Round 180

Hi Eric! Every time I read again your book Training for Climbing I find in it new inspirations and new ideas for my training days. Very great Book! Question: I’m trying to grasp how to train aerobic power versus anaerobic capacity (strength-endurance). The protocols you describe for each sound similar–Is possible to train specifically only aerobic power? Thanks in advance! –Riccardo

Hi Riccardo, The interval training protocols do appear to have some overlap, but the duration and metabolic stress is quite different. Anaerobic capacity training intervals should be all-out for 30 to 90 seconds—severe fatigue and pump (a sign that you’re very lactic with a high acid load). Aerobic power intervals are also all-out but very brief. For example, <5 seconds if doing campus board ladder repeats (5” ladder up or 5” double dynos, if strong, then 55” rest)  or bouldering wall intervals (<20” of power, but non-technical climbing with 40” rest), repeat 6 times. Both of these protocols will end with heavy breathing but little or no pump—thus, you’re training mostly in the alactic zone….which targets aerobic power development during the brief rests between each repetition on the board or wall. It works!

Hi Eric, I have been struggling with medial tendinopathy for the past three months and I follow the course of eccentric exercises as well as some dry needling. I have not had any success with this course of treatment and the discomfort in my elbow has been debilitating for my training and climbing. I listen to a podcast about a month ago with Keith Baar which led me to try consuming some collagen prior to my eccentric exercises. I was excited to hear about your new product and just ordered a couple of tubs for myself. I am beginning to investigate other forms of treatment including tendon debridement and PRP injections. Any ideas you might be willing to share with me would be much appreciated. (BTW, I’m age 36 and have redpointed up to 5.14a.) –Matt

Hi Matt, Sorry to hear about your elbow—I know of a couple of other climbers with this chronic condition (medial). Sounds like you’ve done the right treatments to this point…using the Keith Baar “protective” sessions with Supercharged Collagen beforehand may help tip the scales in your favor. However, the few people I’ve known with chronic condition eventually required debridement—at some point there’s just too much bad tissue…and you need to get rid of it. A possible in between step is TENEX—a relatively new less-invasive procedure. (I had TENEX done on a pesky hamstring tendon a few years ago, and I believe it was key in allowing healing to finally take hold.)

Anyway, you’re up against a big challenge…and IMO you should take on a long-term perspective. At age 36 you have many years to climb hard ahead of you, so it might be best to invest 2019 into rehabbing (TENEX or surgery?)…and work towards a long-term solution. Of course, please remind yourself that I am NOT a doctor—seek out the best medical professionals possible to help you with your comeback! Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

Hello, I think I’ve listened to nearly all your podcasts—thanks for them! I have a general training question: All handboarding (And finger training) is focused primarily on isometric holds to improve finger strength. Why isn’t isotonic training ever utilized? Doesn’t training the forearm muscles through range of motion present a good way to maximize muscle hypertrophy? I’ve never seen a climber training program that included this type of approach, would you know the reason this is not beneficial? I’ve asked multiple coaches & great climbers this question, and get the “meh, not sure. hangboard works.”, So I’m curious if you had a more detailed answer? — Matt

Hey Matt, You can do some heavy finger rolls with a barbell–some climbers believe they get a bit of hypertrophy from this. But it’s not so specific to how we grip the rock (isometric). Thus, fingerboard training is the proven way to get adaptations that really matter. I’m not convinced hypertrophy is needed, as the most important forearm adaptations for climbers involve the nervous system, collagen scaffold (force transfer and rate of force development), and metabolic activity (energy systems development and buffering systems). Naturally, genetics play a role too, especially at the highest levels of sport. The bottom line: fingerboard and campus board (and climbing!) are the primary training methods that work!

Hi Eric, I’ve been climbing for 24 years and, due to other life responsibilities, I’ve never been the weekend warrior I’ve always wanted to be. As such I have been on a plateau for the last 18 years (on-sight mid 11s sport, mid 10s trad, V4, TR low 12s). Kids are growing up though and my climbing season will open up. I hope to put in say 10-25 days this year outdoors and I can make use of the gym year round. Is the 4-3-2-1 or 3-2-1 schedule appropriate for an extended ‘winter season’ like mine, or are there better alternatives that may be more appropriate to help me bust through my plateau and see long term strength gains? Thank you and I truly appreciate your work and time! — Jason

Hi Jason, I can relate to your situation…as a family man with a busy life outside of climbing. I have no doubt that you can get on a good climbing/training schedule and reach your climbing goals outside. Consistency is key; so is keeping things practical and doable. I’d suggest trying to get in two gyms sessions per week and two brief at-home sessions per week (hangboard, pull-ups, core, etc.) I can’t really map out a program via email, but make the gym days about improving as a climber (movement, skill, mental) both on boulders and roped routes. Maybe warm-up for 30 minutes, boulder for 30 minutes, then rope climb for an hour or two–or something like that. Then do your targeted strength training at home two other days per week. When outdoor season starts…you’ll want to be sure to have two full days of rest before you visit the crags. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Hello Eric, Thanks for all the work you do towards helping people get stronger and prevent injury. I come to you with a question regarding the later. I’ve been hangboarding for a few years now, without injury thankfully. Until last Monday when I pulled a flexor muscle in my arm relating to my ring finger. For context, my training partner and I looked over each other’s log books and noticed that he tends to be about 30lbs stronger in an open crimp than a half crimp. While I am about 40lbs stronger in a half crimp. So I began trying to train open crimp more. However, my fingers are very different lengths and I am unable to reach the edge with my pinkies in an open crimp. This helps explain some of the difference in strength. Most literature recommends training in an open crimp, but I wonder whether someone in my condition is more prone to injury in that situation? –Robert

Hi Robert, The pinkie contributes (on average) about 18% to the grip. Adding the thumb lock (full crimp) adds another 20%! However, these are averages from a research project–any given individual has differences based on finger length, loading and injury history, etc…so the calculus is tricky. Still, more fingers is better when climbing–but in training you can get stronger doing some training with the different 2 finger “teams”, 3 finger drag (all open, no pinkie), open- and half-crimp, and even monos (if you’re really stronger). It’s good to train all of these positions over the long-term to give you the best strength on highly variable outdoor climbing holds. Anyway, I recommend people train half/open crimp (use an edge deep enough to get part of all 4 fingers on–add weight to make it difficult) for about 50% of total hangboard training, then the other 50% split amongst various open hand grips: 3 finger drag, 2F pockets, and monos (if strong). Also, a small amount of “tiny edge training” 6 to 10 mm (half crimp) to develop pulp.

Hi Eric, I own all your books and love them.  Also, I’ve got the NICROS HIT strips. What’s your latest take on hyper-gravity training 4 x 4 bouldering with added weight and strength training on HIT strips. What’s the max weight you suggest? Thanks! –Alex

Hi Alex, Thanks for the kind words! For bouldering, I recommend using 5 to 10 pounds for doing hardish problems…but you can go to 15-20 for big hold thuggish (but easier) problem. Go any heavier and it wrecks your technique and isn’t so effective. That’s where HIT comes in nice! Since HIT strips aren’t technical to climb, you can really add as much weight as you need to make it hard. Depending onwhich grip I use, I will use between 20 and 60 lbs. (You might be a lot different, of course.) Progress slowly and carefully. Tape your fingers to protect skin (from pain) when using heavier weights. And naturally, listen to your body—reducing weight and training if you get any tendon pain. They will eventually catch up, but it takes time. Happy training!