Round 92

I do 5 or so hours of bouldering and sport climbing at a gym during the week, but focus on trad and alpine experiences whenever time allows. I have read Training for Climbing (which is excellent) and have worked hypergravity and fingerboard training, as well as uneven pull-ups, into my workouts over the past three months. As a result, I have slowly been edging into the V5 realm. However, I feel like my progress has been slow. I am 5’7″ and 153lb have smallish hands and am definitely an endomorph. My weaknesses are overhanging routes with small holds and slopers. I currently lead 5.10b sport. My goal is to move up to 5.12 and boulder V6. What do you think would make a bigger difference in my sport climbing and bouldering, losing a few pounds or working with a coach to improve my technique? –Brandon (California)

Hi Brandon, Losing 5 or 10 pounds will certainly make a difference, but effective climbing up steep walls requires very specific technique and body positions that I’m sure you can improve upon. I bet a single coaching session–with a good coach that can help you understand the finesse of steep wall climbing–can make a huge different. Also, forearm endurance is very important for steep routes, so you should climb laps on some steep routes or do interval bouldering (do 10 to 20 moderate steep boulder problems with only a brief rest…less than one minute…between each problem). Getting your forearm endurance to adapt requires a long-term investment in this kind of training–twice per week for 3 to 6 months will make a big difference in how long you can hang on overhang routes.  You can do it…5.11 and 5.12 routes are in your future!!

Up until about a month ago I was hitting the rock pretty hard. I sent my first v9 at Hueco and returned home super psyched. Wanting to make a leap out of my recent plateau, I started finger training, and despite being very careful I still managed to do something to my right middle finger. With a month of rest I still have the pain. What’s strange is that I can now hold crimps fine, but jugs hurt badly. What do you suggest? –Jesse (Maryland)

Jesse, Sorry to hear about your finger…probably a tendon pulley strain. Should heal in another month or so, unless you re-injury it. These are tough injuries to deal with, because you never really know where you stand. Keep in mind, however, now that you are breaking into V-hard problems, you will always be at risk. For now, I would avoid any campusing training, especially drop down campusing (which is hardest on the tendons). Do what you can without pain and give it another month to heal before climbing anything super hard. Remember that everyone has different genetics and biomechanics, and so everyone has different risk of these injuries. Some people will tweak a tendon on a V3 and others (like the best pros) are blessed with tendons that can withstand anything! Most of us fall somewhere between these extremes…so trust your intuition on what you can and can’t subject your fingers to.

Hello, I started reading your Training for Climbing book (I’m trying to get back into shape for climbing), and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for protein powder to drink after training at the gym? Are there any specific ingredients I should make sure a protein should or should not contain? Any advice or help you can give is greatly appreciated! –Jeanne

Hi Jeanne, During and immediately after a workout I suggest Accelerade—IMO, the best product to start the recovery process. Then, after an hour or two, I suggest a whey protein shake (whey mixed in skim milk, OJ, or water). A serving of whey is also helpful first thing in the morning. I like the Gold Standard Whey available from You can get also get Accelerade from this site. Hope this helps!

Hi Eric, I’m getting back into climbing after a long time off. I joined the Joshua Tree Search & Rescue team and decided to regain and improve my skills. I’m 58 now, so I have to be careful with explosive movements. I’ve worked out for years, so I’m fairly fit. A question: I do lat pulldowns in slow motion (4 seconds up and 4 seconds down) to avoid injury and get a full range of motion benefit. Would 5 reps with a lighter weight using this method have the same strengthening benefit as 5 reps at the maximum weight I could move at normal speed? –Bruce (California)

Hi Bruce, First, thanks for your service with S&R. Fast movements with high force loads are indeed risky as we get older, so I think your careful approach is good for starters. As you gain climbing fitness, however, you may want to do some normal speed pull-ups and pulldowns at/near bodyweight, since training with speed is important to regaining some element of power for crux movements on the rock. As always, warm-up well before training hard. Also, do everything possible to refine your technique and mental skills–important assets for us older climbers!

Hello Eric, I realize I’m very fresh to climbing (less than a year), but I’m also competitive by nature so a lack of progress is frustrating. I’m currently leading 5.10+ inside with not too much difficulty. However, once I hit an overhanging wall or roof my climbing grade drops to 5.8 at max. I know I’m physically stronger than some of my climbing partners but they just seem to float past me. I just started HIT training so that may help as well. Any advice or am I just taking myself too seriously? –Neil (Canada)

Hi Neal, I appreciate your enthusiasm and competitiveness, but you need to go about things more carefully and differently. HIT workouts are not right for you at this time. As a relative beginner climber, the key to those steeper routes is technique and strategy. Weaker people can float up overhanging routes because they move so efficiently–notice how they turn their body with every move, thus shifting their center of gravity closer to the wall (more over their feet and reducing weighting of the arms). This is a subtle, but powerful technique. I suggest you find a climbing coach to work with you a bit on technique–you can make huge breakthroughs in the this area and climb 5.11 routes without doing serious strength training. Hold off on the more serious strength training exercises (like HIT and Campus Trainig) until you have two years of climbing experience.