Round 5

What is the best wall training strategy for building Anaerobic Endurance?

Q: Eric, I have a question about the 2-week A-E (“power endurance”) phase as described in your book as part of the “4-3-2-1 training cycle.” I have been doing 5 minute burns on my woody (45-deg. wall), with 15 minutes off. Doing about 5 of these sets in total. Now I’m wondering if this is best, since I can’t do any of my problems after the 2nd set. Also, I find I’m just trying to survive and I’m using all the bigger holds just to stay on. Is this OK? I end up with this monster pump, however! The pump goes by the time I start my next set, but the “batteries” are getting lower each set. -Justin (Australia)

A: Hey Justin, Think of the 2-week A-E (Anaerobic endurance, aka “power endurance”) phase as “interval training”. Just as in the interval training used by runners, you want to alternate near-maximal climbing for a few minutes with periods of very easy climbing or rest. You can vary the exact times of the intervals. Your use of 5 minute burns followed by 15 minutes rest is good; or you could cut the time to 3 minute burns with just 6 to 9 minutes of rest. I like to begin each burn by linking known problems on my 50-degree wall, but as the pump builds I’m just fighting to stay on for another move. Getting the deep pump (and teaching the muscles to adapt and recover) is a vital part of the training stimulus during this important 2-week phase. Keep with it!

What to do about elbow soreness from pull-ups?

Q: Eric, Performing multiple sets of pull-ups blasts my elbows big time and causes significant pain. The pain is on the inside of the arm, at the joint. Currently, my left elbow has been sore for weeks, and I haven’t dared attempt any pull-ups. Is this an age thing–I’m 45–or a body thing? Thanks for your insight and suggestions, and thanks also for the excellent training books. They’ve been immensely helpful! -Ken (Missoula, MT)

A: Hello Ken. The elbows are a problem spot for many climbers–it’s not a matter of age. First, do no training or climbing that results in soreness on the knobby inside or outside parts of the elbows–these are the classic spots for tendinitis. That said, you might want to take a few weeks off from serious training while you begin doing some rehab exercises. As shown in my books, performing Reverse Wrist Curls (using a 10- or 15- pound dumbbell) and Forearm Pronators (hand rotation while holding one end of a 10-pound dumbbell) will help improve the situation. Stretching the forearm muscle groups before/after workouts and climbing is also important. However, it pain continues long-term you should see a doctor to confirm that there is not something else going on there.

As a final comment, pull-up training using a set of NICROS Pump Rocks (or similar rock rings) is more forgiving on the elbows. So you might consider investing in a set for your home gym. Good luck!

Advice for a 12-year old with injured fingers?

Q: My 12-year old son has been training for 5 years and has cracked his growth plates in his middle fingers due to intense training. Our doctors do not understand rock climbing or the injury. Do you have any advice, resources or contacts on what to do and how to continue to train? -Billy (Rowlett, TX)

A: Hey Billy, Sounds like you son is climbing great, but I’m concerned about his injury. Of course, I’m not a doctor so I can’t speak to his condition. I must point out, however, that I’m NOT an advocate of serious sport-specific training for kids under age 14. A few things he absolutely should not engage in are campus training, HIT training, fingerboard training, etc. Kids should stick to just climbing 3 or 4 days per week, plus some light weight training and pull-ups. Extremely targeting training is best saved until one is at least 17 years of age.

So, I’d have him eliminate all specific training and maybe even cut back on his climbing time until the condition improves. Should the condition worsen, your son should probably cease climbing for 6 to 12 months and seek further medical advice.

Suggestions for improving technique?

Q: Hi Eric! Firstly, let me congratulate you on your excellent book “Training for Climbing”! I read and re-read it constantly for both inspiration and insight. I have been climbing for just over 18 months and climb at a local indoor bouldering wall, climbing wall and a local crag around 3 – 4 times a week. I also have your HIT system, some rock rings, and a hangboard for at-home training.
I climb with several people much better than me, and my “technique” (or lack thereof) is commented on. I already realize this is a weak point and I endeavor to watch them and try the ways they approach a problem and also play with any additional ways I can think of. Do you have any other suggestions to help on the technique front? –Jared (New Zealand)

A: Hello Jared, thanks for your kind remarks. Sounds to me like you are doing everything right, and you need to just keep doing what you are doing. You’ve only been climbing 18 months and given how complex climbing technique is (much like golf), it takes years to become a master. Results don’t come overnight, nor even in a month or two. Stay with the program and strive for constant self-awareness–evaluate your strengths and weaknesses regularly, and strive to elevate both your technical and mental game. Improvement comes slowly, but trust that a year from now you will be a much better technical climber!

How to intergrate others sports with training for climbing?

Q: Eric, I know that any other sport besides climbing will not help me train for climbing. My question is this, I used to play paintball a lot and I want to get back into it. What day could I play and not hurt my climbing gains from training (have read your books already). The way I play paintball involves very little actually running, but demands lots of abdominal strength for popping out of side of bunkers. I don’t want paintball to get in the way of my training for climbing. What day would you suggest I play on? -Burton (USA)

A: That’s the first time I’ve gotten that question, Burton! Anyway, it sounds like you have a good understanding of training and I think it’s good that you have a second “get away” activity to engage in. Since quality rest is important for a hard-training climber, however, I suggest you limit your paintball to one or two days per week. The best time for this would be on days following climbing or training days. Ideally you want to save the day *before* climbing days as a rest day, so you can hit the crags with fresh muscles (including the core muscles you mention).