Round 182

Hi Eric! I am an avid listener of your podcast, and I have a question about hangboard training. I have been hangboarding for the last two years, and because I am a boulderer I do max hangs with three minutes off between reps and five minutes off between sets. I do three reps per set. I typically do 2-3 sets. In the beginning, I made massive progress, boosting strength by 25% of my initial levels. My climbing got better too. Unfortunately, I haven’t made any strength gains in about the last 9 months. Am I doing something wrong? How can I break through this hangboard plateau? –Dylan

Hi Dylan, Yeah, that’s pretty much how it goes–big gains at first…then very slow (or no) gains after that. No matter the exercise, you can’t just keep getting stronger–you begin to reach a biomechanical and genetic limit. That said, there are tricks and techniques to keep getting a percent here and a percent there–this is the mode of the pro climbers. First, you need a new training protocol! Switch to my 7″/53″ max strength protocol–this should give you another period of (small) gain. Next, you should ease into adding some campus training to your workout–not a lot, but just enough to give the nervous system and connective tissues some added stimulus. I’ve written about how to do this in my Training For Climbing book. Begin with just a few sets on the campus board two days per week. Always warm-up and use good form. Many people get injured campusing…so proceed with caution. Search YouTube for my two Campus training videos on EPIC TV for some solid tips. Good luck!

Hello sir, I’m a 19-year-old climber who’s been in the sport for about 9 months. I’ve become very invested into climbing, and I’ve set a big goal for myself—to climb the Nose of El Capitan. I’d like to do this before I graduate from school in three years. I currently send single pitch routes at a 5.11- level consistently. My question is how realistic of a goal is El Cap, and do you have any general advice. Thank you so much! –Clayton

Hey Clayton, El Cap is a very big goal. Trying to do it in 3 years could be an overreach, but where there’s a will there’s often a way. So I say go for it! Most important will be outdoor climbing experience—specifically, frequently climbing multipitch trad routes and learning to do some basic aid climbing. A more experienced partner (for El Cap) is essential, and really for weekend climbing adventure climbing as well. A mentor is the best way to shortcut the learning process. Find one! The bottom line: climbing a big wall is extremely complex compared to doing, say, one pitch sport climbs. So don’t underestimate the challenge…and begin your learning process immediately!

Anyway, while regularly training and gym climbing will be helpful (to get into climbing shape), it’s your outdoor climbing experience (volume) that will either make or break your goal. If you live in Cali, then you have access to the Valley to spin up your skills over the next two years. Maybe set the intermediate goal of climbing Free Blast next season as a stepping stone. Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

Hi Eric, I have extreme difficulty finding shoes that are not painful. I have a foot issue called Morton toe. On both feet my 2nd toe is extremely long. It is painful to wear pretty much any climbing shoe. I have tried Luchadores, High Angles, Solutions–all are painful as they force my 2nd toe to fold. I have tried to go up in shoe size but the smaller toe box is too painful despite the size. Do you have any shoe suggestions that would get me into something more aggressive? –Brett

Hello Bret, I don’t know of any shoe made for this issue…however, unlined shoes often break in and become bearable for people with unusual feet or foot problems. The La Sportiva Mythos is the best shoe I’ve worn in terms of stretching and shaping to the foot. Other than that I don’t have anything to recommend. Sorry!

Hi Coach Horst, I recently purchased the PhysiVantage Collagen and am excited to experience the benefits over time. I watched several of the videos and was hoping you would share details on the light workout you reference in your morning routine video. –Joel

Hey Joel! Glycine and Proline levels peak in the blood and fluids about one hour after consuming Supercharged Collagen. So what I recommend is to time a brief “protective session” right around the 50 minutes to one hour mark. I do this most mornings–it basically feels like a warm-up session, NOT a hard training session. I spend 10 minutes doing a variety of finger and elbow exercises–in order, usually slow dumbbell finger rolls for one minute, a few 5 to 10 rep sets of slow pull-ups, around six 15 second fingerboard hangs (mid-depth holds, NOT any small), a set or two of reverse wrist curls, and then another minute of finer rolls (20 – 30 lb dumbell). I finish up with 5 minutes of shoulder work–internal/external rotation (5 – 15 lb dumbbell), one set of dumbbell shoulder press, a set of dips, and a set of Ts and Ys. Since the intensity is relatively low, I can go from one exercise to the next with little rest. Doing these exercises while glycine/proline are peaking in the synovial fluid will draw the nutrients into the tendons and ligaments–it’s about as targeted and high-tech as it gets for encouraging collagen synthesis in these important tissues. Happy training!

Can you recommend a grip and fingertip dynamometer that would be acceptable for research? I hope to establish norms for beginner, intermediate, and advanced climbers. Have you done any of this? –Criag

Hey Craig, The common grip dynamometers, as used by physios and non-climbing researchers, don’t work for testing climbers–it’s just not specific enough to how we grip the rock to give meaningful results. Here’s a short article I wrote about this issue. There are two new climbing-specific sensors now available, however, that will give you reliable data. This one is portable, but a bit more unstable: The other (which I prefer) is ideal for gym use–training and testing: I own both devices, and they are big steps in the right direction. Get both if it’s in your budget!

As for developing a grip strength-to-weight ratio reference values….There is a fair amount of data on this among coaches, but the testing isn’t standardized and there’s tremendous error for a variety of reasons (differences in pre-test warm-up, hold depth and friction, time of day, ambient air conditions, arm position, wrist position and grip position). So unless all of these are controlled, it’s apples and oranges. But done right with a good device such as Entralpi (20mm wood edge, half crimp grip,  nearly straight arm, fully warmed up, cool conditions) a 5.13a climber can typically hold 70% of body weight on one hand…and a 5.14a climber around 90% of bodyweight). At the lower grades, climbing skill/technique, etc have a much larger influence on climbing performance than grip strength. Hope this helps!