Your Questions

Round 58

Q: Hi, I climb in a gym with overhanging walls, and great bouldering problems. I notice that I am not confident or do not feel strong enough to bump a hand when I need to for certain problems. I’m wondering how to improve my “bumps” and how to move my hips when I need to swing laterally to a deadpoint. –Vera (Wisconsin)

A: Hi Vera, What you explain makes sense. Bumping on steep walls requires timing, proper body positioning/core strength, and lock-off strength/pulling power! The first two items are best trained by setting (or finding) a problem with hand bumps that is “doable” and climbing it repeatedly to develop the “feel” and the core strength. So get on a steep problem and work the bump move on doable holds/reach…do this five to 10 times in a row. Developing more lock-off strength will also help a lot. Do you train pull-ups and Frenchies? If not, begin training them at the end of each wall workout. Do 3 sets of pull-ups to failure, with a 3-minute rest between sets. Have a spotter help you get two extra pull-ups (that you couldn’t get on your own) at the end of each set. Do these pull-ups at the end of EVERY climbing session, 3 days per week.

Q: Hi Eric, I’m having a pretty good time at the moment, getting stronger, sending projects, felling capable of pushing my limit, no injuries – but now I’m going on a trip for about 2.5 months with little to no climbing! I’m very motivated and don’t feel like I need a break. So how should I deal with this time? Take it as time off from climbing (except for maybe one or two days during the trip) without any training? Or try to keep fit by doing at least some regular exercises like pull ups, dead-hangs and so on? It just feels really unfortunate that I’m “wasting” my good shape! –Felix (Australia)

A: Hi Felix, Congrats on climbing hard and staying uninjured! That’s rare these days, so feel good about it! During your time off, I’d try to do some basic training (pull-ups, dips, abs, running) to maintain some conditioning during the break. But don’t stress out about the break, though; use it to increase motivation further, for your return. Read some good climbing books during your travels to open your mind. Trust that you’ll be back climbing in top form, within a couple weeks of getting back on the rock.

Q: I have been climbing for about 8 months now and have just recently redpointed my first 5.11b sport route. My goal is to redpoint a 5.12a sport route. My max bouldering level is V4 and my aerobic continuous climbing level is around 5.9+. I have a copy of your book, How to Climb 5.12, and I have recently started your 4-3-2-1 training cycle. Is this training program appropriate for my experience and goals? –Eric (North Carolina)

A: Congrats on the great progress! 5.12a in the first year would be amazing, but I bet you can do it if you train SMART! First, don’t get injured by climbing/training too often without enough rest. Make 4 days per week your max for climbing/training. The 4-3-2-1 is a good schedule for you. The 4 weeks is about climbing for volume and doing other aerobic exercise for stamina; the 3 weeks is for bouldering and max strength exercises; the 2 weeks is anaerobic endurance…doing Pull-up intervals and climbing long, sustained sequences of 20 – 40 moves in length for a deep pump. Then rest for 4 to 7 days (the 1 week). Also, you MUST do the antagonist training to help prevent injury–do push-ups, dips, shoulder press, and reverse wrist curls 3 days per week. NEVER skip these! Hope this helps…Drop me a note when you send 5.12a!!

Q: I’ve been climbing 13 years and I can do most V3s in a few tries. How can I break into V4s? Also, how can I improve at pinch grips? –Anne (WI)

A: Hi Anne, Given your many years of experience, I suspect that you are technically VERY solid; so I think doing some targeted strength training could make a big difference. Toward the end of your climbing sessions, do 3 or 4 sets of pull-ups. Have a spotter lift around your waist so that you can do at least 5 to 10 reps per set. Do this 3 days per week. After a few weeks, add some Frenchies (a lock-off exercise) in place of the pull-ups every other session. In a few months you should feel much stronger on steep/hard problems. As for pinch grip, the best approach is to set a boulder problem with 6 or 8 consecutive pinch moves in a row. You’ll need either really good pinch holds on a steeper wall or smaller pinches on a near-vert wall. But once you set a good “pinch route” you’ll have a great “exercise machine” to do a few sets on each workout! And you will get stronger!

Q: I recently injured my left forearm and I am likely going to be off climbing for about one month. What is the best strategy for training when injured? My approach has been to focus on weight loss and aerobic fitness. –Luc (Canada)

A: Hello Luc, Sorry to hear about your injury, but a month of down time really isn’t that much. Since you have an injured arm, you obviously can’t do much with the upper body…so, yes, aerobic activity, stretching, and core training is the best way to invest your energy. By the way, the upper-body strength you lose in one month will come back in only about 2 weeks of training, so don’t worry too much!