’s something you’ll need to feel out, but I sense you have good self-awareness and you’ll find the right path.