Round 3

How to train to improve on 5.9s and 5.10s?

Q: Eric, I have been climbing 2 years–very seriously for the past year. I have recently begun working on 5.11’s on TR, but still struggle with 5.9’s on lead. Technique wise the moves are easy, but the extra time I spend clipping in seems to pump me out extremely fast. I climb twice a week at the gym and the third day at the crag or the gym. Can you recommend an effective way of increasing my endurance so I can begin redpointing my 5.9 routes and moving into the 5.10’s. Thanks. — David (Hopkins, MN)

A: David, I believe you are already strong enough to lead 5.9s. I think your problems lie in the hard to recognize areas of poise, flow, and economy of movement. Use the gym as your practice ground, and do this: TR a 5.9 or 5.10 route and get it wired, then after a rest give it a go on lead. The goal is to send the route briskly and confidently with the same flow and speed of movement (on lead) as in your previous TR ascent. Using this strategy over the course of a few months will develop the mental and technical skills you need to advance into leading 5.10s. Upon accomplishing some 5.10 leads you’ll be ready for some specific strength training, but for now focus on your technique and tactics.

How to train while recovering from finger tendon injury?

Q: First of all, thanks for the great TFC book–after years of 5.10 climbing I am finally starting to redpoint 5.11. Unfortunately, I’ve suffered a minor tendon pulley injury (not enough rest during the A-E phase). What kind of training do you suggest during the next few weeks: general conditioning, upper body strength training, or just rest? — Chris (Troms, Norway)

A: Hey Chris, Thanks for the kind words…sorry to hear about your injury. Sounds like you have good self-awareness, so I think you probably know what you need to do: Stay off the finger for a few weeks until it is pain free. Meanwhile, you can stay fit by doing some running, core muscle training, and even some pull-ups on big holds *if* the finger doesn’t hurt. (Just to be safe, you might want to tape it massively before you do the pull-ups, so you remember not to grip too hard.) The bottom line: if it hurts your finger, don’t do it, regardless of the activity or exercise. After two to four weeks of (finger) rest, gradually test it out on easy climbing and see how it goes. If the injury really is minor, you should be able to return to full-force climbing a few weeks after that.

How to use creatine for climbing?

Q: Does creatine help with strength gains? Is it safe? How best to use it? Will help or hinder my climbing? — Andy (Manchester, England)

A: Andy, Creatine can help and hinder, depending how a climber uses it…there are several issues to consider. Check out this link to an article I wrote on the subject. Click this link.

For Hypergravity Training: Weight belt or weight vest?

Q: I’m just curious to know whether it is better to use a weight vest or weight belt with the HIT system? –Sam

A: It depends on how much weight you are using. A weight belt is best, since it feels more natural (near your center of gravity). However, I find using three 10 pound belts around my waist is the absolute limit. If you need greater resistance, you’ll need to go to a 40 pound vest. Then, of course, you can add on 1 or 2 waist belts to create 50 or 60 lbs resistance (as you get REALLY strong)!

How to begin Complex Training?

Q: I’ve been using your HIT strips on my wall for over a year now, cycling on and off of HIT (the best training method every!) every few weeks. Then I read about complex training in your TFC book (sounds awesome) and I was wondering how soon after HIT I should I do the campusing. I was thinking I should do a max set of HIT (say, on the crimps holds), fall off with flaming arms, wait a few minuets then do a set of campus training? Does that sound right or should the campusing be more immediate to be more effective? Could you give me an example of what would be an effective way? Thanks a lot. – Corey (Canada)

A: Hey Corey, You have the right idea. Do HIT first, take a brief rest and then follow with a set of campus double dynos. This is a severe training method, so you must use it sparingly…and rest for a couple days afterwards. As you become comfortable with the complex training, you can proceed from a max set of HIT straight to a set of campus double dynos. Look for a feature article on Complex Training coming to the NICROS Training Center this Fall!

Better to train technique or strength?

Q: I’ve read your TFC book, and it’s a really big help! I climb 3 days per week at different indoor walls, and on average I climb in the upper 6th difficulty (UIAA) without additional power and strength training (except bouldering). Knowing about my weakness in body tension, upper-body power, and so on, I don’t know if I should focus on these points or continue in improving my technical skills. — Matthias (Dresden, Germany)

A: Hello Matthias, You’ve done great achieving upper 6th grade without any sport-specific training. You can probably continue to get slower gains by sticking to your current “program”, however, I think you could make a significant jump into 7th grade given some specific training as explained in TFC. Consider adding some of the “A+” and “B” exercises described in the book, about 3 days per week. Increasing both lock-off strength and power movements should open up the next level. Good luck!

What to do about extremely dry skin and “split tips”?

Q: Just as I get strong enough to send harder than usual, my skin starts to fail. My tips split, cuticles tear, nails break, ect. I’ve tried Wetnaps, Zim’s cream, sleeping with gloves on, and filing down calluses. Any advice? — Mike (Mono County, CA)

A: Mike, You must have especially dry skin to have such severe problems, This condition may be made worse if you are using chalk with a “drying agent” added, such as in the Metolius Superchalk. Other powdered brands may also include drying agents, so I suggest you use only Frank Endo “block chalk”.

Here’s another tip: Immediately after climbing, wash your hands and lather up with a good skin cream WHILE your hands are still wet. Massage the water/lotion lather into your skin and nails. Repeat this process several times a day, every day. Hopefully this will help improve your condition. Good luck!

P.S. Keep sanding down the calluses…I suggest 150 grit sand paper.

How to solidify a climbing grade and advance to the next level?

Q: I started climbing 4 years ago, but during the last two years I haven’t seen much progress. My redpoint is 7a+/7b, onsight 6b+/6c. What do you think is better appraoch: try hard routes 7b/7c on toprope or to keep climbing 7a/7a+ on lead? -Vika (Russia)

A: Hello Vika, It’s tough for me to tell what’s holding you back without knowing more about your abilities and program. However, let me suggest three things to consider.

1.) How is your economy of movement? Do you climb smoothly or rough, do you grip to tightly, do you not rest effectively, do you climb to slow? Focus on improving in all of these areas.

2.) Climb at some new climb areas–many people fail to progress because they aren’t learning new skills and techniques. So, climb at as many different cliffs as possible.

3.) Your idea of top roping on some harder routes (7b/7c) is a good strategy. Don’t get hurt, though; but do practice on some harder routes to learn new techniques and develop more strength.

Do all this and you should make a breakthrough this season!

What’s your opinion of Whey protein?

Q: Dear Eric, I was wondering, what is your opinion of Whey protein? I notice that in TFC you mention that John Gill drank milk protein after his workouts, and that you drink shed loads of milk, too. Can I get the same benefits as whey protein just by drinking milk? Does it actually have a valid effect or will I just be creating expensive urine? -Tim

A: Hey Tim, Whey protein is absolutely the highest quality protein, and I’ve been using it daily for the last 8 or 9 years. I still drink quite a bit of skim milk. I mix the whey into the milk for a serving first thing in the morning, immediately after my workout, and just before bedtime. There is no downside to whey other than the cost. If you shop around, you can get a 5 pound container (about a month’s supply) of Whey for between $30 and $45. So, it’s just over a buck a day. Of course, milk itself has a high whey content, so you naturally get some whey from milk. So take your pick!