Round 54

Q: I’ve been doing body weight training for years, and I can do a pull-ups with 30lbs added. After reading Training for Climbing, I’ve added some endurance exercises (which I never used to do). What’s my best training mix now? –Andrew (New York)

A: Hi Andrew, Good job on adding the endurance exercises. It really is best to cycle back and forth between max strength/power and endurance exercises every couple of weeks. So, continue doing hard bouldering and weighted exercises (pull-ups, etc.) for a couple weeks, then switch your focus to endurance exercise and roped climbing for a couple weeks. Cycle back and forth like this and try to integrate climbing outside as much as possible…and you will continue to improve for many years to come!

Q: Nine months ago, I climbed at a gym. I suffered from a pulley injury that was as persistent as I was. Now I’m back to what I love, and I’m very aware that my injury is back as well. I was wondering if you had any more extensive advice considering my situation. Also, are there any supplements that might help my situation? –Case (Florida)

A: Hi Case, Your problem is common among enthusiastic new climbers. It’s a fact that muscles get stronger faster than tendons, so tendon injuries are common, especially in people focused on gym climbing and pushing hard right out of the shoot.

The bottom line: there is no miracle cure. You need to rest until you are painfree, then gradually return to climbing. Taping the A2 pulley may be of some benefit. As for supplements, fish oil (omega-3) is a good natural anti-inflammatory, and better than ibuprofen (which may actually weaken tendons!). Of course, warming up before climbing is important to warm the tendons and reduce injury risk. My book Training for Climbing as an extended section on this subject.

Q: I’m currently a graduate student, so I spend most of my climbing time at my local Gym, with an occasional weekend trip for outdoor climbing. I’ve focused most of my time bouldering, and I currently work on V4 routes that are more technical and need more finger strength than pulling strength. I’ve been working on my pulling strength the last month and have increased my pull-ups I can do for my first set from 2 to 6, but don’t fare well on successive sets, so this is an area I feel is important to work on. I’ve recently looked to work more on toproping and lead climbing, and have found how awful my endurance is past the length of a bouldering route. Would it be effective to work your 4-3-2-1 training program, and then work sets of pull-ups etc at the end of my climbing workout, or would this defeat the purpose of the cycle? –Brain (North Carolina)

A: Brian, Forget about a specific training cycle at this point–being relatively new to climbing, you simply need to climb 3 to 4 days per week, and conclude each indoor climbing session with 3 to 5 sets of pull-ups. You are right, you need to work on endurance, and this comes from climbing routes on a rope! Do 3 to 5 sets of pull-ups, with only 3 minutes rest between sets, at the end of each workout. When you do these, makes sure you always do at least 5 reps per set–if you can’t, then have a spotter lift you around your waist to help you up, then lower down slowly. Alternatively, you can step up on a chair or jump to the top position and lower slowly through the down phase of the pull-up–this is a great exercise that will make you much stronger very fast! The key is doing this at least twice per week. Finally, climbing outside on rock is the only way to get really skilled, so get out whenever you can. Then look into a more serious training program next winter!

Q: Hi Eric, I am 37, years old, and I have been climbing for 16 years. Six years ago I was climbing the hardest I have ever climbed (5.12), but right now I am lucky to get out on the rocks once a month. Since then I have married and started a large family, so I have much less time to climb outside and train, for that matter. I’m a bit frustrated that I lost so much, and I guess I need some ideas to get started on my way back using my home wall for training. –Chris (Arizona)

A: Hello Chris, I can somewhat relate to your schedule, since my time has become even more tight since starting a family 8 years ago. Having an overhanging home wall is key! You can get in a good workout in about an hour with no travel time to crag or gym. Most important for getting back into shape is to get in a minimum 2, ideally 3, wall workouts per week. It’s also important to get in some running time 3 to 5 days per week, since this is essential to drop weight. Initially I suggest you climb only on the larger holds on the wall (buy more if you don’t have enough) so that you can move around the wall for 2 minutes at a time. You goal is to climb 2 minutes, rest 3 minutes, climb 2 minutes, rest 3 min, etc. Start by doing 5 such intervals, which will only take 25 minutes. Use an egg timer to time your intervals exactly. Don’t worry about doing hard moves–the goal is to move around the wall and develop endurance in the climbing muscles. After two months, reduce the rest time to 2 minutes between wall burns. Then eventually increase the climbing interval to 3 minutes. This keeps it progressive. This fall or winter, you can start adding some harder bouldering to your climbing workout; beginning this phase of your program should coincide with regaining your ideal climbing weight. Of course, try to get out climbing on real rock as often as possible–this will keep you psyched to keep training and serve as a great mental recharge for the rest of your life! So, there’s a primer. Please check out my new book Conditioning for Climbers for many more training ideas!

Q: Hi Eric, Thank you for writing your books. I almost never fall off climbs because I am pumped; more common is that I just cannot hold to small holds. Therefore, I think that my finger strength is holding me back and not my local forearm endurance. Can I train finger strength exclusively, or should I continue to cycle between strength and endurance? –Ryan (The Netherlands)

A: Ryan, Your self-assessment is important; given your comments, you could begin to train only max strength and power for the next few months, and see if that gives you good results. Most important is to begin some Hypergravity Training, that is bouldering and doing pull-ups with 5 to 10 kilos around your waist. I have a few articles on this on the website and in my books. Also, you should begin some power training with Campus Touches and Laddering. Do both in the same workouts, Hypergravity training first, power second. Do these twice per week in addition to climbing outside 2 days per week. Be careful not to over train.