Q: Hey Eric, As a climber of a few years, I have recently started bouldering pretty hard and would like to move more into hard sport climbing. My endurance is weak and my hardest flash so far is only 12c. So, I want to begin some climbing interval training to improve endurance. What angle wall do you suggest? Also, what should my pace be when I am performing these intervals? –Jim (California)
A: Jim, For climbing intervals, it’s best to have a wall that overhangs 30 to 45 degrees. Each climbing interval should be like doing a 50- to 100-foot sport route with hard bursts through tough moves and some easier moves on large holds and a few shake outs. Try to climb for 3- to 5-minutes, then rest at least an equal amount before doing the next interval. Begin by doing 3 to 4 intervals, then gradually build up to doing 6 to 8 intervals (hard) in a single session. After a few sessions, you’ll develop an intuitive feel for how to best execute these intervals…using will power to hang on through painful pumps until the interval ends. This type of muscular endurance training really works–do it twice per week and within a month or two you’ll notice the payoffs on the rock. Let me know how it goes.
Q: In my right ring finger I have a slight pain when I press at the base of the finger after a few consecutive crimpy routes at the gym. I don’t experience pain after the workout and I don’t even feel any pain when climbing, just when putting a little pressure on the base of the finger afterwards(the pain is very mild). I decided to stop climbing in order to let the finger heal, but I don’t know how long I should lay off. Also, what should I train more, crimp or open hand grip? –Alex (Romania)
A: Alex, Sounds like you have good self-awareness. Very important for a climber! If the finger is painful at the base, then there is a slight pulley injury. Give it a couple weeks to heal, then tape it tightly when you return to climbing. As for grip, you do need to train both open and crimp grips. Crimp is a bit more likely to lead to a pulley injury, so favor open hand whenever possible…but you will need to crimp on small or incut holds. Ultimately, you want to train and use both grips, but favor the open hand grip on the most serious moves.
Q: What would be more beneficial for my overall pull muscles: Doing lots of pull-up training to increase my highest number of pull-ups (currently 11 reps) or training with Frenchies? FYI, I many do shot to mid-length climbs, since they are most available here. –Samuel (Idaho)
A: Samuel, Doing Frenchies WILL improve your max number of pull-ups and give you more endurance on rope routes. That said, if shorter climbers are your focus you also want to focus on max strength…using hypergravity training and frequent hard bouldering. Don’t forget the mental game, too, since it can help you get more out of your current physical reserves. Good luck!
Q: I’m a mid-level climber of about two years, and I want to begin some hypergravity bouldering, finger board training, and campus training? I think it would be too much to do all three in a single workout. I am currently in a strength phase and climb three times a week. Should I pick one of the above for each workout? –Daniel (Vermont)
A: Hi Daniel, Yes, at your current level you don’t want to do all three in the same session. Anyway, make climbing at bodyweight (both bouldering and on rope) about 90% of your workout time, since at your at your current level improvement is all about developing technique, economic movement, and mental skills. Conclude each session with one of the exercises you describe below, and don’t overdo it! Perhaps do just 5 sets of hypergravity bouldering, or a few sets of Campus laddering, or ten minutes of fingerboard training. As you improve, you’ll need to change your climbing-training ratio more to 70:30, rather than the current 90:10. Hope this helps, and let me know how it goes!
Q: Eric, I just recently injured my pointer finger in/around the PIP joint. I may have overextended it on a “dyno” move from a crimpy gaston (my fingers were in a small crack). It hurts on the top of my finger between the first and second (PIP) joint. There was swelling for about one week. I gave it a cold water bath every night. The swelling has gone down, but it still hurts. It also hurts to bend the finger down close to the palm of my hand. So, what did I do? Should I climb on it? Keep on the cold water bath? I could really use some help. I don’t want to make it worse. –Cassandra (Tennessee)
A: Hi Cassandra, I’ve had that same injury, and it does take some time to completely heal. The good news is that a joint/ligament injury like this is often less serious than the typical climber finger tendon injury. I’d rest it for a couple weeks, then gradually work back into climbing. Of course, everyone is different, so use your intuition and err on the side of going too easy on it. Hopefully it will be fully healed in a month or so.