Your Questions

Round 101

Eric, Your training articles have helped me to advance from 11c to 12c in the past year—thanks! Now, I want to increase my training intensity and maybe even upgrade to working out 5 or 6 days per week. What kind of supplements could I take to help my training and recovery? –Amir (Iran)

Hello Amir, I’m happy to hear about your successes! Training harder is good, but training SMARTER is best! So proceed carefully, and please do not climb/train more than 4 or 5 days per week. I suggest doing just two near-maximal sessions per week; the other days should be sub-maximal sessions. Overtraining and injury are traps you must avoid.  High quality nutrition is certainly important for all serious climbers—a recovery drink, such as Accelerade, is very helpful to kick-start recovery after a training session. A whey protein shake may also be useful if you lack protein in your daily diet. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

After many years of climbing I’ve realized that I always wear out the tip of my left shoe before my right. I know that my left foot is slightly bigger than my right which may contribute to this uneven wear, but could this be indicative of a footwork issue? If it is within my footwork, what drills would you recommend to help with this? Thanks for the help! –Matt (Maryland)

Hey Mike, People with really poor footwork tend to blow through both shoes fast, so I don’t think that’s your problem. Uneven wear probably is the result of the one foot being larger than the other. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to work on improving footwork. Here are two things to work on: look at each foothold for a full second (rather than just a quick glance) and try to find the bull’s eye of “target” (that is, the best part of the hold to position your toe on). Next, as you weight each foot, try to feel the hold…and then try to feel your center of gravity move over the foothold. This is more difficult, but if you can develop this fine awareness it will elevate your game.

Hello Eric, I want to know if doing the heavy finger rolls can be done one hand at a time with a dumbbell and still be effective in achieving better grip strength. Thank you for your time. –Mike

Hey Matt, Heavy finger rolls require a large amount of weight to effectively develop forearm strength, and when working this with a single dumbbell it will tip your shoulder and body to one side and cause a lot of strain on your back. You really do need an Olympic weight set to do them correctly. But I wouldn’t worry about this—you can do other exercises to get the same results–perhaps better–such as weighted fingerboard hangs, HIT strip training, hypergravity bouldering, and such. You can learn a lot more about these exercises on our web site and in my books.

Hey Eric, I bought your books Training for Climbing and How to Climb 5.12 and I really enjoyed them both. My question relates to my elbow pain—I believe I’ve developed tendinosis.  After a hard day of climbing I experience a dull pain on the outside of my elbow that is very bothersome. It persists for about 2 to 3 days and then goes away until the next day of climbing. I have taken about 3 weeks off and have been doing reverse curls and the rotator cuff exercises to strengthen the antagonist muscles. I went climbing yesterday, however, and the pain was still there. I don’t know if I should have taken more time off or if there is more I can do. I really don’t want to give up more time climbing because I love it so much, but if I have to for the long run then I suppose I will have to. FYI, I have been climbing for roughly a year. –Bret (Kansas)

Hi Bret, You didn’t mention on which side your elbow hurts….but I assume it’s on the outside, since this is the more common sore spot among non-elite climbers. Such lateral elbow pain is pesky, and with some climbers it can take years to resolve. Stretching the finger extensors (as shown on page 104 of TFC) is the most important thing to do (several times per day, every day)! Ice the elbow for 20 minutes after EVERY climbing session. Avoid crimping and “chickenwinging” (elbow pulling away from the wall when grabbing small holds). Keep with the reverse wrist curls a few days per week—do the eccentric (lowering) phase of the exercise and lift the dumbbell back to the start position using both hands. Do all this, and hopefully you can work through it this season. However, if the condition gets worse, I suggest you see a sports medicine doctor—a cortisone shot can be helpful in serious cases (as a last resort) to quiet it down, however you must commit to taking 3 months off from climbing following the shot. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

I just read your article in DPM about long-duration isometrics (LDI) and I don’t understand how the increased duration will benefit actual climbing. In the article you state that holding the isometric contraction for 30 seconds or more will recruit the less-frequently used high-threshold fibers. I don’t see how these high-threshold fibers will add strength while you’re actually climbing and performing short-duration isometric contractions if these fibers are only activated after 30 seconds. Please advise. –Mark

Hey Mark, Sorry for not explaining things well enough in the article—I only get a page and a half! Anyway, the muscle fibers have no “clock” to go by…they just know “on” and “off”. The goal of LDI is to trick the high-threshold, hard-to-turn on fibers to switch “on”…so that they can be conditioned. In climbing, they only turn on during the most strenuous/maximally physical moves—and therefore they are hard to train. The fact that you never hang isometrically for a long time while climbing doesn’t matter—the high threshold fibers just need to be turned “on” and it doesn’t matter how you achieve it in the gym. In LDI training, you can trick them to turn “on”, although you can also do it with super intense exercises like Campus Training and hypergravity fingerboard training. LDI simply offers you a safer, alternative strategy—and a good way to mix up your training—for training the high-threshold fibers that doesn’t involve dynamic moves or large amounts of weight added to your body.