Q: I’m just beginning to climb at age 28, and I can only get to the climbing centre once a week. What training methods can I use at home? –John (Scotland)
A: Hi John, Thanks for writing. Since you are new to climbing the most important thing is to climb! This is a technical skill sport, so getting to the gym more than once per week is the best thing you can do.
As for home training, it should center on training the large pulling muscles and general fitness via pull-ups and general conditioning of the antagonist muscles, core, and some aerobic training. I discourage new climbers on fingerboard training–many new climbers get tendon injuries from early use of the board. After a year of climbing, your tendons will be stronger and more resistant to strains…and you’ll be ready for some fingerboard training.
Q: Hi Eric, I have been in the process of waiting out an injury (medial epicondylitis) and have been doing a bit of research into supplements such as collagen in hopes of speeding up the healing process and perhaps to help prevent future reoccurrences of tendon-related injuries. What’s your take on supplementing in this regard? Your opinion is greatly valued…you’re the man! –Jake (Moab, UT)
A: Hey Jake, I feel your pain…for the first time (30 years climbing) I have a twinge of medial elbow pain right now. I’m very skeptical about the usefulness of any supplement with regard to tendonitis. Glucosamine appears helpful for joint issues, but is of no use for tendons. It’s also doubtful that the various collagen supplements will make a difference either.
Unfortunately, elbow tendonitis is very hard to “climb through.” Take a few weeks off and ice the sore spot twice daily for the first week or two. Then spent a few more weeks doing light stretching and the forearm exercises in my books. As pain disappears, you can begin climbing (vert and slab so that the feet carry more weight), but go easy and confirm that the pain is really gone. If not, it would be wise to cease climbing for a few more weeks.
If major inflammation ever kicks in–painful to do anything with that arm/hand–you may need a steroid injection to whack it back…and then several months off from climbing. So, try to nip it in the bud before it gets worse.
Q: What is the most effective way to train finger strength? –Simon (Quebec, Canada)
A: Hello Simon, Since you are an advanced climber, you should be using some hypergravity training (training with 10 or 20 lbs around your waist) for some bouldering, pull-ups, HIT workouts, etc. You could also begin coupling this with some reactive training, like one-arm lunging exercises and campus training. Check out the Training Center Archive for a couple articles on Complex Training. Cycle on and off of that every two weeks and you will get WAY stronger!
Q: I haven’t climb for 4 months now because of a wrist injury in both arm. I’ve consulted two doctors, and they both said it should go away with some rest and stretching. However, I don’t see any improvement yet. Any suggests for what I should do? –Kevin (Montreal, Canada)
A: Sorry to hear about your wrists, Kevin. First, I must point out that I’m not a doctor, and I encourage you to listen to whatever your doctors tell you. That said, since your pain is bilateral, you likely have an overuse injury of some kind. Have the doctors ruled out Carpal Tunnel? This seems like a possibly; although ligament strain is also a possibility.
If it’s just strained ligaments, then resting for another month or so should yield improvement. If there’s still no improvement, I’d see another doctor. There might be something else going on that needs diagnosed. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.
Q: I have a minor A2 pulley strain and was wondering if pull-ups and antagonists are fair game while I take a month off from climbing? I also plan to do lots of cardio. –Simeon (Lewisburg, WV)
A: Hey Simeon, Glad to hear you are resting the finger a few weeks. Definitely keep going on the aerobic conditioning and antagonist training. I’d wait a week for pull-ups–but you can start working them by “buddy taping” the injured finger to another finger; then concentrate on not pulling hard on that finger. Avoiding any stress on the A2 pulley is key. When you return to climbing, tape the finger tightly and baby it for a few weeks (no tweaky stuff!). Hopefully, you get through the season without reinjury. Good luck, and see you at the New!