Round 62

Q: Hi Eric, Is there any truth to the statement that a flash pump will decrease flexor function by up to 20% for as long as 24 hours? What’s the physiological explanation for why a flash pump occurs and why it should be avoided? –Jim (Arizona)

A: Jim, I’ve seen no empirical evidence to support the “20 percent decrease for 24 hours” statement. That said, a flash pump is best avoided, if you want to climb your best. Physiologically, a flash pump occurs when a climber does not warm-up properly–instead of incrementally increasing exercise (climbing) intensity over some time period (say, twenty minutes to an hour), the climber jumps on something very physical out of the shoot and gets that RAPID deep pump (the “flash”). The flash pump occurs because the capillaries are still in a “resting” constricted state (many precapillary sphincters are closed), yet heart rate and blood pressure increase rapidly and cause a sort of traffic jam. There may also be some biochemical factors at play that I’m ignorant of.

Personally, I like to do cross fiber friction massage on my forearms as part of the warm-up process–this has been shown to produce hyperemia (thus warming tissues and increasing blood flow gradually, in part, due to dilation of precapillary sphincters). So performing a combination of submaximal climbing, massage, and stretching will help you avoid the dreaded flash pump and, hopefully, climb your very best!

Q: Hi Eric, I’m working on losing the “last 20 pounds” (so hard!), and I sense that this is the reason I am lagging in climbing ability. I am realistic and at my age realize my limitations; ultimately, I climb for fun, fitness, and to get outside. Can you recommend something to help a 38 y/o female with 3 years experience, who wants to be a solid 5.10ish climber? –Rosie (Florida)

A: Good to hear from you Rosie. You can certainly achieve your stated goals (and some!), given a smart, focused approach to training/climbing. Yes, dropping some of those extra pounds can only help you out on the rock. So refining your diet and doing regular aerobic activity (at least 4 days per week) is key. But also, as a climber of only 3 years, you have massive potential to improve your climbing skills, tactics, movement, and mental skills. Really, it’s these areas that hold the keys to 5.10 and beyond. I’ve seen plenty of people carrying “extra weight” dance up 5.10 and 5.11 thanks to their high skill levels. So place an equal focus on climbing 3 or 4 days per week–outside as often as possible–in order to develop those subtle skills of technique and the mind. My book, Training for Climbing, will be a good guide in these areas. Let me know how it goes!

Q: Hi Eric, I’m kind of a training junkie and I can now do 15 consecutive pull-ups with a 15 pound backpack. However, I’ve been at this plateau for more than a month. Am I overtraining? Should I take one week rest or what? Any suggestions for initial training loads and workout schedules would be much appreciated! –King (China)

A: Hello King, Doing pull-up workouts 3 times per week is good, however, it’s even more important to climb 3 days per week! Is this possible? If you can do 15 pull-ups with a pack on, then you are strong enough to climb 5.12! So, please don’t obsess on training too much–instead work on developing your climbing technique and mental skills. My book, Training for Climbing, can give you guidance on all these areas. You would also benefit from doing some push-muscle and core training to help maintain muscle balance and avoid injury. I hope this helps; good luck!

Q: What foods should I avoid that might hamper my performance? Also, what is the best way to aid recovery after a session at the gym? –Chris (UK)

A: Hi Chris, There’s a lot to this subject—more than I can cover in this forum—as sports nutrition can make a significant difference in performance, especially if you are doing everything else right (training wise). I’ve written extensively on the subjects of nutrition and accelerating recovery–check out my books! A few quick tips to begin applying today: drink lots of water, consume a pint or two of sports drink (not beer!) immediately after your workout, and consume a dose of quality protein (and a meal) within two hours after the serious workout. Do all these things and you will speed recovery, and make the most of your training investment. Things to avoid: fried foods, highly processed foods, high-fat foods, prepackaged snacks (junk) foods, and anything loaded with white flour and/or white sugar. The goal is to eat clean, so that your body runs clean!

Q: Eric, I’ve had great success with the 3-2-1 cycle that you recommended. I had a quick question regarding muscular-endurance training. Is it possible to add a session of endurance training (one per week) during the max strength/power phase of the cycle, or will this be counterproductive? –Brad (Tennessee)

A: Hi Brad, You’ll have to feel that one out–it will largely depend on the severity of the sessions, how fast your recover (genetics, sleep habits, and such), the quality of your nutrition, etc. What you might consider is occasionally doubling up endurance workouts on back-to-back days….I sometimes do this on a Tuesday-Wednesday schedule, then rest Thursday-Friday, before climbing outside Saturday and Sunday. Overall, however, in doing the 3-2-1 cycle I do think it’s best to segregate endurance workouts and strength/power workouts in separate phases. I hope this helps! Send away!!