Your Questions

Round 102

I started climbing about a year ago, and I have been making slow and steady progress. I have fallen in love with the sport and I aspire to climb in the higher grades (V10+ and 5.13+) one day. Unfortunately I was a rower and an American football player before climbing. So I stand 6 feet tall, 185 lbs and around 10% body fat. Despite my weight I am pretty strong for my body weight. I can do 3 pull ups with 130 lbs added on a belt and around 35 pull ups with just bodyweight. My question: is there anything specific I can do in the meantime to help me succeed in the future? I was also wondering if it would be beneficial to try to purposly lose muscle mass (to get to 165lbs)? Also is age 20 too late of a start to reach such a high level of climbing? Any input would be greatly appreciated. –Ken (New York)

Hi Kenneth, The sky is the limit for you—I don’t view your background, age, or size as limiting factors. Sure, it would be helpful to get down to 170 or 165 lbs, if possible; but I also know a former college football player out west who is now climbing 5.14a at your current weight! It sounds like you are super strong in terms of pulling—and, really, strong enough (in pulling) to climb 5.13. So your focus should be on climbing as much as possible, 3 or 4 days per week, so you can keep improving technique and movement skills. On super hard routes, grip strength and grip endurance are often limiting factors, so you may want to make these your long-term training focus. However, throughout each month and each year ahead, keep reminding yourself that climbing is a skill sport…and so, like golf, you must always be trying to refine your skill and climbing efficiency. Anyway, given an intelligent program, staying injury free, and consistent dedication for months/years ahead, I do think you can reach the goals you mentioned. Keep me posted!

 

I climb V9 and have done a few V10 and V11’s. My finger and lock-off strength are fairly good. I hardly ever do pull-ups and I was wondering if this is what is holding me back on certain moves. eg: If I do a big move to a small crimp and my arm is straight, I can hold myself there no problem but am totally unable to actually pull my arm to a bent position to move off the small hold to the next hold. So my question is…should I train pull-ups in general (like on jugs) or do I train pullups on crimps (medium size)? Thanks and look forward to a response. –Mat (South Africa)

Hey Mat, Sounds like you are doing great, but let’s refine your training a little. Overall, it seems your program is working fine…but you are right about targeting your weakness. I suggest you play around with three exercises: 1. Do weighted pull-ups on a bar or bucket hold—hold the lock off at the top of each pull-up for a full second. You’ll want to add a lot of weight…40 lbs or so, around your waist or as a weight vest or weighted pack. 2. Do some fingertip pull-ups at body weight, again holding the lockoff at the top for a full second. 3. Do some one-arm lockoffs on a bar—hold the top position for as long as possible…you should be able to build up to 10 to 20 seconds over the course of a few months. Maybe do one set of each per workout—or do 3 sets of just one of these exercises per workout, and change the exercise every week. Either way, don’t do too much…a few sets is enough; more tempts injury. Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

 

I had been reading through various research articles and training tips on your site, and the general feel is that any leg strength that causes even slight hypertrophy is bad. I was under the impression from my climbing gym mates and trainer though that under ideal circumstances (Perfect technique, no campusing moves) that climbing is almost entirely leg strength, aside from grip of course…the idea being that you don’t pull with your arms and shoulder girdle, although that sometimes cannot be avoided, it should be moved through powerfully to conserve energy. –Andrew (Pennsylvania)

Hi Andrew, Sure, the legs should be the main driver, but it only takes ordinary leg strength to push yourself up a cliff—you certainly don’t need to squat hundreds of pounds! Thus, skinny legs that can push your bodyweight are ideal—extra leg mass will only weight you down…and this is a huge liability when climbs get overhung and your fingers and arms have to carry much of the weight.

 

Hi Eric, I recently read your book How To Climb 5.12 and it has gotten me psyched to train this winter! However, I recently got a job at a summer camp teaching on a rock wall/ropes course. The wall is basically a large jug ladder, and I’m afraid two months of not pushing myself climbing is going to make me lose my strength. Is there anything I can do on the wall over the summer to keep pushing myself or at least maintain my current strength level? –Joe (New York)

 Hey Joe, Thanks for the kind words about the book. Back in the day I had a similar summer job as you, so I can relate to the situation. Obviously you can’t do any big-league training on that kind of beginners’ wall, however, I bet if you are creative you can find a way to get a decent workout on it. I’m thinking of eliminator routes…where you allow yourself, say, to only use side pulls the whole way up…or just allow one hand to undercling and the other to down pull the whole way up, etc. Come up with some weird funky things like that and you might find it actually gives you a light pump…and it will work some body positions that are important (and not likely to be used if you just jug hand-of-hand up the wall). One thing: see if you can get yourself a fingerboard of some kind…hang it up and do fingertip pull-ups, lock-offs, etc. 3 days per week. This will keep your forearms in decent shape. Hope this helps. Have a great season!