Q: Hi Eric, We (a few friends and I ) have built ourselves a nice little bouldering wall and we have set ourselves the goal for the summer months to improve our footwork. Before beginning with strength exercises, I´d like to a really solid foot technique. What would be the best training strategy in order to achieve this goal? –Alex (Spain)
A: Hi Alex, I love hearing your desire to develop great footwork BEFORE training for maximum strength! Climbing outdoors is important, since indoor climbing on protruding plastic holds makes setting your feet much easier. Anyway, the best strategy for footwork training on your wall is to set boulder problems and traverses with sloper finger holds that require you to use your feet and turn your hips/torso to use the holds optimally. Steeper routes with larger hand holds should be climbed with the smallest footholds possible. So remember this: big handholds with small footholds or smallish sloper hands with larger feet, but requiring body turning, flagging, and hip positioning. Have fun!
Q: Hi Eric, thanks for all your great books and training articles! They’ve really become a staple in my personal training for climbing and allowed me to improve immensely. I’ve just recently begun to incorporate some light campus laddering into my training schedule now that I feel like my tendons can easily handle it. My question involves my grip position during the exercise. I’m aware that it’s ideal to have all four fingers on the rungs, yet it seems that I am only able to successfully complete the sets (6-12 reps) if I use the three-finger open-handed position. I do feel like I’m getting stronger this way and I’m not having any tendon or elbow issues, but I’m not sure if I should continue training like this, or if I should wait and focus on training the four-fingered half crimp position (via repeaters, etc)? Thanks in advance! –Christopher (Texas)
A: Hi Christopher, Thanks for your kind remarks. I think you current campus training method is fine. Really, it’s best to keep your fingers in a full open grip, which means the pinkie isn’t doing much. I think you should supplement this with some weighted hangboard training or weighted bouldering, and then eventually graduate to Complex Training (coupling campus and hypergravity training) as long as you don’t feel any problems developing.
Be sure to rest more than you think you need to, and cut back at the first sign of any tendon or elbow pain. Do daily stretching of both sides of your forearms (important!) and finish each climbing workout with some reverse wrist curls. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
Q: Hello Eric, I feel that I need more power and raw strength to climb harder, so I have decided to do some weight training (like for bodybuilding). What is my best approach, so as to maximize the benefits for climbing? –Ati (Iran)
A: Ati, A traditional bodybuilding weight-training program will be counterproductive for climbing, since it will cause you to bulk-up (and gain weight) in places that won’t benefit your climbing. The best power training for climbing is to do hard bouldering two days per week supplemented with some campus training, weighted pull-ups, weighted fingerboard hangs, and other climbing-specific exercises. I have written extensively on this in my books. Check them out!
Q: What are some good supplemental exercises that can be performed in a weight room to build overall strength. I am already planning on doing assisted pull ups with one arm, heavy finger rolls, seated rows, and some lever training, as well as the antagonist muscles. Are there any other exercises that you this would be beneficial? –Josh (Texas)
A: Hi Josh, The exercises you mention are all great. Of course, remember that climbing-specific exercise—and actually climbing time–is always the most important thing. Any supplemental weight training should be limited to a couple days per week. Keep the weights light on the antagonist exercises, lest you bulk up and hurt you climbing!
Q: I am a vegetarian and was wondering if eating this way is helping or hindering my climbing abilities? –David (Virginia)
A: Hi David, That’s a common question. First, let me say that it’s climbing skill, technique and the mental game that is the biggest factor in your development as climber. Diet is plays a secondary, yet still important, influence. Overweight climbers, of course, can help their situation significantly by eating a cleaner diet and dropping some bodyfat—-a low-fat vegetarian diet would help them greatly! If you are an already fit climber, then your potential concern as a vegetarian climber is under consumption of complete proteins. However, given some thought/effort you can design your diet so that you get enough of the right amino acids. Still, I’d strongly encourage you to consider supplemental Soy or Whey protein powder mixed into water or juice, especially after fatiguing workouts and long days of climbing.