Round 41

Q: I have been improving steadily (sometimes slowly) over the last three years, and I would like to start more advanced training. I have read Training for Climbing and I would like to start using HIT strips, but don’t have access to a gym with HIT strips or body weights, and I don’t think I am ready for the campus board yet. Can you suggest some simple and cheap training exercises to continue improving and working towards HIT/campus training? The local gym has a hang board, pull up bar, campus board, and all types of climbing, but no weights. Thanks. – Jared (North Carolina)

A: Sure, Jared, there’s lots you can do to ramp up your training without a HIT wall. First, begin training with Uneven Grip Pull-ups as described in my book–these are excellent for developing one-arm power. For lock-off strength and endurance, do Frenchies. Also, if you buy a 10 or 20 lb weight belt, start training your pull-ups with the weight belt on and beginning doing some moderate indoor bouldering with the 10 lb belt on. The bottom line: at some point, further strength gains require that you begin climbing/training with more than body weight. You can only get so strong handling your own weight, therefore invest in a good 10 lb weight belt…it’ll make a huge difference!

Q: Hi Eric, I am looking for your expert advice how to advance from my current level (5.11a/b on well-protected leads or TR) up to the 5.12 level. I have been climbing for 4 years, the last two years outdoor (mostly trad). Am I at the point where I need a more structured training program? – Michal (California)

A: Hi Michael, That’s a tough question for me to answer without actually seeing you climb. Yes, most people do benefit from beginning a more targeted training program upon reaching the 5.11 level. Still, most people are largely held back by mental and technique constraints. Consider engaging a local climbing to help you uncover subtle mental and technical flaws in your game.

The bottom line: You are climbing great for only 4 years, and remember that climbing is an experience sport. So, keep climbing and traveling as much as possible, and get on as many different rock types as possible. If you struggle on a route or it feels awkward, take that as a sign that it’s a climb you SHOULD be on to learn new skills and techniques. Keep on keeping on, and 5.12 will soon be yours!

Q: How do I avoid overtraining? Could using a fingerboard as a staple of training cause overtraining? – Case (Florida)

A: Hello Case, Great questions. First, doing ANY type of highly specific training repeatedly (fingerboard or whatever) can lead to overtraining and injury. Varying your workout every few days or weeks is an important principle of effective training. My book, Training for Climbing, provides a detailed overview of the science of effective training. Since you are relatively new to climbing, the most important type of training is to CLIMB 2 to 4 days per week. You can supplement with some pull-ups and mild fingerboard training, but I always advise new climbers to focus mainly on climbing. Developing technique and mental skills (learning to relax and move efficiently) will make you feel stronger on the rock FASTER than actual strength training will!

Q: Dear Eric, I’m 41 years old, and I like all types of climbing. I’ve read all the books, yet my problem is that I cannot put the theory to work. Rarely do I climb relaxed–usually I’m anxious, scared of falling, and hurry up to the belay. Is it my age? What’s more, it is very difficult for me to read sequences. Do you advise to work a route until done correctly, or try different routes every time? One more question: My boy is 6 years old and he likes climbing with me. Is he old enough to train on the indoor wall or he may be injured on his hands? Thank you for your time. – Nikos (Greece)

A: Hi Nikos, We are about the same age, and I have two boys (age 5 and 7) who are learning to climb. Climbing on the home wall is fine for the kids–but they should not do fingerboard, campus, etc. which can injury them. Climbing is a great family endeavor!

As for your situation, I think you just need to continue to climb outside as often as possible and gradually you will gain more comfort on the rock and learn to relax and fall safely. I suggest two approaches: 1. Pick one route near your limit and practice it over and over to the point of smooth perfect movement. Let yourself take safe falls, hang, etc. as part of the process. However, you don’t want to use this approach all the time. 2.) More often, you should lead climb routes a couple grades below your maximum….routes you can mostly onsight and mostly climb without falling. Practice “reading” the climb from the ground, then go up and ascend the route and see how well you read it. Sending a LOT of routes like this is much more important than projecting very hard climbs. I suggest spending 80% of the time with approach #2 and only 20% of time (or less) projecting hard routes.

Keep following my articles and listening to the training podcasts on Good luck my friend!

Q: What’s the best way to partake in weighted bouldering? It seems that adding weight will affect technique—how much is acceptable? Should I focus on less technical routes? – Chris (Norway)

A: Chris, You are right on about the weight. Only do it on an overhanging indoor wall with decent, comfy holds and nontechnical sequences. Use a 5 to 10kg (10 to 20 lbs) weight belt (not a vest!) since you want the weight near your center of gravity. I suggest setting a few steep, hard boulder problems specifically for climbing with weight on. Then you can send each of these problems a few times during your max strength workouts. Cycle on and off of this training method every few weeks.