Round 73

Q: Hi Eric, About two months ago I stopped climbing due to recurring finger tendonitis on my right and left middle finger. I’m excited to start climbing again, and I would like to know how to slowly increase my load so that I can start climbing again (while minimizing risk of re-injury). –Jay (Michigan)

A: Hi Jay, Sorry to hear about your injury. Unfortunately there’s no sure way to know when you can safely return to climbing. Ultimately, pain and intuition must be your guide. You definitely should not do any serious climbing (hard pulling) as long as the fingers are painful to the touch (pain when you squeeze the injured finger). Meanwhile, begin daily stretching (forearms and fingers) and massage to promote tendon healing–although hold off on this for a couple weeks if there’s any swelling. In the case of a moderate tendon “tweak” it would be wise to take 4 to 6 weeks of rest before you re-enter climbing. A more serious finger injury could take several months (or more). When you do return, warm-up well, tape the injured finger, and avoid small pockets, smallish crimpers, and maximal boulder problems, since these present the greatest risk for re-injury. Climb smart and listen to your body (and intuition) in the quest to avoid injury and climb your very best!

Q: Hi Horst, Are there any ill-effects of over-resting between sets during strength training (hypertrophy)? I have read that short rests keep up the metabolism, which stimulates muscle growth, but does it really matter whether I rest for 2 or 5 minutes (apart from the training taking longer)?. Currently I am alternating between sessions with longer rests and others with fairly short ones, so my body does not get too used to one type of training. Do you have any thoughts? BTW, I really like your work–keep it up! –Jason (Canada)

A: Thanks for the kind words, Jason. With regard to strength training, always rest at least 2 minutes between sets so that you can make a maximum effort on each time. A longer rest will not hurt at all; however a shorter rest interval will shift you into training anaerobic endurance rather than max strength.

Q: Hello Eric, Is there any point in learning to climb when you are older? I just did an intro course at the local climbing gym and really loved it. I have wanted to climb since I was 7 but was discouraged and decided I had better try it at least once before I’m 50. The guys mostly in their 20s look at me like their granny just walked in. Am I wasting everybody’s time or is it possible as a late starter to still work towards a reasonable standard? –Debbie (South Africa)

A: Hello Debbie, Thanks for writing and for your story. First, you are never too old to start climbing. I have a couple of clients who didn’t start climbing until around age 50, and they are both excelling and loving it! So you can do it–don’t pause, start climbing and enjoy what it can add to your life. The younger climbers will soon be praising you, when they see how you enjoy it and come to excel at it!

Q: Eric, Let me begin by thanking you and NICROS for all the amazing tips! I discovered your website a week ago and I have been reading every single article… My question: I’ve read your “Top 5 Antagonist Muscle Exercises” article, which says you should perform these exercises 2 to 3 times per week. Should I do these on climbing or rest days? –Jean Paul (Colombia)

A: Hello JP, You can do the push exercises at the end of your climbing workout or on your rest days between climbing. The key is to keep these exercises sub-maximal—you don’t want your push-muscle training to escalate into a high-resistance strength-training or bodybuilding program! Simply do a few sets of various push-muscle exercises (with moderate resistance), as well as a couple for your rotator cuff and forearm extensor muscles, and you’ll maintain muscle balance and lower injury risk.

Q: Hi Eric, I’m a 39 year-old, avid indoor gym and home wall climber. I have a lot of upper-body strength (gymnast type) and so I tend to NOT use my legs too effectively. How do I get out of this bad habit? –Jason (TN)

A: Jason, You have identified an important problem. Just as in gymnastics, your technical (motor) SKILLS are the most important thing to master in climbing. As in gymnastics training, a smart climber will isolate a skill and work on it to the point of highly efficient execution. You can best do this on toprope climbs at the gym–focus on foot placement, body position, and center-of-gravity movement. My book Training for Climbing has a couple chapters that will help you out, including numerous drills to improve your technique and movement. Go to to learn more.