Q: I recently read your article on the benefits of heavy finger rolls to improve finger strength. When these are performed, once you have lowered the bar without dropping it, should I rest the bar on the rack and reset the exercise or should I roll the bar back up to the starting position using my fingers? Also, you suggest 6 repetitions–how many should I do for the warm up phase (using 50% body weight)? –Yusaf (Missouri)
A: Hello Yusuf, Warm up with 15 to 20 reps at half-weight, then do 6 reps (without pause at the bottom) with the heavy weight. The rack is just to catch the bar if you drop it…and to set the bar between sets. Heavy finger rolls are a great exercise, but be sure to include other max grip exercises like hypergravity hangs on the fingerboard, one-arm hangs (elbow bent) on the fingerboard, campus training, etc. As always, rest a lot and don’t get injured!
Q: I have been climbing for almost a year, mostly at the Phoenix Rock Gym. I’ve progressed quickly from V0 (5.9 toproping) to climbing V4 (5.11+ toproping), but I want to get better. I warm up and stretch, climb at the highest rating possible until I am exhausted, and then lower the grade and repeat. What should I do to continue to improve besides continue to climb. Also, what is the best climb/rest schedule? –Jacob (Arizona)
A: Hi Jacob, Sound like you are doing great! As you push into 5.12, you must be careful not to fall into the trap of overtraining (by way of under resting); and you must avoid injury. It’s my experience that many people in your situation fall into these traps. So, keep with you basic program of warming up and climbing. Most important, start climbing outside as much as possible–that’s like taking skill building steroids! Outside climbing will feel hard at first, but you will improve rapidly and become a WAY better climber. Always remind yourself that climbing is a skill sport and, therefore, technique and the mind are far more important than pure strength. Oh yeah, avoid ever climbing more than 4 days per week! Rest more than you think you need to…
Q: Hi Eric, as a former gymnast, I now have an arthritis problem in my wrists. I can’t do push-ups or dips anymore, because I’ve lost flexibility in my wrists. This is a problem for my antagonist training. I am also afraid to do wrist curls, because that may worsen my problem. My doctor has me taking chondroitin and glucosamin. Do you have tips for me about supplements and some other possible antagonist training exercises? –Hilde (Belgium)
A: Hello Hilde, You might take fish oil capsules 3 times per day to help with the joint problems. As for antagonist training, perhaps you can do bench press and shoulder press with mid-weight dumbbells (around 10 kg) since dumbbells should allow your wrists to remain in a neutral position. Good luck, and try to enjoy climbing regardless of the grade or your physical condition!
Q: I have read your book Training for Climbing and implemented some of the exercises with great results. During one bouldering session, however, I hurt my right wrist on a sloper. It felt like something kind of moved around. This was at least a month ago. Now my wrist hurts when doing pushing activities. The climbing coach at my gym said it was something that I could probably climb through (and I am ok doing that), but I would just like to know if it is the kind of thing that will heal or if it will just get worse and eventually become debilitating. Any help with identifying and advising treatment for this injury would be greatly appreciated! — Eric (North Carolina)
A: Hi Eric, Thanks for the kind remarks. Sorry about your injury. Ultimately you should let pain be your guide: If it gets worse (or doesn’t improve in a month or two), then I’d stop climbing and see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. As your coach points out, many minor injuries can be “climbed through”…but that only holds as long as pain doesn’t increase from climbing/training (i.e. you’re making the injury worse). Sorry I can’t be more specific. Let me know how it goes.
Q: I am a keen climber and have been enjoying great form lately. While I am motivated to keep training and pushing myself further, I also really enjoy running. So far, I have been the doing one or two half-marathons per year, but now I’ve just signed up for my first full marathon. Do you have any suggestions on how I can manage training for both climbing and the marathon? Currently, I train indoors on Tue and Thu and outdoors (bouldering/sports climbing) on Sat/Sun, and I run on Mon, Wed & Fri. I also do yoga on Tue mornings. I am thinking about doing long runs (20+ km) on every other Sun. Do you have any other ideas on how I can get the best from both worlds? –Tom (Scotland)
A: Hi Tom, Sounds like you have a good sense of how to best approach your training. That long run day, of course, is very important…although I always like to point out (as a runner myself) that distance running can have a negative impact on high-end climbing performance. So you need to make a value judgment. I like the idea of focusing on something new for a period of time–you just might return to climbing after the race with new motivation and desire to elevate your training and climbing. Good luck with the race–let me know how it goes!