Round 65

Q: As a 43-year-old climber who only gets on the rock a few times per month, what three things can I do to improve climbing? –Tony

A: Tony, Most important thing is to climb more. Really! Climbing technique and economy of movement is so so important to climbing your best, and getting on the rock (or plastic) is the only way to dial this in. Sure, keeping your weight down with some running and keeping your strength up with pull-ups, fingerboard, and other similar exercises is helpful, but going climbing will make the biggest difference. Consider what three low-value activities you can cut from your “life schedule” in order to open up more time for climbing—they would be the three most important things you should NOT do!

Q: Dear Eric, My question is about training and climbing for kids under age 12. How many times per week can we let children climb? Should we stop children who want to climb all the time (everyday)? –Carole (France)

A: Hi Carole, I have the same problem! My two boys are ages 6 and 8, and they often want to climb on our home wall every day! I think it’s best to limit kids to climbing 4 or 5 days per week. Then when puberty sets in–and they grow much stronger and climb very hard–they should reduce to climbing 3 or 4 days per week. There are many cases of early teens developing growth plate injuries, particularly in the fingers, from the combination of climbing too often during the years of their growth spurt. Any pain or swelling in the joints is a sign to reduce the frequency of climbing and perhaps ideally take a few weeks or months off from climbing.

Q: I am a vegetarian, and I’m wondering if eating this way is helping or hindering my climbing abilities? BTW, I’ve been climbing about one year and sport lead up to 5.10c. –David (Virginia)

A: Hi David, As a relatively new climber, the biggest factors in your development are climbing skill, technique, and the mental game. Comparatively, diet is much less of an influence (unless someone is very overweight). In a few years, when your technique and skills are much higher, training and nutrition will play a much larger role. That being said, as a vegetarian you must design your diet in a way that you get enough protein, particularly the essential amino acids. If you search the web (or a book store) you’ll find plenty of references on how to do this. Also, I suggest that you consider taking supplemental Soy or Whey protein powder, mixed into water or juice, especially after fatiguing workouts and long days of climbing. Good luck!

Q: I’ve recently started training with weights twice a week and climbing twice a week. The idea of the weights is to build a base of strength so I’ve looked to the old school strongman exercises Deadlifts, Bench Press, Farmer Walks, etc. Doing Farmer Walks over a good distance with heavy weight generate what feels like a climbing pump. How do you feel about this exercise? Do you think I will see climbing returns? If I stick with this program do you believe my body will adapt? Or is climbing different? Thanks for your time. –Steve (Cali)

A: Hi Steve, Think of those non-climbing weight-lifting workouts as being general–all you get is general conditioning of what you might call base fitness. As far as its effects on real rock climbing performance, it’s mostly a waste of time. (Although some level of general fitness is needed to maintain muscle balance, and adequate base fitness is very important if you venture into the mountains.) But if bouldering, sport or trad climbing is your focus, it’s your climbing days AND climbing-specific exercises that matter most. Sure, a pump from some general exercise might feel like a climbing pump, but the way the muscle fibers are recruited on a neural level is very different. Read about the powerful principle of Specificity of Training (in my books or elsewhere)–exercises must be extremely specific to climbing-use to be really helpful in elevating performance in the steep. Hope this info helps you train more effectively. Good luck, my friend.

Q: Hello, I have had problems in the past with lateral elbow tendinosis which seems to flare up during climbing season and wakeboarding season. I haven’t had any pain for over 3 months, and no sharp pain in over a year. I just recently found your articles on the subject and have begun to implement the stretches and exercises as a preventative measure for this season. I’ve also begun using a Dynaflex Gyro exercise ball—what’s your opinion on this? Is it actually beneficial for this type of injury, or is it just another gimmick? Thanks for your time and for the great articles. –Matt (Minnesota)

A: Hi Matt, Good to hear that you have things under control. The Gyro device can’t hurt, but I’m not convinced it will help. The daily stretching of both sides of the forearm and the reverse wrist curls (2 or 3 times per week) is far more beneficial in preventing the problem. Still, it can flair up again if you overuse the crimp grip and “chickwing” (elbow lifts away from the rock on hard moves) frequently on hard routes. Strive to train (and favor) the open hand grip and save the crimp for moves that demand it. Good luck!