Round 49

Q: Eric, I have to thank you for all your hard work in bringing this knowledge to us. My question relates to an alternative training program used by a few climbers like Mark Twight and Steve House. It’s called CrossFit. Is this a good training program for an aspiring 5.12 rock climber? –Jordan (British Columbia)

A: Hey Jordan, Thanks for the kind remarks. Yes, I know of CrossFit…and, actually, I think Twight is now off the CrossFit bandwagon. If you are a serious rock climber then you too should not be using the CrossFit program. Rock climbers need a program that’s very specific to climbing and your personal weaknesses on the rock (strength, power, AE, technique, mental, whatever). CrossFit is a great (and grueling) general training program, but it is hardly specific to rock climbing. This complex and comprehensive workout strategy targets large muscles and multi-joint movements building strength, power, and muscular endurance; CrossFit also improves aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Thus, it would be a pretty good program for an alpine climber like Steve House, or anyone wanting to improve “total fitness”. But, again, for a serious rock climber it’s the wrong program (except perhaps as an off-season general conditioning program that you do for a couple of months).

Q: Hi Eric, First of all I want to thank you for being such a great resource for those of us who want to train. My question is this: I have a pair of pump rocks and live in an apartment while I go to school…and since they’re very strict about holes in the walls here, I’ve found that the bar in the closet can more than support my weight. Unfortunately the bar is only about 4.5 feet off the ground, so my current set up is hanging from the pump rocks and putting my feet up on a chair in a supported L-sit position. I can strap on an extra 20 lbs to try and compensate; but is there anything else I can do or modify to improve my situation? –Sean (Colorado)

A: Hey Sean, thanks for the kind words. Man, I know your situation well–when I was at Penn State (a LONG time ago) the only thing I could rig in my dorm was 2 loops of webbing hanging from the ceiling (it was a concrete ceiling, so I “placed” 2 small 1.5-inch expansion bolts to support the slings!) from which I did finger hangs and one-arm pull-ups. This was the early 1980s, so fingerboards, pump rocks, and indoor walls didn’t exist! So, first consider that you are perhaps better off than I was in the days before plastic.

Anyway, your set up is creative and sounds pretty good to me. I can’t imagine what other set-up you can do…other than taking the Pump Rocks outside and hanging from a tree branch or swing set cross bar. Just resolve to put in a few sessions per week (visualize pumping warm rock while you are training in your apartment!) and supplement with some push-muscle training and abs work. Of course, get to a gym—or outside climbing—as often as possible, since that always beats the limited training you can do on pump rocks. Hope this helps out. Be strong, and good luck in school!

Q: Eric, I am going to be entering the Anaerobic Endurance Phase of the 3-2-1 cycle. I know Frenchies, Traversing, and Steep Wall Lock Offs are good for training AE, but can you give me a couple more exercises to use during this phase? -Ryan (Louisiana)

A: Hey Ryan, One of my favorite AE exercises is pull-up intervals–I typically do 10 sets of 12 pull-ups (you may do more or less per set), with about a 3 minute rest between these sets. Sometimes I will climb on my wall for 2 minutes, rest 1 minute, do one set of 12 pull-ups (your number of reps may be more/less), then rest 1 minute, then repeat the whole cycle again. Perform this cycle 10 times and it’s a wicker AE workout!

Q: Hello Eric, My husband Casey recently purchased your HIT training system. I am 51 years old and did not start climbing until into my forties so he thought it may be too difficult for me. I only climb mostly 10’s and have only redpointed two 11a’s. I was determined to work out with him to see if I was capable of getting stronger even at my age. The first HIT workout, I could only do 5 moves with the 1st & 2nd team pocket holds and 11-open hand moves. The crimps were a disaster! By the sixth workout I did 17 1st team moves and 25 open hand moves (with ten pounds added), and I nearly did 20 moves on the crimps grip! Maybe there is hope for an old girl like me? Thank you for creating such a good system. I am hoping to do a 12a one day! –Brenda (Canada)

A: Hi Brenda, Kudos to you! I appreciate the feedback. I have no doubt you can reach 5.12–keep training, but also work on the mental and technical gains. Us “older” climbers need to leverage all the wisdom and finesse we possess. Of course, getting stronger is great too. Just don’t get injured. I suggest you continue with mainly bodyweight work on the HIT system, except for the open hand (middle) hold. Train pull-ups and lock-offs for your large pull muscles–do this after your HIT workout. Finally, get plenty of rest and do the antagonist (push) muscle training–important for muscle balance and injury prevention.

Q: My partner says leading 9s is too easy for me, yet I don’t feel ready to lead 10s because I can only successfully TR a few. Should I be training at a redpoint level (10s) or onsight level (9s)? I’ve heard that the only way to get better is to try harder stuff. –Elli (Colorado)

A: Hi Elli, Yes, you do need to stretch the boundaries–both physical and mental–to grow and improve. However, people who are always hanging on hard routes (flailing) don’t benefit much. The best strategy is to spend about 20% of your climbing time on limit routes (for you, 5.10) and 80% consolidating the previous grade (5.9 in this case). Becoming super solid on 5.9 builds confidence and skills, whereas pushing the limit grows potential and stresses your system in favorable ways. But as in everything in life, it’s about finding the right balance…and I think 80% onsight and 20% project is the best approach for the mass of climbers (although elites can project more often).