Round 93

Dear Eric, I’m mostly a boulderer and I’m training for strength gains so I can continue to improve. Right now, I’ve been getting good strength gains from my Monday/Wednesday hangboard sessions and my Tuesday/Thursday weight-training sessions. I boulder outside most Saturdays, and I’m thinking about getting into competition climbing as well. What direction should I take my training now? –Russell (California)

Hi Russell, Long-term, the program that got you to this ability level, isn’t the best for propelling you to the next level. You must always be striving to train smarter…and stretching your boundaries in a more and more sport-specific way. So, of course, the weight lifting gym workouts won’t help your climbing much. Really, the most important thing is to spend more time CLIMBING, both indoors and out. The fingerboard is great from a substitute workout if you can’t get to the climbing gym, but your gains on the fingerboard will soon slow and be harder to come by. So achieving the next level demands that you improve your strength on the rock…and that comes from bouldering and rope climbing, ideally 2 to 4 days per week. Subtle improvements in body position, footwork, and such, make a HUGE difference when bouldering hard and roped climbing. The best competition climbers all train 3 to 4 days per week at a rock gym (or outside), so it will be hard to compete at a high level if you are only climbing one day per week. Is there a good climbing gym nearby that you could climb at, say on Tuesday and Thursday, and then you could climb outside on the weekend?

My question is in reference to your sample macrocycle on pg.176 of you 2nd edition TFC book. How do I best integrate a 4-3-2-1 training cycle with my outdoor climbing schedule? –Reggie (Maryland)

Reggie, For people who climb outside a lot when the weather is good, I suggest just doing one or two 10-week training cycles during the winter off-season and maybe one 10-week cycle in the middle of the summer, if it’s too hot/humid to climb outside much. Otherwise, try to climb outside as much as possible during the Spring and fall, and just fit in some elements of 4-3-2-1 cycle as you can between weekend or monthly trips. Ultimately, you need to identify your primary weakness(es) and work on them during those in-between.

I’ve been climbing for quite some time now, but it’s been an on and off thing due to tendon injuries and work. I go to my local climbing gym around 14 times a month with a rest day for each climb day. I mainly boulder–working my hardest every time on climbing higher grades–but I feel as if I’m not making any progress. What should I do to help improve my situation? –Anthony (Pennsylvania)

Anthony, That’s a tough question to answer for you personally, since there are so many factors that influence performance (technique, mind, conditioning). Your best bet is to meet up with a coach or to try to self-coach by reading Training for Climbing…and developing a game plan. My TFC book has a self-assessment “test” that will help you identify your weaknesses, and then arm you with the knowledge of how to train them up. One thing for sure: if you keep doing what you’re currently doing, you won’t improve much. You need to change things up and take your training to the next level. Good luck!

I have a situation I was hoping you could help me with. I’ve been climbing for three years, and I consider myself an intermediate climber. I’m at the point where I’ve decided I like bouldering better than roped climbing. My training predicament is this: my abilities in bouldering widely vary on the type of climbing I’m doing. I can boulder v6 as long as the problems involve lots of slopers or full pad (or larger) crimps. But anything under a full pad crimp (”microcrimp”), I can’t hold onto for anything past vertical. I know my problem isn’t pull strength, and I know my problem isn’t forearm strength. I’m 99 percent sure it’s all about my tendons. With my fingers being so lanky, the tendons in my fingers have a hard time supporting my body weight if I grab a microcrimp. Do you have any exercises I could do specifically to train my tendons to be able to support my weight on tiny holds? I have a 45 degree home wall, and I’ve tried setting very positive crimps on it to train on (almost a full pad and incut) but I can’t hold onto them longer than a second or so. What can I do to improve? –Evan (Tennesse)

Hi Evan, Your weakness is the muscles of the forearms, not the tendons. Tendons do no “work” in climbing, they simply transfer the force generated by the forearm muscles to the bones of the fingers. Anyway, the good news is that you can train your forearms to grow stronger so that you can hang on microcrimps! Climbing crimpy bouldering routes on your 45 degree wall is a good way to start. Use large enough crimps (perhaps around 1-inch deep) so that you can hang onto for 2 or 3 seconds–long enough to reach up to the next crimp. Do the problem at body weight; then do the same problem again with 5 pounds added to your body; then again with 10 lbs added to your body; then again with 5 lbs added; and a final time back at bodyweight. Take a one to two minute rest between each. Set a few different problems and use the same strategy. If you do four different problems, each five times, that gets you 20 solid training sets. Do this three days per week and in a few weeks you’ll notice better crimp strength!

Eric, I’ve read your website for a few years and I have a couple of your books (very useful!). After about four years of climbing, I have reached a plateau around 5.10a/b (TR on-sight level). For the most part, I think this was because I was more focused on alpine climbing and learning to make solid trad placements/climbing easy trad routes over this period – I was never concerned with pushing my actual climbing limits. My new goal is reach the 5.11 level. The other MAJOR difference is a significant lifestyle/weight difference–I went from walking everywhere in Cambridge, MA, running 3x a week and hiking/being active on the weekend to a very stressful job outside of Los Angeles. At the moment, I am 195 lbs (I’m 6′ 0”) – weighed 175 a year ago – and have made a very conscious shift to making changes that will get me back to 175 over 4-6 months. Oddly enough, I’m still climbing 10a–I guess it just shows that it’s mostly about technique–but I have noticed that the endurance over a day has dropped and recovery times are longer. I’ve decided to have a new focus on bouldering (I never bouldered before) to try to built more strength – I generally get shut down on 10c/10d moves that I simply feel totally uncapable of pulling. My main question is, given the signfiicantly higher weight, is there any type of activity that would be best to emphasize or avoid at this stage where I’m heavier? –Joseph (California)

Good stuff, Joseph. You have a good understanding of things, and I like your approach of trying to lose weight and improve strength/power via bouldering. Bouldering a few days per week at the gym (or outside) will help you with strength, but be careful not to injury your fingers, elbows, or shoulders–easy to do bouldering, especially if you still are carrying extra weight. Ultimately, you need to do more walking/running to drop that weight–lose the 20 lbs and improve your strength, and you’ll reach your goals. Good luck, and keep me posted!