Round 13

How much climbing is too much?

Q: I am an 18-year old boulderer of six months and I’m highly motivated to improve (I currently send V8). I climb five to seven days per week, but many people tell me that’s too much. Is there such thing as climbing too much? — Jordan (California)

A: Jordan, succeeding at the difficult grade of V8 (in just six months) indicates that you are clearly “built” for this sport. However, one of the downsides of such rapid improvement is an elevated risk of overuse injuries in the tendons and joints. The fingers, elbows, and shoulders are areas of greatest risk. You can help prevent such injuries with some basic strength training of the “push muscles” that oppose the climbing “pull muscles.” I’m not talking about a bodybuilder-style weight lifting program, but instead modest “bodyweight” training with dips, push-ups, dumbbell presses, and reverse wrist curls twice per week (at the end of a climbing session).

You also need to rest more and climb less. Climbing four days per week is the maximum–any more may someday result in an injury. Maybe you’ll be that rare exception, but literally thousands of climbers go down each year with injuries because they climb and train too often. So, I’d suggest you listen to your friends…you may actually get stronger by climbing less!

How can I avoid shoulder tendonitis?

Q: I have developed what my doctor diagnosed as shoulder tendonitis over the course of about one month of hard bouldering. The pain became unbearable when lifting my arm in front of me at a 90 degree bend. The pain has since stopped, but left me with a small bump (feels like bone) on top of my shoulder by my trap, and stills pops often when rotating. Do you think there is any permanent damage, and how can I prevent this from reoccurring? — Matthew (Springfield, MO)

A: Hello Matthew, Sorry to hear about your injury. I can’t tell you anything “for sure”, since I’m not a doctor and I don’t know the history of your injury. Overtraining or bouldering a lot can cause tendonitis in the shoulders, though the more common injury among climbers is subluxation (partial dislocation or “loose” shoulders). I’m not sure what the bump is…might be worth seeing the doctor again just to make sure that something else isn’t going on there. But if you are pain free, that’s a great sign! Ease back into climbing and dedicate yourself to a minimum of three rest days per week AND basic “push muscle” training twice per week to strengthen your shoulders. Push-ups, dumbbell shoulder presses, and dips (2 sets each) are invaluable exercises for climbers, and they will hopefully help you avoid a recurrence.

How to train effectively at home without a wall?

Q: I’m just a student and poor climber lacking the money to join a climbing gym. I only climb once a month, since there is no rock near where I live. Fortunately, I do have a pull-up bar at home. Can you give me any training tips on other ways for effective home training for climbing? – Leslie (Philippines)

A: Hello Leslie, That’s a tough, but not uncommon situation you are in. Your best bet is to focus on “general conditioning” to optimize body composition and building general strength. Pull-ups, of course, are a great exercise that you can perform three days per week. Also, hanging knee lifts (hanging on the pull-up bar) are great for the abdominals, as are crunches/sit-ups performed on the floor. Running a few days per week is a great way to build general stamina and lower bodyweight. Most important, find a way to visit the climbing gym or to go climbing more often!

How can I traing for routes with dynamic moves?

Q: I am a 37 year old climber with about two years experience. I currently climb French 6b/c. I’ve read your books and learned a lot about proper training. It was happy to see how I improved this winter with your 4-3-2-1 training cycle. I know that I still have to work hard on my skills and I am always interested in new ways to train my technique. Since many of today’s routes/boulders have dynamic moves, I want to ask you if there is a good way to train this? – Alexander (Cologne, Germany)

A: Hello Alexander, My book, Training for Climbing, outlines a few different ways to train power for dynamic movements. Campus Training is the gold standard, but I’m not sure I’d advise you do this until you climb another year or two and achieve 7a+.

Maybe the best thing for you would be to climb indoors and practice doing dynamic moves on this indoor wall. Create problems up steep walls that require some dynamics. Make a game out of it with your climbing partner. Be careful not to over do it, however, since dynamic moves are very stressful. Maybe do this type of program one day per week, and just climb the other workout days of the week. Good luck!

How long should I rest between sets when doing “complex training”?

Q: Regarding the “complex training” mentioned in your TFC book, how much rest should I take between the HIT and Campus Training? – Fisher (Birmingham, AL)

A: Hello Fisher, The high effectiveness of complex training is the result of coupling HIT and Campus Training back-to-back. Therefore, I only break long enough to chalk up and shake my arms a bit (about 10 seconds), before jumping onto the campus board.

There are two possible approaches, however: 1.) Do a set of HIT, then a set of Campus. Rest a couple minutes and repeat. 2.) Do an entire HIT workout, then proceed straight to doing a few sets on the campus board with only a couple minutes rest between sets. I prefer the latter method.

Certainly, either approach will stimulate the nervous system in the intended way. So, you may just want to see which feels most doable to you and which is most practical in terms of your workout. Of course, it’s vital that you error on the side of doing too little versus too much complex training. As a rule, I’ve found that the arms are being worked far more than perceived, so less may be more when it comes to volume of complex training.

How should I train to improve ability to connect crux sequences?

Q: I often know the technical sequence of project route, but I seem to lack the power to combine the three cruxes on the route. What can I do to improve my weakness? – Atiyeh (Tehran, Iran)

A: Atiyeh, First of all, can you find a rest between the cruxes…just enough to recover a little? If not, you should assess how you can improve your technique on the lower cruxes to conserve more energy for the upper cruxes. While strength and power training may help in the long run, the short-term solution to sending the route will come down to improving your economy of movement. This is something that ALL climbers (even the best) can improve on. Subtle improvements in movement, technique, and relaxation and fluid movement all increase economy. So, shift your focus from “needing more power” to “increasing climbing economy” and you’ll soon climb the route!