Round 7

What is the optimal recovery interval between climbs?

Q: What is the optimal recovery interval between climbs? — Ellis (England)

A: Ellis, Optimal recovery time is directly proportional to the length of climbs you are doing. For instance, in sending short boulder problems (say, a maximum of 30 seconds of hard climbing) you only need between 3 to 5 minutes to recover. However, rest breaks between long redpoint attempts (say, 5 to 15 minutes of hard, steady climbing) need to be about 30 minutes in order to recover optimally. Active rest (walking around, light stretching, etc.) can speed up the recovery process, as will sipping on a quality sports drink. It’s a pretty complex (and powerful) subject and I’ve written a full chapter on the subject of Accelerating Recovery in my latest book Training For Climbing. You can order a copy from

Can you please recommend an exercise for training lower back muscles?

Q: Can you please advise me on lower back training to counterbalance the abdominal strength developed in climbing? — Sheena (BC, Canada)

A: Hello Sheena, Some health clubs have machines for lower back training, however, this is not an option for many climbers (like myself). Therefore, I advise use of two floor exercises called Upper-Truck Extension and Aquaman. You can find photos of these exercises on pages 99 and 100 of my Training For Climbing book.

Following is a brief explanation of both.

Upper Trunk Extension
Lie face down on the floor with your legs spread about shoulder width apart and your arms by your side. Slowly raise your chest and head slightly off the floor, pull your shoulder blades back and continue to raise your trunk up as far as possible without any spinal discomfort. Hold for a moment, then return to the starting position. Perform 10 slow repetitions. Rest of a minute or two, then do a second set. Be sure to keep your neck relaxed and your pelvis pressed firmly against the floor throughout the range of motion.

Lie face down on the floor with arms extended overhead and your face turned to one side. Begin with one arm and the opposite leg raised slightly off the ground to provide tension. Slowly raise the opposite arm and leg straight up while keeping you head and pelvis in firm contact with the floor. Raise them upward as far as possible, hold for a moment and then return to the starting position. Repeat with the other arm and leg, and continue for 5 to 8 repetitions on each side. Avoid rotating or twisting your body throughout the range of motion.

Clarify HIT Workout Details

Q: Eric, I use your HIT strips, but I have noticed some differences between the workout in your TFC book and this website. In the book you recommend two minutes rest whereas the web site says to take 3 minutes rest. Also, the book says to do a “full crimp” and “half crimp” grip position, but the web site just mentions training of the crimp grip. What’s the best way to proceed? — Brian (Cincinnati)

Thanks for writing, Brian. HIT is equally effective with either 2 or 3 minutes of rest between sets. Ultimately, it comes down to how much time you have available for this portion of your workout and how much recovery you feel you need between sets in order to put out a maximum effort. It is important, however, to settle in doing it one way or the other and then to be consistent with your rests. I personally prefer using the 2-minute rest–it keeps the workout moving and allows me enough time to do 2 sets with each grip position (important for those experienced with HIT workouts). First-time HIT users should stick to one set of each grip for the first few HIT cycles and may find the 3-minute rest preferable.

As for training the crimp grip position, I advise training one set with each “full crimp” and then one set with the “half crimp”. Hope this helps out. Be strong!

Is Electrostimulation Beneficial for Climbers?

Q: Hi Eric, I was wondering if you have any information about the advantages/disadvantages of electrostimulation as a to supplement to training for climbing? I know those TV ab machines are a farce, but I have heard of climbers on the world cup circuit who utilize electrostimulation as a training method. I was just wondering if you knew any of the “how’s” and “when’s” of this method? — Dave

Hey Dave, I don’t have any strong beliefs (pro or con) on use of electrostimulation, but here’s my sense based on what I’ve read. Use of electrostimulation may be beneficial for speeding recovery from injury and it may be useful for enhancing recovery between workouts. However, I doubt there’s any actual “training benefit” in the use of such devices. Certainly electrostimulation can not be used in place of actual sport-specific training, but as a recovery aid it may allow you to train more frequently. Hope this helps out!

What’s the Ideal Time to Execute a Fingerboard Workout?

Q: I am relatively new to climbing and I bought a fingerboard for doing some training at home. How often should I train on the fingerboard, and can I use it on climbing days or only on rest days between climbing? –Andrew

Hello Andrew, First, consider that actual climbing time is more important than training time–invest 2 to 4 days per week into climbing, and you’ll be on track. That said, supplemental training becomes more important as you advance to the harder grades. Fingerboard, pull-up and lockoff training are best done on climbing days, but only after you are through climbing. Or, you can do them as replacement to climbing, though the climb time is more important (per above). No matter what, make sure you maintain a minimum of three rest days per week away from climbing and sport-specific training.