Round 90

Hey Eric!  I just sent my seventh 5.13 route–all were 13a or 13b, so what’s the best way to train to achieve 5.13+? What time of year should you begin this training (if I wanna send 5.13+ in the spring, should I have begun my training in the winter?) and how do you know when to lay off training and hit up the project?  And since I am climbing at the Red, climbing 5.13+ has more to do with endurance and finger strength. Anyway, how do I take it to the next level, especially as a weekend warrior fighting the elements?  –Noel (Tennessee)

Congrats on the hard sends, Noel! I have no doubt you can send 13+. You are likely ready to send them now, if you can polish your climbing to a super high level of efficiency….so you might consider “maximum climbing efficiency” as your ultimate goal this season. Strive for near-perfection in terms of movement on EVERY route you get on this season (no matter the grade).

As for specific training, you really need to make a very focused two to three month training effort to achieve a new level. For endurance, you should work climbing intervals in which you send a series of boulder problems or roped gym routes with only brief rests in between. This way you learn to climb pumped–and gradually your body will adapt in ways that improve your anaerobic endurance (your mind will get stronger, too). Despite being a Red River Climber, I think you could also benefit from some hypergravity bouldering. Begin wearing a 10-pound weight belt for a portion of your indoor bouldering sessions–this will develop a new level of max strength and power, which will undoubtedly help on 13+ projects.

Perhaps we’ll see either other this season at the New or Red…and we can talk more then. Keep me posted on your hard send!

Hi Eric, Can you give me a simple, effective way to train pinch grip? –Will (Maryland)

Hey Will, Best way to train pinch grip is to set a couple boulder problems with only pinch holds…so that you have to do several pinch moves in a row. Do these problems 3 or 4 times in a row, each session and you’ll get stronger!

Hi Eric, I’m a 14-year-old girl training to compete in the national and world competition, and I’m wondering the best way for me to improve. My best traits in climbing are that I have a lot of power and my technique seems solid. My weaknesses are large slopers and pinches and sometimes crimps. I’ve tried training finger strength on a fingerboard but i don’t seem to be improving much and my finger strength deteriorates quickly when I’m pumped. What training strategies can i use to improve my finger strength? –Amy (Canada)

Hi Amy, At your age, I do not advise anything too crazy or intense in terms of training. But I do have a suggestion for you. Purchase a 10-pound weight belt and wear it for a few boulder problems each workout. Also, wear it for a couple sets of pull-ups each workout…you can wear it for some fingerboard hangs too. It’s hard to get stronger just training at body weight, so adding 10 pounds around your waist will make a difference. But don’t overdo it! You must always get plenty of rest. Also I suggest you immediately begin training your rotator cuff muscles a few times per week–very important to prevent injury as you climb harder and harder. Stronger shoulders will also help a lot on a steep, strenuous climb. Check out my book Training for Climbing for more guidance on this. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

I have been climbing and training for two years now and I have recently developed some sort of shoulder injury. I believe it to be rotator cuff tendonitis, so I have done a lot of the strengthening exercises found online to treat it.  Over the course of these exercises I find that my shoulder begins to hurt more and my other is shoulder is beginning to hurt too. Do you have any advice on what I should do at this point? –Mark (Massachusett)

Mark,  There are a number of different problems that can develop in your shoulder, it’s not necessarily tendonitis. If pain is currently a problem, I suggest you see a sports med doctor for an accurate diagnose. Hopefully there hasn’t been any major damage. If not, you can probably rehab it with some at-home rotator cuff training, such as internal and external rotation with light dumbbells.  Ultimately, however, I can’t diagnose you via email, and so a doctor visit is definitely in order if pain continues. Take care of this now, rather than “climbing through” worsening pain (which could seriously mess up your shoulders). Nip it in the bud, as they say. Good luck, and sorry I don’t have a silver bullet for you.

How far can you push yourself before being injured?  For example, if I’m doing finger strength training on a finger board, how far can I push myself before pulling a tendon? FYI, I’ve been climbing about three years and I’d like to push into the 5.12 (and higher grades)! –Peter (Alberta)

Hi Peter, That’s pretty much an impossible question to answer–every person is different, since finger length, natural tendon strength, and such, varies from person to person. But once you get injured, it’s a long haul to heal…so it’s always best to error on the side of not overdoing it on the finger board, campus board, etc. A cautious approach is imperative, especially for someone relatively new to training (not having the experience to make an intuitive “call” on when to say when in training).

As a climber of just 3 years, you have massive potential to improve by refining technique, tactics, and mental skills. You can climb 5.12 without being super strong. So I suggest you remain focused on improving in the technical areas, while doing only a moderate amount of supplemental strength training. Once you achieve solid 5.12 level you can ramp up training and, hopefully by then, you joints and tendons will be resistant enough to train super-hard and not get injured.