Your Questions

Round 20

What’s a good workout to improve grip strength?

Q: What is a good workout to improve grip strength on sloper holds. — Trevor (B.C. Canada)

A: Hello Trevor, Here are two good sloper-training strategies that you can put to work beginning today. 1. Perform traverses using ONLY the sloper grip position. This will feel contrived, but in isolating the grip in this way you will get stronger. 2. Buy a 10-lb weight belt and do some bouldering (both crimp and open hand) with the weight belt. This will notch up your grip strength–FAST! You can learn more about this Hypergravity training in my book, Training for Climbing.

How do I train to get out of a rut?

Q: Hi Eric, I’m in a rut this season. I redpointed my first 5.13a about four years ago. Since then, however, I have only progressed about one letter grade. How can I train for climbing while maintaining performance on the rock. – Mike (Fayetteville, WV)

A: Mike, you are climbing great, so don’t get too down on yourself! Remember that the improvement curve really flattens out as you progress into the highest grades. So, improving from 13b to 13c will take much longer than it took to advance from 12b to 12c. Also, consider that while your redpoint limit may not have changed much, I bet your onsight ability has improved. Thus, you are still improving!

Anyway, it is indeed tough to train hard and climb for peak performance at the same time. Most top climbers, cycle back and forth between a period of “training focus” and “performance focus.” Possibly you can kick into targeted training for two months this winter, then focus on sending in the spring. During the hottest part of the summer, go back to training focus, and then in Fall shift into sending mode. Of course, a quality training program that targets your true weaknesses is key. It’s tough to give specific advice without talking more…possibly we’ll meet up at the New sometime and talk training!

What are the essentials for a good home training wall?

Q: I want to build a home wall to get into climbing shape. What essentials should I include and how big should it be? — Robert (Newton, KS)

A: Hello Robert, A home wall is a great investment in your climbing. Build it and use it up to 3 days per week, and it will improve your climbing!

As for basic design, try to build two angles–a section that’s about 20 degrees past vertical (overhanging slightly) and a second steeper section that’s 45 to 55 degrees past vertical. Buy holds of 4 different sizes: tiny foot chips that develop footwork, smallish hand holds to develop crimp strength, medium holds (1 to 2 inches deep) to use as you tire, and at least a dozen large “bucket” holds for warm-up laps, finish holds (for the end of boulder problems) and shakeout holds (if you are doing laps).

If space allows, you can add a roof section and maybe a section of vertical traverse wall. The roof and vertical angles are not the best for training, so build the above-mentioned sections first. Good luck, and e-mail me a photo when you are done!

Is weight lifting good for climbing?

Q: Hello Eric. I your TFC book you imply that weight lifting is not good for climbing. Can you further explain why? — Luis Lena (Brazil)

A: Hey Luis, When I say that I discourage weight lifting for climbing, I mean that weight lifting should not be your primary method of training for climbing. For instance, a climber would NEVER want to do a bodybuilder’s or powerlifter’s training routine. A wise pro climber would only use moderate weight training (as I suggest in TFC) to train antagonist “push” muscles to help avoid injury. But any heavy bodybuilder-style weight training will bulk you up and develop strength that is not functional for climbing. Hope this clears things up!

How much running is good for climbing?

Q: I have heard from my friends that running is good for climbing and that running builds general conditioning. How much should I run? – Sven (Croatia)

A: Sven, A moderate amount of running is beneficial for climbing…to develop stamina, strengthen the heart and lungs, and to help speed recovery. However, excessive running will hurt your climbing, as it causes systemic fatigue and may breakdown upper-body muscle. I suggest you limit running to three days per week, about 15 to 30 minutes each session.

How to deal with elbow and finger injuries?

Q: I’ve been climbing about a year now and I current boulder V5 and toprope 5.12b. Unfortunately, I have experienced many climbing related injuries such as elbow pain and finger pain. I seem to have climbed through the elbow pain, but the finger tendon pain just won’t go away. Currently, the middle finger of my right hand is pretty bad. In short, what can I do to maintain my current climbing strength and ability while recovering my injured fingers? — Kyle (Hillsboro, OR)

A: For only climbing a year, Kyle, you are climbing VERY hard! The problem is that your forearms muscles and finger strength have increased faster than the tendons could compensate. As a result you have experienced elbow tendinitis or some inflammation and/or tears in your A2 pulleys (base of fingers). Very few climbers are able to climb through this injury–it usually just gets worse and worse. Bottomline: you probably need to take two months off from climbing. Since winter is upcoming, I suggest you commit to taking the time off and, hopefully, heal by late winter or spring. Trust me that your strength and technique will come back fast in the spring and you’ll be climbing harder then ever next summer. Getting health is paramount, because if you remain injured next season there will be no improvement.

How important is leg strength–and leg training–for bouldering?

Q: How do the leg muscles factor into ones bouldering ability, and should I be training for power in the legs and calves? – Justin (Seattle, WA)

A: Hello Justin, Leg strength/power really only comes into play on long, explosive dynos. Otherwise, boulderers and sport climbers want “light”, flexible legs that won’t weigh them down. Therefore, you don’t want to do anything that will build leg masses (i.e. no leg pressures, heavy squats, etc.) If you really want to do a leg exercise in preparation for explosive dynos, then I suggest plyometric “box jumps.” You simply jump up and down off an 18-inch high platform or bench–this will train the fast-twitch muscle fibers (to generate more power) without increasing leg mass. Obviously, 99% of your training time should focus on the climbing muscles and climbing movements.