Ask Eric – Round 163

When training for competitions do you think it is valuable to have a strict training program & what would that consist of? Do you believe dieting can also be helpful? –Lilly (California)

Hi Lily, Performance nutrition (not necessarily “dieting”) is important, especially at the elite levels…where body composition and predictable energy levels become very influential factors. As for training, yes, targeted training is important to specifically address limiting constraints in your climbing preference (bouldering or sport climbing comps?). Program design is a complex thing, however—for many climbers it helps to have the objective evaluation and exercise prescription that a master coach can provide via one-on-one personalized coaching. That said, smart/engaged/committed climbers can probably self-coach pretty well. Check out my book Training for Climbing, as well as my podcasts on iTunes, for inspiration and guidance. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

When you are climbing hard, how many days per week (two?) can you do hard training (fingerboard, campusing, weighted pullups, etc.)? How many days rest is needed before performance climbing? BTW, I must say that your new edition of Training For Climbing is a great book—it’s like my training bible! –Edvin (Sweden)

Hello Edvin, Glad you like the book! Yes, you want to do the strength & power exercises on two of your hard gym climbing days—just don’t campus when you are extremely fatigued. So you need to find a schedule that works for your life….and allows for a good rest day or two (no climbing or specific training) before climbing for performance. Here’s a link to free spreadsheets with tabs (bottom) with a full list of exercise in the book…as well as some program templates which you can modify for your personal use. I hope these help you! Happy training, my friend!

I am 15 and have recently started climbing, I have also recently bought a Gripmaster to help improve finger strength. What is the best bouldering schedule and when and how often should I train with the Gripmaster? –Joe (Sheffield)

Hello Joe, Welcome to the sport! Climbing is so awesome and fun, but you must be careful not to get an overuse injury…especially your first two years. Climbing is hard on the finger tendons (and growth plates of youth climbers), so doing a lot of extra finger intensive (or hangboard training on crimps) is not recommended. I suggest you climb in the gym 2 to 4 days per week…and mainly use the Gripmaster for warm-up before climbing…then do some extra pull-ups and hangs on good open-hand holds (not tiny crimps!) at the end of your climbing session….or as a replacement for a missed climbing session. Most important: do not train your fingers and/or climb for more than a total of 4 days per week! Very important! Also, here’s a link to some good articles on youth training.

I’ve been climbing just two years and I’m wondering how I can best identify my climbing flaws (technique, etc.)? — Torbjørn (Norway)

Hello Torbjørn! You really need an experienced coach to help you out—they can watch you climb and provide clues to becoming a more skilled, efficient climber. Otherwise, you can shoot video of yourself. Observe where you slow down, become uncertain and tentative, and struggle on climbs–this is where energy is often wasted. Then ask yourself: What can I do differently? Climb faster? Use a different body position? Improve foot placements and center of gravity position? Of course, climbing is complex, and it can take years to become highly skilled. So stay aware and always work to become more skilled, more confident, and of course, stronger, too! Good luck!