Ask Eric – Round 165

I’m reading your book, Training For Climbing, and I am currently working on increasing climbing-specific aerobic fitness. I was wondering if this energy system could be trained multiple days in a row at the 7 to 8.5 out of 10 pump/effort level?  –Connor (Missouri)

Hi Connor, It depends on the climbing/training intensity. If you’re doing true Threshold intervals (~8 to 8.5 out of 10 with light/moderate pump) then you do NOT want to do this on back to back days. However, you could do a Threshold and much lower intensity ARC (~6 out of 10 effort with little or no pump) on back to back days. Not sure how hard you climb (and years of training), but for advanced climbers with many years of training under their belt…there’s less to be gained for doing a lot of ARC (largely a waste of time for elites). Doing shorter high-intensity intervals (much like 4x4s bouldering protocol) is very effective for topping off oxidative flux for elite forearms and developing high total power output.

Hi Eric, My question has two parts. First, what is the best recommended protocol that you have seen in the research for increasing flexibility? Second, is it possible that older climbers can increase their flexibility? –Larry (Oman)

Hi Larry, Genetics definitely set some limits on flexibility…and this can be compounded by years of avoiding inflexibility/mobility work. That said, some modest gains are possible–and certainly beneficial! Not just for optimal shoulder mobility, but also for the chest, lower back, hip flexors, and hamstrings–all commonly tight among climbers, especially older career guys who spend a lot of time sitting. As for protocols/science…dynamic/active stretching is best before a workout (movements, including easy climbing, that warm and stretch the muscles through an active range of motion), whereas mild static stretching is best limited to post-workout or in the evening before bed (when the muscles have been mobilized/warmed throughout the day). More details available in my TFC book.

Dear Eric, In your exercise book you don’t talk much about exercises for endurance of pulling muscles but you include this kind of exercise in the program for skill and stamina for accomplished climbers. What do you mean? Thanks in advance Riccardo

Hi Riccardo, For the larger pulling muscles the important goal is “strength endurance” rather than aerobic endurance. While the latter will be developed by climbing for mileage, the strength endurance is best done with interval training…for example, pull-up intervals, Frenchies, and also 4×4 bouldering. Any and all of these are excellent to include in your program. Happy training!

Dear Mr. Hörst, My girlfriend and I are huge fans of your books! With the given background information and exercises we were able to improve our climbing skills a lot. Especially your book Training for Climbing is our basis for every training session. Unfortunately, my girlfriend broke her middle finger and will undergo surgery next Tuesday. It seems that her chances of recovery are pretty good, but it will take quite a lot of time until it is completely healed (4+ month). Right now she is afraid of losing most of her technical skills, power and maximum strength. Are there any guiding principles that would help her to minimize the impact of the injury? Particularly in terms of Do’s and Don’ts and specific exercises? –Benedikt

Hello Benedikt! I hope your GF is doing better! Finger injuries are indeed frustrating for passionate climbers, but it’s important to let the healing process play out and not do any exercises to slow healing. Doing aerobic activity (running, rowing are best) is good to maintain body comp and to keep heart and circulatory system strong (important). She can also do lots of core exercise work, flexibility training, and some one-arm push and pull exercises…and perhaps some two-arm exercises like push-ups? Perhaps she can also do some one-hand hangboard training with webbing looped around the wrist of the injured hand (to help regulate weight in a way that doesn’t hurt the finger). I suggest no climbing at all, until the doctor approves. Trust that climbing skills will return VERY quickly! Best Regards, Eric

Hi Eric, I’m writing to you today because I started climbing (indoor bouldering) this time last year and immediately fell in love. It’s now my favorite sport, and so I really want to push myself as far as I can with it and hit some very high grades. So after my first year climbing (2-4 times a week consistently) my strengths and weaknesses are becoming clearer to me, I have good technique and finger strength, yet my biggest weakness (and I’ve known this since day 1) is my weight (100kg). My grades have been increasing (I’m sending V6-V7 projects occasionally), but I know I’m going to hit a wall soon and that the only way to break through it is to lose weight. I easily have a good 20kg of fat alone to lose. Could you point me in the right direction diet/nutrition-wise as I’d like to continue to climb 2-4 times a week and not be completely drained at work. –Anthony (United Kingdom)

Hello Anthony! Sounds like you have a good self-awareness, and I’m happy to hear your technique is a strong point—important! As a strength-to-weight ratio sport, you are exactly right about fat loss—dropping 10 to 20 KG will make a massive difference on the rock, especially on climbs that are past vertical. Training For Climbing has a full chapter on nutrition…but it’s pretty simple in concept—you need to reduce consumption of calorie dense foods (fried foods, buttery foods, refined carbs, alcohol, and dense sugary dessert foods). You can have occasional small portions of these, but you should reduce these foods by 80%. Of course, some aerobic exercise is very helpful too—try to do something aerobic for 30 minutes 3 or 4 days per week (running and rowing are best options for climbers). Hope this helps—let me know how it goes!