Q: We have only 30-foot walls at our gym; can you suggest an effective way to train for long-route stamina? – Ben (Florida)
A: Hi Ben, Interval training is the ticket–it will increase both anaerobic and aerobic endurance, in a way most specific to climbing. Pick a route one to two number grades below your limit and send it 5 times with only a 1 to 2 minute rest between sends. Then rest for 10 to 20 minutes and belay your partner while he/she does the same. Repeat the process one or two more times–a killer workout that works!
You can do a similar workout for bouldering. Send a boulder problem 5 times in a row with only a 10- to 30-second rest in between sends. Then rest 5 to 10 minutes and repeat two or three more times.
Q: Hi Eric, First and foremost I just wanted to tell you that I am reading both How to Climb 5.12 and Training for Climbing, and am extremely impressed with simplicity and effectiveness of your training principles. In just few weeks of adding a 15-lb weight to my pull-up training I went from barely doing 4 pull-ups to going strong 15 times. I guess I am a proof the HIT training really works! My question to you deals with an injury that I have sustained just few days ago when I slipped off a small crimp hold. My ring finger is injured in a way that it creates pain down into my forearm whenever I pull hard on it. What’s the best plan for getting through this injury? – Goran (Minnesota)
A: Hello Goran, Thanks for the kind words and feedback–congrats on your great training and progress! Of course, getting strong so fast has its downside–tendon injuries. The tendons strengthen at a slower rate than muscles, thus many climbers incur some kind of tendon injury. Your injury is less common than actual finger tendon injuries, but it does happen…it’s happened to me in the past! The tendon and/or tendon sheath in the forearm has been strained or partially ruptured. (I doubt it’s fully ruptured or you wouldn’t be able to climb at all on those fingers.) Anyway, rest is indeed the only cure. Depending on the severity of the injury it could heal in as little as 2 weeks, but it’s more likely to take 2 months to improve significantly. Ice and Ibuprophen will slow healing, so don’t take that stuff–Omega -3 fish oil capsules, gentle stretching, and a heating pad (15 minutes a few times a day) are the only proactive things you can do.
I suggest you stop all climbing for 2 to 4 weeks, then return to vertical ONLY climbing for the next 2 to 4 weeks. Invest this time in training footwork and tactical skills–these are rich areas for major breakthroughs in the coming months and years, so don’t be too bummed about not being able to train hard for the next month. Your strength will come back very fast once you heal and begin training again. A final note: anything you do that causes pain is BAD and will slow healing. Once you heal, you may still feel dull “pulling” in the forearm, but that’s normal. Just don’t climb or train with anything that produces pain.
Q: Hi Teacher, I love your website very much! Thanks for giving us so much great knowledge. I am beginning to compete in speed climbing and I’m wondering how I can train to improve? –Win (China)
A: Hello Win, Thanks for the kind feedback. Speed climbing is a very specialized skill that takes time to develop. Like learning to run fast, you need to train the muscles to contract quickly, so you want to train with pulling and jumping exercises that are fast and dynamic. Just as important you need to develop unique speed climbing skills–this is best learned from another speed climber, although you can develop the skills by practicing speed climbing and developing your own techniques via trial and error.
Q: I have been climbing for 2 years now and I am on my own because my current coach has taken some time off so he can continue his climbing. I really want to continue climbing and improving my skills so I am wondering if you have any suggestions to keep me learning and help me achieve my climbing and competition goals. Do you know someone that is closer to me in Saskatoon that would be able to give me some guidance? –Breckon (Saskatewan)
A: Hi Breckon, That’s a tough one. I have no idea what coaches might be in your area. Bottom line: you need to self-coach. Read all the books on the subject of training for climbing that you can get, and search for ideas, drills, training techniques that you can employ. The key is to keep your training progressive and variable–you don’t want to fall into the trap of doing the same routine every time you go to the gym. Also, climbing outdoors at many areas is an important pathway to developing higher skills. Then again, if comps on plastic are your passion, then training on plastic is the most important thing…striving to refine your technical and mental skills (what separates the best from the rest).
Q: I just got a Warrior Board; what is the best workout I can do to build to build arm strength? –Mike (Mass.)
A: Mike, To build arms, weighted pull-ups are best. Once you can do 15 or 20 pull-ups, start doing them with weight around your waist. Many people build up to 50+ pounds over the course of months and years…and get WAY strong! Fingerboard hangs can also be done with weight to improve grip strength, but always warm-up well…and be careful not to get hurt! Rest a lot (only train 3 days per week) and do some antagonist-muscle training as well to maintain balance.