Round 2

How can I lose excess bodyfat?

Q: How can I lose excess weight and burn fat while climbing. If I kept the same amount of muscle, but reduced my bodyfat I believe I could climb better.
— Josh (Kansas City, MO)

A: Hey Josh, Climbing and training for climbing are not good fat-burning activities. Nothing beats running for this cause, however, so make it a goal to add running to your training program, 3 or 4 days per week. You don’t need to run fast, nor super long. Just three 20-minute runs per week should enable you to drop a half-pound of fat per week. This approach is better than severe dieting, which will leave you weak and unmotivated. Finally, remember that optimizing your physical abilities is just one-third of the climbing performance pie-place equal focus on improving your technique and mental game. Good luck!

On what should I focus my training given limited time and resources?

Q: I don’t have the time or the gym available to do lots of endurance climbing. Currently, I do one day of hangboard (warrior board) training, one day of bouldering and HIT training, and one long climbing session at a commercial gym. Can you give me some suggestions about what to focus my training on given the limited time I have? Realistically, I can only spend one day a week at the gym and two nights (1 to 2 hours each) on the hangboard or at my friends garage wall. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
— Dan (Holland, MI)

A: Hey Dan. Actually, your current schedule isn’t that bad. Keep the one day at the gym focused on mileage, endurance, technique, and refining your mental game-the goal here is to improve your economy of movement. Spent your bouldering day working mostly 20 to 40 move boulder problems on your friend’s garage wall. Move around the wall and push yourself hard to hang on for around 30 moves–this will train anaerobic endurance (AE), which is what really gets tested on long boulder problems and hard one-pitch routes. After doing 5 or 10 sets of this, rest for a while, and then finish up with one set per grip position on the HIT Strips. Be careful not to overtrain on this day, since both AE training and HIT are very stressful. Finally, your hangboard day should focus mainly on pull-ups, Frenchies, and lock-offs, and not on tweaky finger stuff. You might want to begin doing pull-ups with a 10 or 20 pound weight belt. Also, perform some antagonistic training to finish this workout–a couple sets of push-ups, dips, shoulder press and reverse wrist curls (both with 15 pound dumbbells) is vital for preventing elbow and shoulder injuries. This program will make the most of your three days of training per week. No doubt, you’ll be climbing harder this season!

What is the best way to maintain my current level of fitness if I have no gym or crag to train at?

Q: I love your books–they are a very valued resource to me! I am a college student and my summer job is not taking me anywhere near climbing, so I am emailing you with a couple of questions. I have never really engaged in sport-specific training other than climbing three days a week indoors during the winter and climbing outdoors on the weekends during the summer. I am currently leading at the 5.10c trad level and have not done enough sport climbing to know where that potential is yet. What is the best way to maintain my current level of fitness if I have no gym or crag to train at? Should I look into getting a hangboard to just keep my current finger and pull-up strength, or should I consider something different? Thank you for your books and advice.
–Ross Congo

A: Thanks for the kind remarks about the books, Ross. Sounds like you are climbing well–10c trad is a great place to be AND from which to build! As for your question, building a small 45-degree wall would provide you with the best training. If that’s not an option, then, yes, a hangboard would be the tool to put to work. Three days per week of pull-ups, some running, and some of the fingerboard exercises listed in the TFC book would hopefully maintain your conditioning. Who knows, add some hypergravity training (with weight belt) and you would likely gain strength this summer! The good news is that your climbing skills won’t leave you during your time away from the rock; the head games, however, will likely get a bit rusty…but that will come back upon your return to the crags. Set some goals, stay focused, have fun this summer. Come Fall, you’ll be highly motivate to crank at the crags!

Tweaked tendon–how do I distinguish between “good pain” and “bad pain”?
Q: I recently tweaked a tendon bouldering. After taking two weeks off, I’m now feeling good for everyday life; and, I will take two more weeks off to be conservative. When I start training and climbing again, how do I distinguish between “good pain” and “bad pain”? Also, is it OK to do some pull-ups during my down time or will this aggravate the healing tendon? I want to ensure my summer isn’t ruined with a chronic, nagging injury.
–John (Duke Univ.)

A: Sorry to hear about your injury, John. First, there is no such thing as “good pain” when it comes to tendons. Any pain is a signal you should lay off. Therefore, it’s best err on the side of too much rest (now) in the hopes you can get it to heal before the best part of the season arrives. As for pull-ups, I’d suggest using a loop of webbing around your wrist for the next couple weeks (hang by the bone/wrist) instead of holding onto the bar. In a couple weeks you can work back into using the bar. Given that this goes down pain-free, you should be able to begin some big hold climbing and gradually work back to full force over the next few weeks. Good luck!

When can I return to climbing following broken leg?

Q: I just broke my left tibia skiing and had to undergo surgery to fix it. My leg was not casted, so I was able to start a rehab program three weeks after the accident (and my muscles haven’t deteriorated much). Hopefully I will be walking in the beginning of May. When would it be wise to start climbing again?
–Mundelein, IL

A: Only your doctor can give you a correct timeline for getting back on the rock. Fortunately, it sounds like your injury is not too severe, so I’d hope you’ll be pulling down again in the not too distance future!

Optimal rest length between sets of HIT workout?

Q: Eric, I’ve read your books and I recently purchased a set of your HIT Strips. I have noticed one major difference in the HIT workout programs you describe in the difference sources. In TFC, you recommend a two-minute rest between sets while everywhere else you recommend three minutes. I was wondering if you have found better results with the two-minutes rest, thus why TFC (the newest of all of my references) would suggest that duration? Which should I use?
–Todd Sparks

A: Great question, Todd…you are not the first to ask this. Either approach will work, but you want to stick to one rest length for an entire cycle, so that your results (reps and weights) can be compared from workout to workout. The main reason I cut the time to two minutes was to speed up the workout a bit. I think you will get the same great results either way. As an added benefit, I find that I need to use a little less added weight with only a two minute rest. As you get stronger and stronger from the HIT workout, you’ll find yourself needing to use some very high weights. Thus, the shorter rest break enables you to reach failure according to protocol with a bit less weight.

Most important, treat your first few HIT workouts as an experiment and see which way you like it. Another issue to consider early on is just how much texture to sand off the Strips (where your fingers wrap over the holds). I prefer to sand off a lot, making a “wrap smooth” surface, except for where the finger pads touch. But err on the side of sanding too little off, since once it’s gone, it’s gone. I also use the X-taping method to reduce skin wear when training at high weights. You’ll figure all this out with experience…and get super strong in the process!