Your Questions

Round 74

Q: Hi Eric, When is the best time to do climbing intervals? During all phases of climbing, or only during stamina or anaerobic endurance training phases? My second question is in regards to strength and finger training as parts of a training cycle. –Erin (Germany)

A: Hi Erin, Steep-wall climbing intervals (as I’ve often written about) target anaerobic endurance and, thus, generate a deep pump and relatively rapid fatigue. Do them during your anaerobic (muscular) endurance phase, rather than during the stamina or maximum strength/power phases. The process is simple, but grueling: climb moderate to difficult moves up an overhanging wall for a few minutes until you can hang on any longer. Rest a few minutes and repeat.

As for the training cycle, in a pure indoor (winter) training program, for a relatively advanced climber like you, I suggest you do the 3-2-1 cycle, which really just works strength/power (3 weeks) and anaerobic muscular endurance (2 weeks) followed by 4 to 7 days off, before repeating. During climbing season (with outdoor climbing) the 4-3-2-1 allows for 4 weeks of general climbing–that is, going to the crags and climbing a lot…with some hard redpoints and projecting. Then you would do more bouldering on the 3 week phase, and then projecting (hard, pumpy climbing) for the 2 weeks. Ultimately, it can he hard to do a serious training cycle if you are climbing outdoors a lot…so you have to ad lib and do your best.

Q: On days that I do a climbing workout is it okay to climb later that same day, or should I begin a rest period as soon as the workout is done. –Mike (Michigan)

A: Hi Mike, Ideally you’d want to climb earlier in the day then do climbing-specific training later in the day. This way you are fresh when on the rock and moving with precision and good feel. Hard training before a climbing session can through off movement and feel. Hope this helps!

Q: I guess this is a technique question, and it would be easier if I could draw the problem, but I’ll try to describe it clearly. On an overhanging wall, I have a two foot holds about a meter apart, and two good hand holds, approx above the two foot holds (imagine 4 rocks in the corners of a rectangle). Using these three of these rocks I have to move on to a higher hand hold. Here is the problem: In the starting position the hand holds are close to the foot holds. So when I’m standing facing the wall, my butt sticks out, and my center of gravity is away from the wall. Moreover, if the arms are bent to keep me close to the wall – I run out of energy very fast. My question is, in these overhanging-wall situations is there a more optimal position than facing the wall? –Daniella (North Carolina)

A: Daniella, On an overhanging wall, the key climbing technique (that will solve your problem) is to twist your body so that one of your hips is turned into the wall. This move is call the twist lock, and it’s illustrated in my book Training for Climbing. The key to remember is that you want to twist your body so that the hip on the side of the reaching hand is turned to the wall. So if you’re planning to reach up with your left hand you’d twist your body so the left hips turns to the wall–this shifts your center of gravity in close to the wall and saves a lot of energy. Your feet may need adjusted to make this move work–in the above example, you would typically try to edge with the inside big toe of the right foot and edge with the outside (pinky toe side) of the left foot. You need to play around with this on a bouldering wall–once you learn to feel the move, you’ll find that it’s an indispensible move on steep pumpy climbs!

Q: Hi Eric, I’ve come across a certain situation fairly regularly: When performing an exercise, say for example 3 sets of 10 Pull-ups, initially I can only accomplish a sequence like 8-5-4. After some sessions I might improve to 10-7-6. At this stage, what am I supposed to do? Continue in the same fashion and eventually perform sequences of e.g. 14-12-10? Or stick to 10 reps during 1st set and only try to increase the reps of the 2nd and 3rd set up to 10? Especially when targeting muscle recruitment, i.e. high intensity but only 4-6 reps I’m not sure what’s best as I think that ending up with a sequence like 8-6-4 might not be as effective anymore. My guess is the reason would be a lack of endurance/power endurance? Any suggestions how to deal with this? –Felix (Korea)

A: Hi Felix, If you are training to build strength, then you want to begin to add weight (wear a weight belt) when you can do more than 10 pull-ups. So, in adding 10 pounds….or in the future 20 pounds…you will always have the three sets of 10 reps or less.

If you want to train muscular endurance, however, then you want to do higher reps at bodyweight….with the long-term goal of being about to do 20 or 30 pull-ups. I suggest you train BOTH ways–do strength for a few weeks and then endurance for a few weeks, and then repeat.

Q: Eric, I just got back into climbing about six months after a year or so off due to a rotator cuff injury. I got back to climbing in the V5-V7 range fairly quickly, but I can’t seem to progress from there. I had the same problem for the few months before I injured my rotator cuff. My technique is pretty good, I have great arm and back strength, but I think I’m lacking in finger strength at this point. I seem to be quite strong open hand, and on slopers, but hard pinches and crimps seem to elude me. I boulder twice a week, campus train twice a week, and train on my rock rings with things such as front levers, back levers, cross variations, another 3 days a week when I train at the actual gym (along with a full body workout to keep the rest of my body strong and with a good mobility ie. squats, power cleans, push press, planche training, handstand work, etc)… some days are combined so all in all I’m training about 5 days a week, 2 days rest… Do you think I just need to climb more often and slow down on the other training? Or do you have any other. –Ben (Canada)

A: Hi Ben, Sounds like your training is pretty good, although I wonder if you might be overtraining a bit on the weight and gymnastic stuff. Your limiting factor is likely “time” spent actually rock climbing! Getting on different kinds of rock–different areas–is important to develop a wide range of subtle techniques. If you climb mostly on plastic, that’s VERY limiting. Also, as far as crimp strength…I think you can benefit from doing some training with weight–that is wearing a 10 or 20 pound weight belt for some fingertip pull-ups and moderate bouldering. You don’t want to overdo this, but instead do it twice per week for a few sets. It can make a big difference. Of course, you need to watch that shoulder, especially with your bouldering and gymnastic exercises; and keep warming up and resting enough to avoid finger and elbow problems as you climbing harder and harder.