Round 63

Q: Hi Eric, I climb 3 to 4 days a week with each session lasting up to 4 hours. Often I will go on a bike ride or hike after my session. I am wondering if it is good or bad to do a medium-intensity cardio session after a hard climbing workout? –Daniel (New York)

A: A significant aerobic session, so soon after a hard climbing session, is likely counterproductive. The goal in the 12 to 24 hours following a hard climbing session is to direct a speedy recovery process (good nutrition, massage/stretching, sleep, etc), and a major aerobic session will hamper this recovery. A modest light to moderate aerobic session, however, can actually help speed recovery—-such active recovery has been shown to encourage recovery after intense workouts. Something like going on a 30-minute moderate bike ride, 45-minute hike, or light 10- to 15-minute run would likely be helpful. Anything more intense or of longer duration would probably have a counterproductive effect.

Q: Dear Eric, I was wondering what is the best way to improve footwork? –Jay (Australia)

A: Hi Jay, You can best improve footwork with dedicated practice sessions during which you think and focus more about your footwork, than your hand holds and the need to succeed on a climb. The goal is to see your foot engage each hold in vivid detail and then to really feel the quality of the placement and your center of gravity over your feet. Here’s a link to a recent TC article on how to do this:

Q: Hi Eric, I have not been able to find any information about the techniques for speed climbing and how to prepare for speed climbing competitions. Can you please suggest any web resources or books? – Enrico (Utah)

A: Hello Enrico, Check out Hans Florine’s book Speed Climbing and the website at Hans has literally written the book on Speed Climbing. He’s the record holder of the fastest ascent of The Nose of El Capitan and a speed climbing competition champion.

Q: Hi Eric, I have to pass a climbtest to enter a course for climbingleaders here in Belgium. I have to climb 6B on-sight. My current ability is only 6b redpoint, however. Do you have some suggestions for my preparation? What I am sure of is that it’s good for me to sharpen my weight and therefore I run 3x/week for 20 to 40 minutes. Is this a good approach? What else do you advise? By the way, thanks for your great books—-I own them all! –Filip (Belgium)

A: Hi Filip, Your training plan sounds okay, physically, since less weight equals more efficienct use of your energy reserves. Of course, climbing with poise and confidence can make an even bigger difference, so I’d encourage you to climb as much as possible between now and then; 3 or 4 days per week, if possible. Feeling at home on the rock and confident steeping up to 6B is important to successfully onsight climbing. Good luck, and let me know how it goes, my friend!

Q: I’m very interested in doing some weighted hangs for maximal finger strength and I’m hoping you can clarify a few things for me: (1) Rest days – It’s my understanding that I should do two of these hang sessions per week, and I’m wondering how to fit this around my normal bouldering and climbing days which are usually every second day with rest day in between. If I do the hangs after a normal bouldering session then I’m not at all fresh, but if I do them on the days in between I’ll be back bouldering or climbing the following day, in which case the muscles won’t get a rest. What to do? (2) Will “repeaters” increase both maximal recruitment and muscle size? –Dave (New Zealand)

A: Hi Dave, Rest days are sacred, so you must keep at least three of these per week. Therefore, if you are bouldering/climbing regularly, then you have no choice but to do supplemental fingerboard training at the end of bouldering/climbing sessions. This should never be done in a state of extreme fatigue, since the injury risk is greater than the reward. But if you end a session with some gas still in the tank, then you can do a few sets on the fingerboard or campus board. Many people who do extensive fingerboard training do so because they do not have access to good boulders or a good gym for regularly climbing. In your case, however, view the board as more of a supplement exercise to target specific weaknesses (for example, lock off strength or open hand grip strength).

Brief heavy repeaters (or brief one-handed hangs with no weight) are great for developing maximum grip strength. If you are climbing a lot, then you don’t really need the fingerboard to train muscular endurance; so focus on the recruitment exercises (campusing) and high-load exercises (weighted hangs, one-arm hangs, heavy finger rolls with an Olympic bar, etc). BTW, if/when you ever feel surprising weak during a climbing session, that’s a sign you are edging into overtraining (training too much with too little rest). Take a couple extra rest days, before resuming your training.