Round 68

Q: I plan to periodize my fingerboard workouts into a 2-3 week hypertrophy phase, a 2-3 week power phase and possibly 2 weeks of endurance at the end. What do you think about splitting up power, strength, and endurance training for climbing? –Tammo

A: Dear Tammo, The fingerboard is indeed a good training platform, and I’ve written extensively on this in my books (and I’ve even designed a couple of fingerboards that are sold commercially). That said, I do not advocate using a fingerboard as your primary method of training for climbing—the stress is places on the tendons and joints can lead to overuse injuries when used extensively. I suggest limiting fingerboard use to isolating the forearm muscles with a few sets of targeted exercise at the end of a climbing session/workout on a home or gym climbing wall. Only when there is no climbing wall available should you engage in an extensive fingerboard-only workout (try to limit yourself to a maximum of 1 or 2 such sessions per week). Per your question, it is best to focus a fingerboard workout on training either strength or endurance. (It’s difficult to effectively train “power” on a fingerboard.) Strength sessions should be comprised of brief, near-maximum intensity hangs—this program best activates the nervous system and can yield significant gains over time. Training longer sets on larger holds, or doing many “Repeaters” on the same holds, will yield a significant pump, thus, training anaerobic endurance. Long term you’ll get the best results by focusing each fingerboard session on either training strength or endurance, rather than attempting to train both at the same time. And, as stated above, get on a climbing wall and real rock as much as possible, since you will only develop the critical mental and technical skills by actually getting out and moving over stone.

Q: I just purchased the 5-strip HIT system and am ready to train to strengthen my fingers. I’m ready to begin a 3-2-1 training program, but do not know how to set it up so I can continue to climb 35% of the time. From what I’ve gleaned from your books, doing the complete elite level work out will require many rest days followed by more maximum stregth/power workouts. How can I incorporate actual days on the rock too, while not detraining? I’m super psyched to use your HIT System and just sent my 5th 5.13, which was Predator at Rumney, which is on the cover of your latest book! That photo is of one of my hommies, Gabriel Martinez too! –Chris (New Hampshire)

A: Good to hear from you Christopher! Give Gabriel my best!! Sounds like you are climbing hard–but you can get stronger, for sure, and HIT will help. You should also play with some Complex Training as described in my books. Anyway, to do a serious training cycle like 3-2-1, I suggest you wait until winter…or a period when you will be doing little outside climbing. This way you can commit to the program fully. Still, you can add some gym climbing in BEFORE you do the HIT workouts, but you don’t want to overdo it!

During climbing season…when climbing, say, every weekend, you want to be fresh and send outside! So, you must not go overkill on training and HIT workouts, etc. What I often do is a HIT workout on Tuesday, and AE workout (gym climbing) on Wednesday, rest Thursday and Friday, and then climb outside Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great schedule, but it could turn into overtraining…so you must monitor how you feel. If you begin to feel weaker on the rock on the weekends, then that Tuesday-Wednesday schedule is too much. This is most possible if you use heavy weight added to your body with HIT…which can take several days to recover from. Thus, heavy HIT weights should be saved for a pure training program (as in the winter), as the HIT workout schedule is described in the 3-2-1 cycle. Hope this makes sense! Let me know how it goes!

P.S. If you are building a wall for HIT…the Strips are optimized for 50 degrees past vert, but anything from 45 to 55 past vert works. Also, if it’s a home HIT setup, you might want to sand off a slight bit of texture AND tape your middle two fingers (X method). A commercial gym will want all that texture, but on a home wall it’s a bit too much.

Q: I am currently reading your Training for Climbing book, and I was wondering if you have any recommendations on what protein powder to buy? I have seen a brand called EAS that sells a whey protein powder; or is there something specific that I should be looking for? –Jeanne (California)

A: Hi Jeanne, EAS whey is very good, so is Designer Whey. For the best pricing and selection, however, check out Search “whey gold standard” and you’ll find my favorite brand–5 lbs for around $40. A great value and great quality. Enjoy!

Q: I’ve been doing a lot more multipitch trad than sport this summer. One thing I’ve noticed is how much more sore I am overall (as in all over my body) from a day of trad versus a day of sport. With most of the trad climbs involving a lot crack climbing, chimneys, laybacks, and underclings, I’m finding that training in the gym is becoming somewhat useless. I’ve started more extensive core exercises, and added squats. I’m thinking of building a “crack machine” at home, but that’s pretty limited and specific. Following your advice has helped me get to 11a (sport face-type climbing) within 2 years. Do you have recommendations (other than climbing more, of course) for training for trad climbing? –Matt (Washington)

A: Hi Matt, I think your assessment and ideas are spot on. Cracks are generally harder on the entire body than sport climbing. Then again, if you don’t regularly climb cracks, it’s likely you are “over trying” and contracting more muscles (and harder) than needed. This is natural, but you’ll become more honed and efficient with additional time spent crack climbing. For sure, get as much time in on cracks as possible–consider doing laps on one-pitch cracks to “load up” on experience. A crack machine at home can’t hurt either. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Q: Hi Eric, I have read all of your books, and they have been of great assistance to me in my personal training routine. I work at a small school and have recently started a climbing gym for our school kids. We have a 9m high by 6 m wide climbing wall and 2 x 3m high by 2m wide bouldering walls (40 degrees past vertical and 20 degrees past vertical). The kids love the activity and a few show some talent. I would love to get some materials that are more specific to training/coaching kids aged 8 – 16. Do you have any advice or additional material that can assist me in coaching them to greater heights. Thanks for your great books–you have definitely assisted me in improving my climbing! –Valerio (South Africa)

A: Thanks for your kind email, Valerio! Sounds like you are doing good work that will positively influence the kids you work with. I haven’t really developed any material for kids, however there is a Falcon Guides book called “Coaching Climbing” that does include many drills and some games that are good for school kids. Hopefully you can order a copy off the internet. Of course, perhaps long term you can develop some of your own ideas and modify some of my ideas for kids…then create your own book or manual! Please let me know how it goes. Best wishes, Eric