Round 179

Hi Eric, What way do you consider as the most efficient for improving technique? – Jelena (Belgrade)

Hello Jelena, That’s an important question. Efficient climbing comes from learning to climb faster through hard moves (on small holds), placing your feet more precisely, moving your hips more quickly toward optimal balance points, relaxing as much as possible when climbing submaximal moves, using straight arm positions as much as possible, breathing better, mentally staying calm and focus…and I could go on! Anyway, it’s very hard to learn these skills when projecting climbs near your limit—so the training strategy is to do more submaximal climbing with the intention of working on your technique (and thinking about the above items). So while pushing your limits is fun (and a good physical workout), it’s climbing somewhat below your limit with the intention of PRACTICING to improve technique that will make you a more efficient climber. I hope this helps you!

Dear Eric, I’ve been a long time fan and learned so much about climbing from you. Thanks! I’ve been studying energy systems lately, and I have a few questions. I follow the Keto diet for blood sugar regulation purposes, and I’m wondering how this would affect my total power output while bouldering. I know the Keto diet is great for enduro athletes like alpinist, but I’m uncertain how it would affect short duration, high intensity exercises. I know that the keto diet is probably out of your niche, but I don’t know anyone else who has the same focus on nutrition and energy systems in the climbing world, so I thought I’d ask. –Kaje (Memphis)

Hi Kaje, Thanks for the kind words. Actually I do know a lot about Keto…and the pros and cons. As you point out, it’s very useful for insulin resistant folks…for stabilizing blood sugar and improving health. For athletes without such medical issues, however, the research only supports Keto has possibly helpful (or not a liability) for pure aerobic endurance athletes (marathons, etc.) whereas it’s certainly counterproductive for an athlete with high anaerobic demands. Therefore, you will get short changed on power endurance in the 10 to 120 second window (long boulders and powerful sport routes). Anaerobic glycolysis is the primary energy pathway in these situations, and so without full glycogen stores (due to a low carb diet), you’re anaerobic capacity will be quite low compared to what it could be on a diet of moderate carbs.  Of course, health is of primary importance and, therefore, if you feel better going keto, then go for it! However, if you can tolerate carbs, then consider adding some to your diet in the day or two prior to a day of performance climbing.

Hi Eric, I’ve been using the NICROS HIT strip system now for about a year and really like the results. My question is about finger position with the three teams. I find that if I curl the unused fingers down, I tend to get uncomfortable stretching feelings in the tendons. Is it better to just have them facing up and stretched out of the way? I’ve had a number of tendon issues over the years (I’m 60 now), and am worried about injury especially with the third team. –Steve (Durango)

Hello Steve! Very good question. You DO want to wrap your unused fingers below…just as you likely would in pulling a pocket on an outdoor climb. There’s actually an important adaptation that occurs in the small muscles in the palm of your hand that connect the flexor tendons next to each other. Stretching these muscles, both passively (one and two finger stretches during warm-up) and actively (when training two-finger pockets) is important. People who don’t stretch and train this way, risk injuring the “Quadriga” zone of the hand…an increasingly common, but relatively unknown, injury among pocket route climbers.

Of course, proceed carefully—given a few months you’ll get these small muscles to allow a freer flow of the tendons, and less discomfort and risk of injury when climbing near your limit. Of course, for older climbers, like you and me, staying uninjured is key! Long warm-ups, smart training, sound nutrition to support muscle and connective tissue remodeling, lots of rest, and motivation to stay healthy and climb hard–with this approach, I believe that we can keep climbing into our 70s!

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 with a friend in a couple months. 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. Can you help me tailor a training plan for this medium-limited time scale? –William

Hey William! Sounds like an exciting trip to the Valley! Unfortunately, I’m too busy to take on a new client…but I’ll give you a few tips. With only a month or two to train, your focus should be on climbing endurance first and generalized endurance second. Last minute heavy duty strength/power training will be of little help. If you have access to a good indoor gym with lead walls…I recommend 2 or 3 days per week of volume climbing–get your climbing muscles accustom to climbing 800 to 1000 feet per day. 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!