Round 23

Is it better to train Fingerboard Repeaters with straight or bent arms?

Q: Is it better to train Fingerboard Repeaters with straight or bent arms? – Josh (Lancaster, PA)

A: A good question, Josh. It’s best to train on fingerboards with straight arms when working grip strength; however, doing pull-ups on a variety of holds is a good change-up even few sessions. One thing you’ll notice is that your grip strength changes with the arm angle, and it’s likely your grip is weakest when your arm is straight. Given that you usually grab a hold (when climbing or lunging) with full arm extension, it’s most important to develop good contact strength at full extension. So, yes, favor straight-arm training on the fingerboard.

How can I best train to break through a plateau?

Q: My climbing ability has been at a plateau for two years. What can I do to train more effectively? — John (Holland)

A: Hello John, Breaking through the plateau will require that you reinvent your training and climbing MO. There are many areas to work on-technique, mental skills, strength, and endurance-but it’s impossible for my to direct you without knowing more about your strengths and weaknesses. This is where a climbing coach is invaluable; possibly you can find one at a local climbing gym. Trust me, you can and WILL climb much harder, given an intelligent approach. My book, Training for Climbing, would also be a good training resource to tap in to. And, of course, keep visiting the NICROS Training Center for new articles and Podcasts!

What’s the best way to prevent skin rips?

Q: I have been climbing for a few months, and I keep tearing the skin off of my hands. I have some pretty decent calluses, however, I keep tearing them up. What’s the best way to manage my skin? -David (Alexandria, VA)

A: Hi David, While some light callusing of the skin can be protective, thick visible calluses are bad and will CAUSE skin tears! If you climb regularly (2 or 3 days per week) you need to be proactive in sanding down your calluses and moisturizing your skin–this is the best way to prevent severe callusing and skin tears. It’s important to recognize that dry skin is more likely to tear and, of course, chalk dries out the skin! Make it a habit to wash the chalk off and moisturize your skin immediately after every climbing session. On rest days, use a small piece of 150-grit sandpaper to reduce the thickness of the callus points on your fingers and hands. Do these things and you will have less skin problems.

How to better climb overhangs and roofs?

Q: I started climbing about 2 years ago and, up until now, I have improved quite a bit. My greatest difficulties involve climbing overhangs–I tend to leave my legs hanging and rely on my hands too much. I realize that I need to do something more with my feet. Any suggestions? Thanks a mil! -Eric (Malaysia)

A: Hello Eric, You are exactly right about the importance of feet on climbing overhangs–the feet should work like hands in hooking on holds with your toes and heel. It’s a technique you can practice best in a bouldering cave…watch other climbers and model how they work out roofs. With practice you’ll gain confidence and style, and find that roofs are more intimidating than they are hard. BTW, my new book, Learning To Climb, provides instruction on this and many other techniques. It should be available in April, check it out!

Is it a good idea to train “push” and “pull” muscles on the same day?

Q: Is it a good idea to incorporate push muscle exercises on same days as pull muscle routines? — Rob (Bangor)

A: Rob, It really depends on the volume of your pull-muscle workouts. If you are climbing for several hours or really hammering the Pull muscles, then I’d work the antagonist push muscles the following day. However, if you are just bouldering or gym climbing for a couple hours, then you could add in the Push muscles at the end of this sessions. Either way, it’s important that you do follow through with two push-muscle workouts per week-these are vital for maintaining muscles balance and preventing injuries.