Round 71

Q: Hi Eric, As a new climber, I’ve been going to the gym 3 days a week for about a month now. Initially, I seemed to progress quickly, but now I’m stuck at 5.10; beyond that I can’t hold on to anything. My routine is to climb until I’m tired, then I immediately do a set of Frenchies before calling it quits. This morning my ring fingers and middle fingers feel sore/strained. I’m afraid if I go climbing I’ll make the injury worse. What did I do wrong, and what should I do to recover? Thanks so much for this site! –Tom (Canada)

A: Hi Tom, The Frenchies aren’t likely what caused your finger soreness, but instead the practice of climbing to exhaustion and pushing yourself a little too hard, too soon. Enthusiastic beginners (first 2 years climbing) often suffer these kinds of injuries because they push too hard, thrashing on routes they aren’t physically prepared (trained) to do. So, I suggest you take a week or two off, then when pain-free return to climbing and focus on climbing routes between 5.8 and easy 5.10—make it your goal to climb smoothly up the routes with good technique. When you find yourself “thrashing” to hang on or you begin climbing with bad technique, immediately “take” on the rope and hang and relax–rest until you can give it a good effort without thrashing and straining…or get on an easier route. It’s vital that your first few years focus on developing technique and mental skills, while avoiding the common pitfalls of injury. Good luck, and have fun!

Q: Hey Eric, I have a couple of questions. First, I’ve been working towards being able to do a one-arm pull-up, and I was wondering if they’re actually beneficial, or if I should just stick to one-arm lock-offs, weighted pull-ups, heavy pull-downs, etc. Also, I was wondering if doing fingertip lock-offs (dead hangs on an edge, reeling in from open-hand to half-crimp) would serve as a more sport-specific method of doing heavy finger rolls at body weight, and if they would result in hypertrophy? –Christopher (Texas)

A: Hi Christopher, One arm pull-ups are not essential for climbing hard, but having the strength to lock-off on one arm and finger tips can certainly help on powerful sequences. Thus, you can work lock-offs and fingerboard hangs as you suggest–both will make you stronger. Of course, as a climber of only 2 years you will advance most quickly and steadily if you put constant work on improving technique and the mental game, since flaws in these areas cost you energy/strength and limit your ability far below your potential.

Q: Hi Eric I have your 5.12 book and I think it’s great. I try to climb at least 2 days a week both in the gym and at the crag. I supplement my lack of climb time with general workouts for conditioning. This usually is running, pull-ups, and antagonist training. My question is I only moved my red point up one level in the 8 months I have been climbing. Now I have seen some improvement, but is it typical to only improve one or two notches a season? I do realize that it is most likely my technique that is suffering. I try to train my technique when at the gym and then test it at the crag–I do the “silent feet” and “first touch” drills every time I climb. Can you recommend some things I could try to improve my technique. Thanks in advance. –Josh (Illinois)

A: Hi Josh, Sounds like you have good awareness of what it takes to climb harder. First, remember that improvement comes in spurts with frequent apparent plateaus….so don’t get too worried about your rate of improvement. Go climbing outside as much as possible and train indoors a couple days per week, and you will improvement year-over-year. Yes, technique and the mind are paramount! I suggest you pick up my book Training for Climbing to gain better working knowledge of technique and physical training. Also, my new book Maximum Climbing provides dozens of mental-training techniques that you can put to work this season. No doubt, you’ve got many years of improvement ahead of you—have fun in the process!

Q: Eric, I have been climbing for many years, yet took a few years off from serious climbing. I am very fit, excited and focused about getting strong again and back to climbing at a high level. I am using the 4-3-2-1 cycle and am now about to start the 3-week cycle of strength using your H.I.T. strip training. My question is how many sets/week should I do and how much actual on-the-rock time can I have in this phase? –Steve (Arkansas)

A: Hi Steve, If you are fit and uninjured, you can do HIT up to twice per week with a total of 8 to 10 weighted sets per workout. But I suggest beginning with one set of each grip position at bodyweight for your first few workouts, then begin adding weight when you are able to climb for more than 20 total hand moves (10 per hand) for a given grip. Do tape your middle two fingers (with the X-method of taping) to reduce skin pain when climbing with weight; also I suggest sanding off a slight bit of texture off the holds to reduce skin wear. One thing you’ll notice is that HIT hammers the nervous system and that it can take several days to recover from. Thus, if planning to climb outside for performance, don’t do HIT within 3 or 4 days of the outdoor climbing session. I tend to use HIT mostly during the offseason (winter for me), when I can do it twice per week, during the max strength/power phase, since I’m not doing any outdoor climbing. Hope this helps!

Q: In August, while working a knarly crack, I tore my bicep at the rotor cuff. A few weeks later I had surgery to reattach and I’m now in therapy for six months, after which the surgeon will hopefully release me to climb again. This is a long recovery period and, as a climber of 25 years, the anxiety associated with not being able to climb is almost unbearable. My question is, what can I do in the interim to keep the rest of me strong while my arm recovers from surgery? –Lynn (Alabama)

A: Sorry to hear about your injury, Lynn. I’ve heard from several mid-aged climbers with this same injury over the years, so I’m somewhat familiar with the long and frustrating recovery period after surgery. I think the best things you can do at this time are to keep your core strong (with a variety of core exercises), maintain body composition and build stamina with some running (or other aerobic activity), and when able…begin some arm training of both the good and bad arms (push and pull exercises). Of course, you’ll want to follow the guidelines of your PT. The bottom line: get healed, let your motivation build this winter, and look forward to getting back on the rock next season–you WILL excel, given the technique and wisdom you possess as a seasoned veteran climber! Good luck, and let me know how it goes.