Adventure Projects is hiring a web engineer to join us in Boulder, CO
Mountain Project Logo

Relatively New Climber Training Question!


Original Post
Will Bland · · Halifax, NS · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 315

Hi all. Would really appreciate it if I could get some experienced insight into my plan!

Context: I've been climbing for 5-6 months now. Outdoor sport and trad during the warm months, indoor bouldering during the cold months.

5'11 170lbs (implementing cardio on non-climbing days, and healthy eating. planning to loose 5-10lbs). 

Sport 5.11a-b Indoor V3-5, some V6

I can front lever for a few seconds, and hang +26% bodyweight for max hangs on an 18mm edge. I can do a pullup with +70lbs.

Belief At this point in my training age/climbing age, I am well aware that technique/skill is my limiting factor. Time on the wall, frequency and duration of climbing are the best way for me to improve (I believe).

Question Training max hangs twice a week, and working core 3-4 times a week would decrease my strength/ability during my climbing sessions. Should I be simply climbing every other day, and not training core and hangboarding on the side? Or should I be incorporating hangboarding+core sessions into my routine, even though it will mean I will not be as rested for climbing!

I climb for 1 1/2 - 2 hours Monday Wednesday and Friday. Resting on the weekend. I was previously hang boarding Sunday night and Wednesday. Core on non-climbing days 3-4 times.

Thanks in advance! I really appreciate any input.

Austin Kaiser · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 62

I wouldn’t spent too much time doing ‘core-specific’ training. You can focus on stability in hanging and on the wall and that’ll work out your core. . The hang board should help and climbing should help. I also recommend lifting if you aren’t intimidated by weight lifting. If you have questions about dosage or what lifts to do, feel free to ask me or someone else. Your core will produce a greater force during a squat than it ever will during a crunch or plank, and will get far stronger and therefore more stable that way. 

Alan Emery · · Lebanon, NH · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 251

Have you tried down-climbing?

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Will B wrote:

Hi all. Would really appreciate it if I could get some experienced insight into my plan!

Context: I've been climbing for 5-6 months now. Outdoor sport and trad during the warm months, indoor bouldering during the cold months.

5'11 170lbs (implementing cardio on non-climbing days, and healthy eating. planning to loose 5-10lbs). 

Sport 5.11a-b Indoor V3-5, some V6

I can front lever for a few seconds, and hang +26% bodyweight for max hangs on an 18mm edge. I can do a pullup with +70lbs.

Belief At this point in my training age/climbing age, I am well aware that technique/skill is my limiting factor. Time on the wall, frequency and duration of climbing are the best way for me to improve (I believe).

Question Training max hangs twice a week, and working core 3-4 times a week would decrease my strength/ability during my climbing sessions. Should I be simply climbing every other day, and not training core and hangboarding on the side? Or should I be incorporating hangboarding+core sessions into my routine, even though it will mean I will not be as rested for climbing!

I climb for 1 1/2 - 2 hours Monday Wednesday and Friday. Resting on the weekend. I was previously hang boarding Sunday night and Wednesday. Core on non-climbing days 3-4 times.

Thanks in advance! I really appreciate any input.

It looks to me like you are plenty strong (probably strong enough to be climbing in the upper 5.12 to lower 5.13 range).  Based on this, it is obviously technique that is holding you back and not strength.  If improving your climbing is the goal, I think you would be much better served by getting more mileage in on rock (or plastic) and working movement rather than trying to develop more strength.  While more strength can certainly help you to climb harder, you can climb much smarter by developing better technique.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

I would slow down before you get a major finger injury. Sure you can do these things but your not very experienced with doing these weighted exercises for finger tendons regularly. Climb at least a years length and 5.12 before you start doing campus boards and weighted hangs on edges or hang boards. 


If you are just training by climbing I highly recommend getting a weight routine in there too because you want to train antagonists. If you only work pulls and hangs you can throw your body off balance and make yourself injury pron, until you correct these muscle imbalances (if they even form).


Don't stop training core though. Theres no reason to stop training core. 


I second the mileage for technique here. Your too new to be pushing hard for finger strength. 

Mike Slavens · · Houston, TX · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 35

I would definitely put way more emphasis on climbing, and put specific focus on technique.  I'm much heavier and not nearly as strong as you and yet it appears we climb about the same difficultly.  In other words, it ain't strength holding you back.  

I wouldn't completely drop hangboarding but cut it back to once a week or even once every other week.  I would also stop doing the max hangs and look at full workouts from Rock Prodigy or BeastMaker but watch for injury as your muscles development will far outpace your tendon development.  When you climb put emphasis on climbing smoothly, watch others and see how they move their body and place their feet to get through sequences you are trying, and don't climb to failure as your technique falls apart when you get close to failure.  Re-climb routes and problems A LOT with focus on getting through them better.

Jason Eberhard · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 66
Tylerpratt wrote:

I would slow down before you get a major finger injury. Sure you can do these things but your not very experienced with doing these weighted exercises for finger tendons regularly. Climb at least a years length and 5.12 before you start doing campus boards and weighted hangs on edges or hang boards. 


If you are just training by climbing I highly recommend getting a weight routine in there too because you want to train antagonists. If you only work pulls and hangs you can throw your body off balance and make yourself injury pron, until you correct these muscle imbalances (if they even form).


Don't stop training core though. Theres no reason to stop training core. 


I second the mileage for technique here. Your too new to be pushing hard for finger strength. 

This, I was very similar when I started due to very heavy training from other sports before picking up climbing.  I didn't listen and tweaked one of my fingers around a year in that made me take 6 weeks off.  Unless you've done something occupationally that has built up your finger tendons I would stay off the hang-board and just climb more.  When you do start hang-boarding take it easy.  I'm about three years in now, can do one arm pull ups with 10 lbs of aid, just getting into 12s, and my finger tendons are often still the limiting factor in my training.

Eric D · · Gnarnia · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 230

Hangboarding this early in your climbing career is a terrible idea.  You are going to hurt yourself.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,644
Ken Noyce wrote:

It looks to me like you are plenty strong (probably strong enough to be climbing in the upper 5.12 to lower 5.13 range).  Based on this, it is obviously technique that is holding you back and not strength.  If improving your climbing is the goal, I think you would be much better served by getting more mileage in on rock (or plastic) and working movement rather than trying to develop more strength.  While more strength can certainly help you to climb harder, you can climb much smarter by developing better technique.

This.  For climbing such a short period of time, you're ahead of the typical curve.  There's another post somewhere on here about speed climbing and it compares side by side in a vid of someone that is powerful vs someone that's not as strong but uses good technique.  The conclusion that was drawn was that technique allowed the climber to go faster, and climb more efficiently, using less energy.

Anyway, Ken is right on.  There's strong, and there's good.  The two aren't mutually exclusive and you can gain a lot of letter grades by fine tuning your technique if you're already that strong.

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132

You are not going to hurt yourself hangboarding if you are smart about how you approach it. It doesn't matter if you do max hangs or repeaters either - it's kind of goal dependent. If you want to move your boulder grade up, do max hangs. If you are looking for finger strength that is relevant to sport routes, repeaters make more sense. They are also a gentler introduction to hangboarding. 

The important things are: start with very conservative weights. Your first few weeks should be about learning how to hangboard, and shouldn't be very taxing at all. Always hangboard at the beginning of your workout, after your fingers are warmed up but before you have any sort of pump. Don't do anything fingery after you hangboard, stick to big holds and lower grades (or don't climb at all, my preference after HB). Always rest the day afterwards. 

Hangboarding will not injure you if you do it right. Overdoing it will get you injured (hangboarding immediately followed by limit bouldering is a terrible idea), but a proper hangboarding regime will strengthen your fingers and help keep injury at bay. Tendon strength does indeed take years to build. What makes more sense: building it haphazardly through limit bouldering, or in a controlled manner by hangboarding? 

There is clearly anecdotal advice on both sides of this fence. This is just my opinion. 

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

Alexander its easy to know how to not hurt yourself as an experienced climber who knows his limits, but a newbie doesn't and assuming they do is silly. There will always be two sides to any argument but its easy for any experienced climber to tell you which side of this argument is more risky. If you can't tell, its yours. 

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 375
Tylerpratt wrote:

 If you only work pulls and hangs you can throw your body off balance and make yourself injury pron, until you correct these muscle imbalances (if they even form).

Results: Asymmetry in muscle size was not related to number of injuries.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
Jason Eberhard wrote:

I didn't listen and tweaked one of my fingers around a year in that made me take 6 weeks off. 

I'm mainly curious, did the injury occur while hangboarding, or did it occur when you were climbing or bouldering?

Austin Kaiser · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 62
Brendan N wrote:

Results: Asymmetry in muscle size was not related to number of injuries.

This study is comparing Cross-Sectional Area of a hip flexor and lumbar extensor muscle in one side versus the other.  This imbalance is a side-to-side comparison, and is not congruent to those that can be seen in climbing when antagonist muscles about a joint are imbalanced.  For example, wrist flexors that are extremely strong relative to wrist extensors can lead to arthrokinematic dysfunction, along with tendinopathies and impingements/entrapments.

When looking at a research study like this, you gotta consider the external validity of the article and whether or not it translates to the argument you're trying to make.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Austin Kaiser wrote:

For example, wrist flexors that are extremely strong relative to wrist extensors can lead to arthrokinematic dysfunction, along with tendinopathies and impingements/entrapments.

When looking at a research study like this, you gotta consider the external validity of the article and whether or not it translates to the argument you're trying to make.

Wrist flexors & extensors work together in climbing so it's not the best example:


Still, it's almost impossible for climbers to have "balanced" bicep/tricep or lat/chest w/o spending a lot of effort specifically training those. FWIW, most top climbers aren't "balanced" and do just fine.

My personal theory is antagonist strength training does help w/ tightness of the primary mover/movement pattern, but it's more of a side benefit that can be achieved more efficiently.

MarcYY · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 20

Climb more.  Until you plateau, there is no reason to train.  Practice, practice, practice.  Add Opposition muscle training to keep from getting injured. 

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132
Tylerpratt wrote:

Alexander its easy to know how to not hurt yourself as an experienced climber who knows his limits, but a newbie doesn't and assuming they do is silly. There will always be two sides to any argument but its easy for any experienced climber to tell you which side of this argument is more risky. If you can't tell, its yours. 

I disagree, and don't really see the need for the smart ass ending to an otherwise well worded post. One can argue that experience climbing helps find one's limits, sure. I would argue that pushing up against the limits of one's fingers climbing is a great way to get hurt, and a lot of people get hurt that way. 

Example:one of the Anderson bros before they started training. Worked through the grades, pretty quickly, then repeatedly popped pulleys until beginning a hangboard routine. No finger injuries since, all the way to 14c. I had a similar experience, nagging injuries and soreness have disappeared since I started hangboarding. 

I don't think limits are safely learned through climbing, where the load on your fingers is difficult to control and varies dramatically. I think they are safely learned through controlled, progressive loading of the fingers, aka hangboarding. With all the information on hangboarding available today (here, RCTM, /climbharder, maisch, Bechtel, horst, etc), anyone me can do the research necessary to safely start hangboarding. There is no risk if done properly, and no excuse not to do it properly. If someone is hell bent on pushing through the grades but can't be bothered to learn to hb safely, they are at high risk for a pulley injury regardless. 

I don't think a beginning climber who wants to train should spend much time hangboarding. One day a week, or less seems like plenty. However, I find the argument you and others have presented here analogous to telling an aspiring gymnast that the best way to improve is just to practice routines. Hollow body holds and planche progressions could get you hurt, don't work on those until you are way stronger! 

I have the same question that was asked above - did your injury on the hangboard or on the wall? 

Ryan U. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 45

I'm surprised no one mentioned traversing.  Stay on the wall as long as possible, create cruxes, repeat until it can be done smoothly.  Figure out how different foot placements affect the center of gravity. Figure out how/when to use a French flag. 

I seen massive improvement with finger strength from using the hangboard. But it was focusing on footwork that really broke my plateau.   Not to mention I've been injury free since then too, huge benefit of technique.  

Jason Eberhard · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 66
aikibujin wrote:

I'm mainly curious, did the injury occur while hangboarding, or did it occur when you were climbing or bouldering?

The injury happened while bouldering but it was the second week of hangboarding regularly.  Three long bouldering sessions and two hangboading sessions in the same week when I hurt it.

Jason Eberhard · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 66
Alexander Blum wrote:

I disagree, and don't really see the need for the smart ass ending to an otherwise well worded post. One can argue that experience climbing helps find one's limits, sure. I would argue that pushing up against the limits of one's fingers climbing is a great way to get hurt, and a lot of people get hurt that way. 

Example:one of the Anderson bros before they started training. Worked through the grades, pretty quickly, then repeatedly popped pulleys until beginning a hangboard routine. No finger injuries since, all the way to 14c. I had a similar experience, nagging injuries and soreness have disappeared since I started hangboarding. 

I don't think limits are safely learned through climbing, where the load on your fingers is difficult to control and varies dramatically. I think they are safely learned through controlled, progressive loading of the fingers, aka hangboarding. With all the information on hangboarding available today (here, RCTM, /climbharder, maisch, Bechtel, horst, etc), anyone me can do the research necessary to safely start hangboarding. There is no risk if done properly, and no excuse not to do it properly. If someone is hell bent on pushing through the grades but can't be bothered to learn to hb safely, they are at high risk for a pulley injury regardless. 

I don't think a beginning climber who wants to train should spend much time hangboarding. One day a week, or less seems like plenty. However, I find the argument you and others have presented here analogous to telling an aspiring gymnast that the best way to improve is just to practice routines. Hollow body holds and planche progressions could get you hurt, don't work on those until you are way stronger! 

I have the same question that was asked above - did your injury on the hangboard or on the wall? 

I believe this to be true, but if you're hell bent on pushing thru the grades as absolutely fast as possible you will have zero fun climbing IMO.  All of your on wall time would be spent working specific technique drills, all of your finger limit training would be on the hangboard, you'd have to find climb specific exercises to train core and pull strength, and you'd maybe climb hard every other week.  Its different for every person but that would have killed my stoke for climbing.  If you're pushing your fingers on the hangboard, as a novice climber when you don't realize what the beginning of finger injuries feel like, and you climb hard regularly you're very likely to tweak a finger.  I do agree that a correct fingerboarding routine helps reduce injury when you're further along in climbing and your tendons have had time to adapt, but that is probably later than your first year.  I also think you'll end up with better technique if you just climb more.  If you don't have the finger strength to pull hard on some holds you'll have to find other ways around them.

Evan Crumpecker · · Colorado Springs · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 180

Like others have said, focus on climbing...some hangboarding, with an appropriate amount of rest (at least 48 hours between sessions and no ''hard" climbing in between sessions) is probably OK. 

You're at high risk of a finger injury with how quickly you're progressing, though, so you need to be really careful and listen to your body -- if your fingers feel tweaky at all, time to take it easy. Hangboarding can actually help prevent finger injuries, as long as you're taking the appropriate amount of rest between sessions.

Training strength this early can actually be a detriment later in your career, because you're going to rely on being strong to get through cruxes, instead of climbing well, and eventualy that's going to be your limiting factor.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Relatively New Climber Training Question!"
in the Training Forum

Log In to Reply