Round 8

How to train for crack climbing indoors?

Q: Dear Eric, I’m a solid 5.10 climber (just breaking into 5.11 sport routes), however, my trad skills remain limited to about 5.9. I’d really like to improve so as to do longer classic crack routes. Unfortunately, I live in Chicago during the school year and can only train indoors. What do you suggest to train for crack climbing indoors–it seems to use much different muscles and technique than for face climbing. I’d appreciate any thoughts! – Andy (Chicago, IL)

A: Hey Andy, You are in the midst of the common dilemma: How to train for cracks indoors! Unless your gym has a crack feature, you really can’t train specifically for cracks. The best you can do is train your anaerobic endurance–ability to hang on a long time through long, hard routes–and strive for a relaxed, calm style of climbing. Many climbers make crack climbs far harder than they need to be because they get tight and stressed on the unfamiliar terrain. Thus, if you can make “poise” your hallmark when climbing indoors, there’s a good chance it will carryover to you outside cracks climbing outdoors. Of course, actual practice at crack climbing is the best technique for improvement, so never pass up a chance to pump some cracks (both TR and on lead) whenever you have the outdoor opportunity.

Benefits of electrostimulation for climbers?

Q: Eric, I’ve seen electrostimulation mentioned by several pro climbers recently. My impression when I first saw those machines was that they were snake oil; so is there any real benefit to climbers? -Max (San Francisco, CA)

A: Max, I’ve been asked about electrostim a couple times in recent weeks; below you will find a link to my official online response. In a nutshell, stim can enhance recovery and may be good for increasing healing of soft tissue injuries (tendons/muscle), but it doesn’t replace sport-specific training. Here’s a link to my previous post on creatine for climbers.

Training for a 41-year old who’s trying to “keep up” with the youngsters!

Q: How does a 41-year old train to keep up with climbers half his age? -Greg (Tulsa, OK)

A: Hey Greg, I’m now 40, so I can relate. Bottom line: train to address your specific weaknesses on the rock, and forget what everyone else is doing for training. Mature (read “older”) climbers can take a more thoughtful, measured approach to routes that compensates for advancing age. I know many folks in their 50s, even 60s, who climb 5.12, so age really needn’t be a limiting factor. Real constraints are time available to train and climb, diet and metabolism, and quality of training. I trust that you’ll find valuable information on all these areas on this web site and in my book Training For Climbing. Believe!

What is appropriate training for 9 to 14-year olds?

Q: I teach/coach climbing to a group of 9- to 14-year olds once a week. They are relatively advanced and they are competing at national level. I would like to know more about what strength/endurance exercises are suitable for this age group. We currently avoid specific strength training, except some exercises to maintain muscle balance. Can you tell me more about this? In particular interval training. – Merewyn (New Zealand)

A: Hello Merewyn, Sounds to me like you are a good coach, especially for having the insight to do muscle balance exercises AND for even asking the question about appropriate training. As explained in my book, Training For Climbing, I do not advocate serious high-intensity training (Campus Boards, HIT, etc.) for anyone under age 17.

Kids 9 – 13 should just climb 4 days per week and perform basic supplemental exercise like jogging, stretching, body weight exercises (such as pull-ups and push-ups) and light weight training for muscle balance. Teens age 13 to 17 can begin some sport-specific training such as weighted pull-ups, fingerboard training, and interval training on steep bouldering walls. Of course, each kid has different genetics, recovery ability, and skills, so you can’t really apply hard rules across the board. But I hope this gives you a basic guideline. Good luck, and keep up the great work!

What are the best rehab exercises for medial (inner) elbow tendinitis?

Q: Eric, I had a chonic case of medial epicondylitis for the last two years. I just read your recommendation to do hand pronation exercises. Are hand supination exercises also helpful? -Terry Lee

Hey Terry, All the “pulling” climbers do naturally works the supinators in the forearm, thus the tendency for the pronators to fall out of balance. This imbalance is a common cause of medial elbow problems, though, plain old overtraining or even a single rad move can trigger problems. Anyway, do the pronators as part of your warm-up, then do a couple more sets at the end of your workout. BTW, if you are still injured, you should stop climbing for a couple months and just do the rehab exercises until you are painfree. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

How to train for neuromuscular disinhibition?

Q:What is the best way to disinhibit the golgi tendon organ? Can you give me a single best training tip on this? – Jake (Moab, UT)

Hey Jake,
That’s a pretty high-end training question. Regarding neuromuscular disinhibition, the best strategies are hypergravity training (bouldering/training with weight added to your body) and dynamic campus training (i.e. double hand dynos). Of course, both these strategies are stressful and not appropriate for many climbers. However, if you are in really good shape, already possess great technique, and you are not injured (fingers, shoulders, elbows), then you might try adding some of this to your regimen. My book, Training For Climbing, covers this subject and provides more in-depth details. Also, this winter I’ll be adding a few articles to the Nicros Training Center detailing safe, effective methods of Campus Training. Please check back!

How to diagnose and treat an injured wrist?

Q: Dear Eric, I was at a point in a climb two weeks ago where I was hanging with all my weight on my left arm and I felt my hand bones separate from my arm bones a bit. It was not sharply painful, but felt over-stretched. Now I have stopped climbing and my wrist is a bit sore on the inside and outside. This injury came on after starting to climb a lot more. Do you have suggestions for diagnosis or treatment? -Liza (Marquette, MI)

A: Hello Liza, Your injury is somewhat uncommon for climbers, since it’s often the shoulder joint that gets abused when an arm is weighted completely. Anyway, the tissues injured are likely the same–ligaments which stabilize the joint. If your wrist is not swollen or painful to the touch, then you might only need a few weeks of rest. However, I’m not a doctor and I strongly encourage you to see a doctor if pain persists. BTW, when you return to climbing, take it easy and stay on non-overhanging terrain for a while. Focus on technique and footwork, and avoid full-on weighting of your arms.

What’s the value of creating loading for climbers?

Q: What are your views of creatine loading in climbing training (before big climbs or events). – James (Portsmith, NH)

A: Hey James, I do not advise creatine loading for climbers–the weight gain is a strong negative on performance. Remember, the creatine loads in ALL your muscles and more so in the largest muscles of the body (the legs). So, you’ll be loading a little creatine (and the water it bonds with) in your arms and a LOT in your legs. Great for football players or powerlifters, but bad for climbing. That said, I do think small doses of creatine can aid climbing performance and recovery. I suggest adding just 5 grams to a sports drink which you consume while climbing (or immediately after climbing to speed recovery). Five grams will not produce a loading effect, but it should help elevate blood CP levels enough to enhance recovery and, possibly, increase power somewhat.I have a full chapter on ways to enhance recovery in my book Training For Climbing. Also, here’s a link to an article I previously posted here in the TC.