Round 176

Hi Eric, I am a really passionate climber and a sport science student, I follow your work with a lot of interest and curiosity–thanks for the great work you are doing with your knowledge sharing. Here is the question: What tests do you reccomend to assess climbing-specific fitness? –Jacopo (Italy)

Hi Jacopo, The latest edition (3rd) of my Training For Climbing book has several tests you can do (and repeat occasionally) to assess strength, endurance, and power. Here are a few to get you started: 1. One set max number of full range-of-motion pull-ups is good to determine anaerobic endurance in the larger pulling muscles, 2. One-rep max weight added pull-up (via weights hanging from belay loop of harness) indicates maximum strength, 3. A campus board “slap test” for power (using a large rung pull with both hands and measure how far you can slap with one hand), 4. and for max finger strength, do a 20mm edge hang on a fingerboard…see what the highest added weight you can hold with two hands for 5 seconds or, alternatively, use a pulley system or force sensor to determine your maximum one-hand finger force in a 5-second all-out 20mm edge hang. Be sure warm-up completely before testing, and rest a lot between attempts and tests. Have fun!

Hey Eric, I’m an experienced (10 years) 30-year-old intermediate climber with several big walls under my belt. Work has been taking up all my time lately, so I haven’t been climbing outdoors too much, but I just made plans to go do the Nose of El Cap with a friend at the end of March. I have no doubt that it’s within our abilities, but I want to train hard for the next month and a half to maximize fun and free climbing. How do you suggest I train over the next month to best prepare for the big wall climb?

Hey William, Sounds like an exciting trip coming up in March! With only a month to train, your focus should be on climbing endurance first…and generalized endurance second. While doing one in-depth strength session per week would be helpful, a last minute “cram” of heavy duty strength/power training will be of little help…and might even leave you fatigued heading into your trip. If you have access to a good indoor gym with lead walls…I recommend 2 or 3 days per week of high-volume sub-maximal climbing—the goal is to get your muscles accustom to climbing 800 to 1000 feet per session. Also, some running a few days here week might help…although it’s late in the game to spin up much in this area. Most important: be sure to taper your training the last 4 to 7 days before hitting the valley–arrive 100% fresh. Hope this helps!

Hi Eric, I am a big fan and avid consumer of your podcasts, videos, articles, etc. They are always so thoughtful and in depth. I was listening to your recent video on Managing the Fear of Falling, and had some questions about how to apply mental skills to more traditional climbing. I am a firm believer in the mental side but am lost as to how to “practice” there. I’m an experience all-around climber, and I lead climb regularly in the gym with little fear. Outside, I sport climb 5.11 but on trad routes I tend to get tight and fearful pushing above the 5.9 level. I aspire to do longer multi-pitch trad routes…so what do you recommend to help improve my “head space”? –Shawn

Hey Shawn! I believe it’s best to approach this situation from both the physical and mental side of things. Developing more strength builds confidence—for example, if you can come to climb 5.12 sport routes, then getting on 5.10 trad doesn’t feel so hard. As for mental training…gaining more time/experience in the stressful/exposed trad climbing environment is hugely important—think of this as mental acclimatization. So take every opportunity to get out and trad climb on real rock. Doing multi-pitch trad routes with a competent partner with whom you can climb briskly and efficiently will allow you to log many pitches per day out. Multiply this by 10 or 20 days per season and I believe you’ll make huge gains in confidence and trad ability. Of course, becoming more skilled at managing your mental and physical state (arousal, focus, anxiety, etc) is vital. My book Maximum Climbing is chock full of simple but powerful techniques for performance your best. Good luck!

Hey, I have a question about the 4-3-2-1 training cycle in your book, Training For Climbing. The first 4-week phase is training for “climbing stamina”. So if I go to the gym or crag with the intention of climbing, say, 10 to 15 routes, how hard should the climbs be and how much rest do I take in between? Thanks –Bouchra

Hello! Many people go astray on the 4-weeks of climbing stamina training by doing many near-limit climbs that created a deep “pump” and eventual muscle failure (this indicates failing of the anaerobic lactic energy system—not what you want in this workout!). The goal of this stamina phase is to grow your climbing-specific aerobic system…and also to improve movement economy. Accordingly, you want to do high-volume submaximal climbing—select only climbs that you can easily on-sight. If you get very pumped or fall, then the climb is too hard. Try to do 10 or 15 climbs in a session, always alternating with a partner…so that you get some rest between each climb. Do this workout 2 or 3 days per week during this stamina phase; although you can also do one max strength and one power endurance session per week as well.