Q: Hi Eric, My basic question is: how often and how hard should I train? I am sort of a new climber, as I have only had the time to be serious about it since May, but I have been climbing on and off for almost four years. I am almost positive that technique, and especially footwork, is my weak point, so I think this is where I should spend most of my effort. Any ideas for how to train better? BTW, Thanks for all of your contributions to the climbing community! –Michael (New York)
A: Great job self-assessing your situation, Mike! Yes, you definitely need a program to focus on improving technique and serial movement (doing many moves smoothly with max economy)…and climbing is the only way to do this. Roped climbs are better than hard bouldering for developing technique, since max bouldering tends to make people “thrash” (which fosters bad technique). So, I say try to climb 4 days per week, spending 3 days doing a high volume of roped climbing and 1 day of bouldering. You can continue basic strength training, mostly at the end of your bouldering session and 1 roped climbing day. Hope this helps–let me know how it goes!
Q: I have been climbing outdoor for 4 years, mostly trad (Yosemite, Sierra, Dolomites, Austrian Alps, Elbe-sandstone). I should add that I started climbing when I turned 40. My climbing objective is to get solid on 5.10+ trad grade including off-width/chimney, slab, narrow cracks, etc. Gym climbing and bouldering have been great for improving my face climbing, but it did little for my real-life climbing pursuits. I try to get out as much as I can still keeping balance with my profession and family life. Do you have any suggestions for how to train for crack and other trad routes? Thanks. –Michal (California)
A: Hi Michal, I love your story! In recent years, I’ve heard for many people who get into climbing later in life…and they tend to excel given a smart balance of career, family, gym training, and outdoor climbing. So you are spot on with your approach, IMO. As you aptly point out, the gym climbing is great for fitness training, but you really need to be out on real rock to train for specific crack techniques. So unless you can find a commercial gym with some good cracks, you’ll just need to make it a goal to get outside as often as possible to develop your crack skills. Whenever possible, try to set up a toprope on crack routes so you can climb laps on a given crack to really LEARN proper technique. This is an important practice strategy that is far more effective than just climbing a crack route one time and then moving onto the next climb.
Q: Hi Eric, I have installed your H.I.T training system, but I’m uncertain whether to train on the large open hand hold in the middle of each HIT strip? Also, what type of footholds should I add to the wall for optimal HIT training? –Marc (Canada)
A: Hi Marc, Open grip training on the large middle HIT hold is optional. For many people, it takes a LOT of weight to produce failure with this grip…so it’s practical to skip this grip rather than to strap on a ton of weight. I suggest you use the crimp holds on the HIT strip to do a set or two of full crimp (with thumb lock) and “open crimp” (no thumb lock), thus working it two different ways. Again, use enough weight to cause failure in 20 or fewer total hand moves.
As for footholds, the holds you choose to step on do make a big difference. I suggest setting specific footholds that you use in the same way every time you ascend the HIT Strips. I feel that medium sized holds are best; about one inch deep and easy to place your foot on quickly. As you know, HIT isn’t about working footwork, so you simply need footholds that you can get on fast without feeling around for them. When you climb onto the upper HIT strips just put your feet onto the crimp edges of the lower strips. Hope this helps. Let me know how it goes!
Q: Hi Eric, I am 17 and started climbing about 6 months ago. I am only able to climb once or twice a week, which is a real drag. Anyway, every time I climb my hands get very sweaty. What can I do to try and limit my sweaty fingers? –Nick (Wisconsin)
A: Hi Nick, I think there are a few things going on. First, beginning climbers naturally overgrip hand holds and pump out quickly. Learning to relax and move smoothly over the walls takes years! Constantly strive to improve your technique and skills, and lower physical tension and mental stress. Of course, some people are naturally more sweaty than others. There’s a great product called Tight Grip. You put it on your hands before you climb, it soaks in and blocks sweating. Google Tight Grip and I’m sure you’ll find a place to buy it.
Q: Hi Eric, I’ve read what you have written regarding complex training and I am thinking of incorporating it into my off-season training. You suggest cycling it 2 weeks on and off. Do you recommend that the 2 weeks off be totally off from climbing? –Paul (Canada)
A: Hi Paul, Offseason is a great time to work in some Complex Training. The 2 weeks off, means no Complex Training–you can still climb and do other exercises; just no heavy HIT or campus training. One good cycle to try out: 2 weeks of hard bouldering with complex training (toward end of workout) followed by 2 weeks of anaerobic endurance training (roped gym climbing, laps on routes, interval training on bouldering walls, etc). Rest 4 days (no climbing/training), then repeat the cycle.