Ask Eric – Round 161

Hi Eric, I’m a boulderer from London, and I have been really enjoying your podcasts. It’s such a great resource and I always look forward to it dropping into my iPhone every month. So thanks for doing such an awesome job! I have a quick question about hangboard training: I’ve been climbing for about 2 years and have just started training to improve my performance. One of my new training routines is your minimum edge protocol which I’ve been doing for about 6 weeks now on a Beastmaker 1000 I have at home. I noticed some strength gains pretty quick and can now hang on the 2 finger pockets and sloper holds which I couldn’t do previously! I can’t yet hang on the shallow holds that force you to use around half a pad so I wanted to ask your advice on this. Should I just keep going with the holds I can hold for 15 seconds (with 12 second training hangs), or should I move on to the maximum weight routine and start adding weight? Thanks Eric! –James (London, England)

Hi James, Glad to hear about your hangboard gains! I do think you can begin to do some weighted hangs, as long as the holds used aren’t too small–focus on full-pad size edges and pockets (~20mm). You can also continue with some minimum-edge hangs on the harder holds you’re still struggling on. After your warm-up, do a set or two of the weighted hangs first, then do a couple sets of minimum-edge hangs without weight, perhaps followed by a final set of weighted hangs. Do this no more than twice per week. To train on holds you can’t yet hold at body weight, consider setting up a counterweight pulley system. Experiment a little, and have fun!

Hello Mr.Hörst, I am the Head Coach at a climbing gym, but I am somewhat new to training youth climbers. In the past I have held to beliefs that kids should climb more (and focus on the technique) and spend less time on the specific training side of things. However, I hear more and more of youth climbers engaging in strenuous training activities and having great success getting stronger and competing at higher level. My questions is this: What is your thought on such practices in regards to the safety of the children and young adults and what exercises would you deem acceptable for youth climbers (ages 10-15)? P.S. I recently purchased a newer copy of Training For Climbing (3rd edition) and have thus far been very impressed. Another fantastic piece of literature in the Hörst legacy! –Connor (Missouri)

Hi Connor, I’m happy to hear that you are aware of the situation with young climbersthose in the growth spurt years (11 – 14 girls, 12 – 16 boys) are especially prone to injury from training too hard….and climbing too often. I’ve written extensively on this subjectplease check out these articles (links below) as they will give science-based guidance (rather than bad practice and dogma of the uninformed). Anyway, I feel we have a moral obligation to not get kids injured…and rather develop a complete climber (and athlete). Your idea of emphasizing technique and the mental game is the right approach, along with a moderate amount of age-appropriate strength training. (I’m not saying all forms of strength  & power training are bad, but that this kind of training has risk for adolescent climbers…and must be carefully prescribed and monitored.) Good luck with your coaching!

Here’s a good article to get you started:

Hi Eric, How would one apply conjugated periodization to hangboard exercises? Thanks! –Mark (Colorado)

Hi Mark! I know some climbers who have used a “train everything” approach to finger training, that’s somewhat similar to the Conjugated Periodization concept, but I’m not convinced it’s an effective way to train for climbing, especially over the long term. A climber’s grip strength is developed (and applied) differently than, say, a powerlifter’s muscles/strength in that the finger flexor muscles contract isometrically. Therefore, we must train finger force in a specifics ways via hangboard and campus board protocols. I believe a complex training protocol, which marries weighted hangs with campus training, is the best approach for an experienced/advanced climber. I’ve outlined a number of different ways to go about this in the new (3rd) edition of my Training For Climbing book. Anyway, for off-season “gain” training I recommend doing focused training blocks (a few weeks in length) that alternate between Max strength hangboard protocols and strength-endurance “repeater” style protocols. On-season, you can incorporate a Daily Undulating Periodization protocol that is self-directed for in-season maintenance and according to your intuitive sense of short-term need.

Hi Eric, In the past I’ve improved steadily, and usually I’m one of the strongest (girl) climbers at the gym—I can climb 7a without hesitation. Recently, however, my ability seems to have steadied or dropped a bit..and my confidence is shaken. I know that I should be having fun, but I am struggling on how to improve, especially at bouldering. One thing to consider: I’ve recently reduced my number of days of climbing from 5 per week to just 3 days—might this be part of my problem? Thank you so much for your advice! —Czarinah (Japan)

Hello Czarinah, Everyone progresses at different rates…based on time available, motivation, age, and natural talent (genetics). It’s hard for me to give you specific advice—you need a coach to work with you in person to help you out. However, I do think that more strength gives more confidence, so perhaps a period of dedicated fingerboard training (maybe some campus laddering too) would be a good addition to your training to help push you through the current plateau. Three days of quality training is a fine, but adding a fourth day of “just climbing” (indoors or outside) would be ideal. Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes!

Have been climbing very hard (primarily for competition), but I’ve seriously slacked on my antagonistic training. Unfortunately, I’ve developed tendon pain concentrated in lower tricep area just above elbow (and less intense pain between there and shoulder). Aside from rest, what suggestions do you have for rehab exercises? I started doing close-arm push-ups and some other things recently, but wasn’t sure if I’m missing something. —Mike

Hi Mike, There are a number of things that could be going on, even an impinged nerve (cubital tunnel), although your guess of tendinopathy is as good as any. A couple/few weeks of decreased training—or even no training of the injured arm—is a good place to start. If there’s no improvement, then a visit to the doctor is in order. Assuming it’s tendinopathy, then modify your training to focus mainly eccentric (lowering) tricep exercises and mild stretching for 2 to 4 weeks. Hopefully this will start you on the road to recovery. Question: Can you identify a specific exercise or climbing movement that brought on this elbow injury? As a dedicated climber (long term), it’s important to develop self-awareness of what kind of situations cause you problems—this way you can tread carefully in, or avoid, similar situations and, hopefully, climb with better technique, caution, and aplomb. Good luck!