Round 174

Hello, I would like to start experimenting with complex training. I understand the concepts behind it and I am healthy enough and have solid background in climbing training, four years of consistent training, 5.14, V11. No injuries. I was wondering if you could tell me how I could build this into a normal strength/power plan and how this fits into a training block, how to account for rest days and how to generally integrate it with other climbing training. –Connor

Hey Connor! Yes, you are absolutely ready for complex training! I assume you already do a fair amount of weighted hangboarding (or one arm hangboarding) and some campusing. If so, you can blend them into a “complex” once or twice per week. Of course, you need to get super warmed up and “turned on”. I recommend doing the 7″/53″ x 3 weighted hang protocol (see my TFC book or web site). Do one set of 3 hangs, then go straight to the campus board and do a two ladders, switches, or double dynos with a minute rest in between. This is ONE complex (3 hangs and 2 campuses).

Then rest 3 to 5 minutes, and return to the hangboard for another set of 7/53, but increase the weight 10 lbs, if possible. (So obviously the first set of hangs must be submaximal…so that you can add weight and reach your max weight hang level on the 4th or 5th set.) After the second set of 3 hangs, back to the campus board for two more sets. This is your SECOND complex.

Begin with 2 or 3 complexes per session, but build to 5 or 6 sets over the course of several weeks. Be careful, and build gradually–tendons and extracellular matrix take time (weeks/months) to get stronger. But this is one of the most important adaptations you’re after for increasing muscle efficiency and power.

Hey Eric, I live in Seattle and have been rock climbing for about 4 years. First of all I just want to say your book (Training for Climbing) and podcasts have been an awesome learning experience for me and the knowledge has helped me design a training plan that has taken me from a 5.11- climber to redpointing my first 5.12a’s in less than a year!

Your podcast inspired me to submit two questions. 1. How do you recommend autoregulating in the case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)? Is okay to do an easy workout with sore muscles or should I rest entirely? 2. I always try to consume my recovery drink as soon as possible after completing working out, but I am curious what exactly constitutes “completing” working out? For example, I complete my last climb at the crag for the day, then belay my partner, then pack up, then hike out 30 minutes. Is it better to have your recovery drink right after your last climb or is it okay an hour or two later? –Andrew (Washington)

Hey Andrew! Thanks for the kind words…and great questions! DOMS happens mostly from eccentric exercises and excessively long strength workouts or days of hard climbing. The pain is mostly from micro trauma and calcium leak—certainly quality protein is keep to supporting muscle protein synthesis, but I doubt a short delay in eating will make much difference in the recovery rate. However, recovery of the energy stores (muscle glycogen) can be accelerated by consuming some carbs immediately after exercise. At the crag, I recommend packing an energy bar after your last climb (or while hiking out)–this will get recovery started and hold you over until meal time or until you are able to consume a recovery/protein shake. Another shake before bed and in the morning will support the recovery process (which often takes 72 hours to play out)…as might a light generalized workout (jogging, an easy antagonist/stabilizer workout, etc) and a very light climbing workout to circulate more blood locally.

Final comment: If you get DOMS regularly (after normal workouts), then you’re doing too much–it would be more efficient/effective to reduce volume abit. Slight next day soreness/tightness is okay; but if you’re frequently feeling wrecked the day after a session, then you did too much. Again, every now and then it’s fine, but regularly it’s a path to overtraining and possibly injury.

Hello Eric, First, thank you for all of your work. You are definitely a big part of pushing the climbing world forward when it comes to training. I appreciate it a lot. I’m a climbing coach, route-setter, and climber trying to push my limits to the next level. I’ve had a decent amount of training with Blood Flow Restriction. I’m excited about the potential for BFR–It seems like the biggest benefit for climbers is finger injury recovery and recovery in general after injury.

I’m interested in getting your perspective on BFR in the following areas: 1. What are your thoughts about BFR’s use and effectiveness for injury recover? 2. What are your thoughts about BFR’s potential for increased recovery after finger strength training? To be a bit more specific, I’ve been playing around with doing a BFR session immediately after max finger strength training–the idea being to increase the release of growth hormones and VegF so that my forearm muscles and tendons get the stuff they need for recovery? –Brannon

Hello Brannon! BFR is useful in very specific situations, but it’s use for advancing training for climbing (for uninjured climbers) is limited, IMO. Of course, the most effective training for climbing involves crisp, targeted acts of climbing (bouldering, intervals, campus, hangboard, etc), and it’s basically impossible to do these things effectively–or maximally–with BFR straps on.

In the case of injury, however, BFR is an excellent (proven) intervention…perhaps best used 2 times a day in a pure rehab setting (2 short sessions rather than 1 longer session is likely more effective). Even uninjured climbers may have some benefit from using BFR in a small dose on rest days to produce vasodilation and reperfusion shear…which may help speed recovery and possibly signal angiogenesis. (I’m skeptical about GH release from BFR on such a small muscle group—though perhaps done on the legs with squatting would have this effect?) Personally, I use BFR several mornings per week (6:00am!) as a short recovery/protective session (~10 minutes in length)…doing a few low-load forearm and rotator cuff exercises. The goal, of course, is to NOT create fatigue—or trigger hypertrophy—but rather to drive blood flow to important tissues to aid in recover and, perhaps, even signal collagen synthesis in the finger, elbow, shoulder tendons…which have been shown to be most responsive to brief sessions.

Hello Eric, My name is Enrico, and I write to you from Firenze (Italy) with a few questions. Today I close the phase 3 (of 4-3-2-1 cycle) and then next weekend I’m going to test my new skills in a little climbing competition. I know that I should deload my training for the “1 week”…what might I do in the days before my competition? The second question concerns the all-year training program, I discover that I have a weakness in pull-ups and power pull-ups. What’s the best program for increase my level more and more, first for climbing better and second for fare more hard routes than my actual level. –Enrico (Italy)

Hello Enrico! Sorry for the long delay writing you back! The detail of your question is hard to address in a short email—a personal coach is best to really help you get the training right. But it does sound like you are self-coaching very well…and continuing with a 3-2-1 cycle may be best for you at this point, although route climbing is important too whenever possible. Do you have access to a campus board? Doing some of this will help your pulling power a lot—maybe you can build a small campus broad next year? Before comps, you do want to taper training volume and eliminate antagonist training for a while. But you do need to do some brief climbing workouts—a good warm-up to the point of a light pump and then a very short power session (a few boulders or campuses, but NO weighted hangs). I’m sorry I can’t help with your overall program—maybe if we meet someday in Italy!