Your Questions

Round 18

What advice to you have for a beginner wanting to enter bouldering comps?

Q: I want to train for bouldering competitions and am looking for training recommendations. P.S. I’m fairly new to climbing, currently boulder V2, and I live next to a boulder field. -Kevin (Ogden, UT)

A: Aren’t you lucky Kevin…living next to a boulder field! This gift may also be your biggest challenge, as you may need to FORCE yourself to take enough rest days. As someone relatively new to climbing, I’m sure that you are jonesing to get on the rock at every opportunity. While engaging in a regular schedule of climbing is important to acquire skills and make steady gains, many folks get injured by climbing too often (i.e. too little rest). Of course, if you get an injury it’s a major setback both in terms of training and competing. Climb no more than 3 or 4 days per week and, hopefully, you’ll dodge injury.

Other recommendations for you: focus on developing economy of movement and uncommonly good technique, and let your strength come along on its own without any serious strength training. After you reach V5 or V6 you can begin some targeted strength training…but at your current stage I say “climb!”

Finally, since most comps are held on indoor walls, you’ll want to get some practice climbing on plastic.

What’s the best way to get back up to speed after a layoff?

Q: I recently had to take several months off due to elbow tendonitis. I’ve been back on for about a month now but cannot seem to catch up to where I left off. What’s the best way to get back up to speed and lose the weight? I am beginning to climb and do aerobic activity a few days per week. –Danielle (Fort Collins, CO)

A: Hey Danielle, I think you’ll be back in top form soon. I’d stick with your current training and climbing schedule. Two weight-loss tips that might help you are: 1.) try to do your cardio first thing in the morning before breakfast…the ultimate fat-burning strategy. 2. Avoid eating anything significant within 3 hours of going to sleep. This may not always be possible, but it is good to feel a little hungry going to bed.

What exercises can I do during my common times away from rock?

Q: After living two years in the mountains, I was forced to move to the city for work. Unfortunately, my work involves long stretches (3+ weeks) away from the mountains and even rock gyms. What exercises can I do, given that I spend most of my time working in the oil fields of southern Alberta? PS I already do the cardio-cycling-running thing. -Tim (Calgary, Alberta)

A: Hey Tim, First, I want to point out that all your hard-earned climbing skills (mental and technical) will NOT be lost during your time away from climbing. So, you should mainly be worried about losing climbing-specific strength. Keep up with the cardio workouts and try your best to add something specific for your upper body. At the least, install a fingerboard to train pull-ups, knee lifts, and fingers a few days per week. Ideally, try to build a small 45-degree bouldering wall. Even an 8-foot by 8-foot wall with a few jugs would be helpful to maintain lock-off and grip strength. Hope this helps out.

Is it too much to train all the “climbing muscles” in a single workout?

Q: In terms of strength training, is there any limit to the number of different muscle groups I should train in one session? In other words, will doing full strength training on all or most climbing-related muscle groups have a significant impact on my overall recovery time and the extent to which the muscles supercompensate? (Assumimg I follow the nutrition guidelines and methods for accelerating recovery outlined in your latest book.) –Nathan (Victoria BC, Canada)

A: Hello Nathan, I suggest you work all the climbing muscles in a single workout, so that you can also rest them all on the next day. Train your weaker (smaller) muscles first then progress to the larger muscles and the core muscles. So, after your warm-up do your bouldering and grip exercises, then pull-up and lock-off exercises, and finish with abs/core. How much you should do for each muscle group is a tough question, as it depends on your absolute fitness. However, it’s best to error on the side of too little training to avoid injury and overtraining. You’ll need to feel this out over time.

What training circuit is best for my upcoming trip to Frankenjura?

Q: Hi Eric, I’m leaving for frankenjura in 39 days, and so I’ve drawn up a fairly rigorous training schedule that will take me up until the last few days before the trip. I’m trying to do a lot of circuits, to improve my anaerobic endurance. My ability to hang on for a long time even on jugs is rather poor. There are numerous 5.13′s which I have flashed in 2 sections but have subsequently failed to redpoint because I just can’t hold on to jugs! My question is mainly about the specific method of circuit training that would be best to prepare me for this trip. –Keith (UK)

A: Hi Keith, With the trip just a few weeks away, it will be tough to gain much more physical strength so it would be best to begin simulating the type of routes you will attempt. Also, it’s absolutely vital that you take a 5- to 7-day rest before your first day on the rock.

As for training circuits, strive mimic the type of routes you’ve mentioned and the amount of rest you’ll take between attempts. Here’s one possible training strategy: Couple two strenuous 20-move circuits with just a one-minute rest in between. This would simulate a 40-move route with a mid-route shakeout. You might even make the one-minute rest an on-wall rest on a large jug hold and practice shaking out (use G-Tox!).

After this double circuit, take a 10 to 20 minute rest (as you might take between attempts on a climb) and repeat. Do about four of these cycles, which might take about 80 minutes. You may not get quite the deep pump you’d like, but this should be the most effective training for your trip.

Is the 4-3-2-1 training cycle as effective as longer training cycles?

Q: Hi Eric. In your (fantastic) book you introduce the 4-3-2-1 cycle. This implies 3 weeks of maximum strength training. Other books recommend much longer periods for strength training (5 to 6 weeks for hypertrophy and another 2 to 3 weeks for maximum strength training) My question: are “your” 3 weeks enough to achieve reasonable gains in strength? – Christian (Bonn, Germany)

A: Hello Christian, and thanks for your kind words about my book! The 4-3-2-1 cycle is highly effective and, I feel, it’s better (mentally) since many athletes get bored with longer cycles. So, yes, 3 week of max strength is good, as long as the other portions of the cycle are engaged in correctly. My only change to the cycle is for more advanced climbers who possess a high level of endurance and great technique. These folks will often do better with just a 3-2-1 cycle. Of course, everyone has unique abilities and needs, and a personal trainer could likely help you further.