Ask Eric – Round 162

Hello Mr.Hörst, I am the Head Coach at a climbing gym, and 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 do less on the 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 are your thoughts on such practices in regards to the safety of youth climbers (ages 10-15)? P.S. I recently purchased a copy of Training For Climbing (3rd) 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 climbers, and that kids in the growth spurt years are especially prone to injury from hard training and climbing too often. (Growth plate fracture in the long fingers is becoming frighteningly common!) I’ve written extensively on this subject–please check out the articles on my site, as they will give science based guidance. Here’s a good article to get you started:

Anyway, I feel we have a moral obligation to coach kids in ways that don’t present a high risk of injury…and to develop a training program that develops a complete climber (with a high athletic IQ). Your idea of emphasizing technique and the mental game is the right approach….along with a moderate amount of age-appropriate strength training. I believe it’s similarly wise for kids to have a defined off-season from climbing during which they engage in playing a second sport.

Hello Eric, After I purchased your book, Training for Climbing, I started using the microcycle workouts explained later in the book. However, every so often comes a day that I am unable to fit a climbing workout into my schedule. Should I make up for that lost training the next day in addition to the other workout that was scheduled, or just move on? –Aidan

Hi Aidan, You should probably just move on, rather than doing strenuous exercising on a planned rest day. However, you can do aerobic activity (running, etc.) and antagonist training on rest days from climbing, so suggest you use this approach. FYI, here’s a link to an article with programming spreadsheets to supplement the book: Happy training!

Hi Eric, I’m reading Training For Climbing and am finding it very motivating. I’m using it to setup a personalized training program for myself as an accomplished climber. With regard to the 4-3-2-1 training cycle (in chapter 8), in an ideal world, is one supposed to repeat the 10 week cycle on a continuous basis? In other words, after completing 4 weeks training stamina & skill, then 3 weeks of max strength & power, 2 weeks of A-E and finally a week of rest…does one then return to the start with 4 weeks of stamina & skill again? If so, I assume that one should then tweak the workouts in one’s micro-cycle as one improves? Thanks for a great book! –Cal

Hi Cal, Glad you like the book! Use the 4-3-2-1 (or 3-2-1) during periods of “training” rather than during periods of extensive outdoor climbing (or other performance climbing, such as indoor comps). Many climbers will do a 10-week block (or two) during the winter season, if they aren’t outdoor climbing….and perhaps again mid-summer, when it’s too hot to performance climb outside. Then, during periods of outdoor climbing, you can do a Daily Undulating Periodization program (see “DUP” in book) so that you maintain gains while also allowing for enough recovery to be fresh for outdoor climbing performance. Hope this makes sense!

Hey there Eric! Hope this finds you well. I have a question for you: I am a NASM cpt and I’ve been climbing for the past 10 years. I train and coach climbers, and I’m curious what steps you take in you initial assessment process. Aside from some basic strength, endurance, and local forearm endurance is there anything specific you look for and use? Thanks! –Logan

Hi Logan, Since climbing is a skill sport, I also like to make a solid analysis of a climbers movement and mental skills. A subject assessment at the gym or crag is ideal, although I you can also use the self-assessment sheets in my books (Training For Climbing & Rock Climbers Exercise Guide). But in terms of the physical, I recommend testing hip flexibility, finger flexor maximum strength (half crimp grip), finger flexor endurance, pull-muscle strength, and percent body fat. I talk in greater depth about climber assessments in this recent Podcast.