Your Questions

Round 98

Hi Eric, I read a lot of climbing literature, and your books really stand out—Maximum Climbing and Training for Climbing are impressive! I’ve been climbing outdoors for years but never trained. A recent sprained ankle brought me to the gym and I’m now super excited to start training! Can you give me some advice on adding campus training and core training; also I’m wondering about scheduling workouts to train strength and endurance—can I do them in the same session? FYI, I have unlimited time to train.

You should train strength and power together in the same session, but training anaerobic endurance is a different matter and it is best trained in a separate session. Since you have unlimited time and enthusiasm, I’m concerned about overtraining and injury. You need to train smart, and not over do it. Limit yourself to a total of 4 sessions per week (training and climbing total), so that your fingers, elbows, and shoulders have 3 days per week to recover. You can probably do some limited campus “laddering” (a couple laps per workout), but I’d hold off on the more serious/stressful double dynos. As for core training, it’s obviously important, but I feel it’s overemphasized by some climbers who have weaknesses elsewhere that are holding them back. Certainly do some core exercises each workout, but I wouldn’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes on it.

Hello Eric, What do you think of lactic-acid buffers such as the Beta-Alanine product? –Marc (Montreal)

Hi Marc, Various LA “buffer” supplements have been around for decades, but none so far have been shown to be very effective—and they can upset your stomach. So IMO, you should save your money…and try to climb faster and more efficiently to avoid the burn!

Hi Eric, I appreciate all the great info in the Nicros Training Center. I’ve been climbing many years, but I now live in rural Alaska and with my situation I often have to go six months without climbing outside (nor inside, since there’s no gym). I just got home from a 5 month trip so I am currently in top shape but now I don’t want to lose it—how can I best train without a wall? I’m well versed in the various exercises as well as the periodization theories for training which I have used extensively training for ice, mixed and alpine climbing, but the programs always assume that you at least have a wall to train on. I have a lot of climbing-specific exercise options in front of me yet unsure of the best structure and emphasis given the lack of real climbing for me to integrate into the program. –Mark (Alaska)

Hey Mark, You seem to have a lot of experience and good sense of thing, so I think you’ll be fine simply doing 3 workouts per week of various climbing-specific exercises such as pull-ups, lock-offs, hangboard training, etc.  Also, do some antagonist training—specifically rotator cuff—exercises, core conditioning, and something aerobic (to burn calories and condition you for future alpine climbs). Hope your winter goes fast, and you are soon back to where you can climb outside!

I’m a fairly strong boulderer, I’ve climbed up to V9, and send V7s pretty consistently. My hardest sport route though is only 12b. I don’t usually climb a lot of routes–around once a week in our short 3-4 month window of good summer weather. I also only have access to a 22’ gym wall (with good training facilities, H.I.T wall, bouldering area, hang/campus boards, etc.) My question is how can I best improve my endurance with the facilities available to me this off-season? –James (Canada)

Hi James, Yeah, I think some endurance training will help, but sending hard on a rope aso takes practice at climbing on a rope! Obviously it’s going to be hard to rope climb at a super high level if you only do it a few months per year. Still, there’s great reward in roped climbing and I encourage you to push yourself both on boulders and cliffs. Anyway, the best endurance training approach using a small wall is to do Interval Training. There are two good ways to go about it.

1. Over the course of a few sessions, identify 8 or 10 good, stiff boulder problems (for you, probably V3 to V7). Your goal is to send all the problems back-to-back with just a 30 second rest between each problem. Once you can do this, try to do the circuit twice, with just a 10 minute rest between the two circuits. Eventually you can do 3 or 4 of these circuits in a row.

2. The other way to interval train is to use an egg timer–set it for 1 minute and climb around the wall until it beeps. Then rest 1 minute. Next set it for 2 minutes and climb until it beeps. Then rest 2 minutes. Next set it for 3 minutes and climb around the wall until it beeps. Then rest 3 minutes. Now reverse the sequence back down to 2 minutes, then 1 minute. This interval training pyramid is surprisingly hard if you do it on an overhanging wall.

Dear Eric, I’ve been suffering from tendonitis on and off now for 24 years, since climbing through it as a teenager. My lifestyle only lets me climb maybe 6 months a year (or even every other year) and every time I return to climbing the tendonitis returns too. I practice forearm stretches and strengthening exercises for a month or more before climbing and always ease in very carefully, but usually within a few weeks of training I’m restricted to one session per week to keep the pain at bay. Is there anything else I can do to make me less prone to tendonitis or is this just something I’m stuck with? I’m 42 now and would really like to get a few more years of good climbing in while I still can. –Jon (North Carolina)

Hi Jon, Is the elbow pain medial (inside) or lateral (outside)? If it’s medial, then I wonder if it might be nerve impingement and not tendinitis—the pain is very similar and it’s often misdiagnosed. If it’s the ulnar nerve causing the problem, there’s a surgery that will correct it once and for all. But if it’s tendinitis–actually tendinosis–then you have a chronic issue of failed healing that’s difficult to escape. A good surgeon can excise the faulty tissue…and perhaps usher in a new period of healing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy answers for you. Consider visiting a good elbow surgeon and getting an MRI—then weigh your options for hopefully getting back to climbing painfree.