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I just began a new training cycle tonight with a hangboarding session. This is the first time that I have tried the “repeaters” exercise detailed in the rock prodigy article, and I found that about halfway through the workout I was feeling quite pumped. It felt more like a PE workout than a hypertrophy workout, and I’m afraid that the pump is having a negative effect on potential strength gains. I am using the 7 seconds on/3 seconds off protocol, with three sets of six repetitions per hold. I am using five holds, totaling fifteen sets, with three minutes rest between sets. Should I increase my rest time between sets to try to prevent the pump or should I continue with my three minutes rest and try to let my body adapt? I would be curious to see if my body could make the gains necessary to get past the pump and have an effective hypertrophy workout. However, it seems to me that any workouts used to get to that point may have been better suited for my PE phase in a couple months.
As a little bit of background, I primarily sport climb at Rumney, and this past fall season I was redpointing mid-5.12 routes in around 5 or 6 tries. This past fall I started training with a periodized plan, but used something closer to Eva Lopez’s max hang protocol during the hyp phase. I am convinced that this kind of workout is closer to a recruitment workout, but I’m afraid I’ve gone too far to the other extreme and am now touching on PE. Any thoughts or advice you have on the matter would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance and thanks so much for the extremely high quality articles and advice you’ve made available on this site!
This is a common observation among those who have tried other hangboard routines before trying ours. Rest assured, this workout is not a PE workout, and it will make you stronger. The fact is, to improve strength it is beneficial to create high “metabolic stress” in the muscles you are hoping to strengthen. That is, you need to place large demands on the muscles energy supply systems, and doing so will result in some pump. That is why strength routines call for lower resistance and more reps than power training routines. So developing a pump while strength training is not in itself a bad thing.
That said, a debilitating pump will certainly ruin your workout, so if the pump is so severe that you can’t continue the workout, then some changes are in order. Considering that this is your first Rock Prodigy hangboard workout, I would suggest that you stick with it for a couple more workouts before making any drastic changes. One change you can make immediately is to reduce the resistance so the early sets are not so taxing. You will have plenty of opportunity to ratchet up the resistance over the course of your strength phase. If I were you I would cut back each set by 10 lbs and see how it goes.
If you find that reducing the resistance is insufficient by itself, increase your rest between grips to 4 minutes (continue to rest 3 minutes between sets within a grip, so 3 min after the first and second sets, then 4 minutes after the 3rd set, and repeat).
If these changes don’t do the trick, let us know what grips you are training (and in what order). Some grips (such as pinches) create more metabolic stress than others, and so tweaking the order of grips trained can solve this problem. Hope this helps, and please let us know how it goes.
Thanks so much for the fast reply! I think I could stand to tweak the order of holds I’m using, which I was already planning on, and I’ll experiment with reducing resistance on the early sets. I’ll give it a couple more sessions before upping my rest time between grips. Glad to hear a pump doesn’t mean a wasted strength workout! Everyone seems to have a different opinion on the matter, but your explanation makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks again!
Mark, FWIW I find a 7/3 protocol much more pumpy than a 6 sec on 4 off routine. I realize the latter is not standard Rockprodigy, but at least it gets me on the board. I also find it less hectic to position my fingers well on the rungs if I have the extra second to do so, which makes it seem less likely to cause injury as well. Wondering what your thoughts are on the shorter cycle.
Good point Mark. I think the most important thing is that you use consistent rep timing from workout-to-workout, and preferrably season-to-season/year-to-year. If you are regularly re-vamping your rep timing, it will be very difficult to track your progress over time (which is extremely valuable).
I like 7/3 timing because it keeps the duty cycle within a set relatively high. If you observe how competitve weight lifters train, they keep their muscles under load for the vast majority of a given set, which keeps metabolic stress high. I’ve used 5/5 timing; I think it can be useful (as a power or recruitment exercises) but it permits “too much” rest for a “strength” workout.
Someday I would like to instrument my board (or foot platform) with some pressure transducers and evaluate how long my reps actually are. I don’t pull off the ground (or return to the ground) instantly, so it would intersting to see what the actual applied rep duration is.
Hi Mark and Mike –
In a nutshell I was at the end of a performance phase of my most recent periodization cycle and partially tore my A2 pulley in my left ring finger (bummer). I diligently rehabbed it, and after a few weeks was able to get back to moderate climbing. For the last 9 weeks I have been steadily getting better, and during this time the only climbing I have been able to really do is ARCing. I have trained quite a bit in the past, but due to grad school and now a real career I have had less time to get on a rope and been relegated to bouldering in a gym mostly. However, right around the same time as my blown pulley a brand new gym opened up that had longer walls and autobelays where I could ARC on. What I noticed is that as my hand was healing, my ARCing was really gaining moment. Typically I was trying to get an ARC session in 3-4 times a week. I started out 9 weeks ago struggling to complete 2x 30 minute laps on a vertical wall without camping out on a big jug to really get it back. Just this week (i.e. 9 weeks later), I have gotten up to consistently lapping 5.10+/11- routes for 3x 30 minute sessions (10 min rests between sets) while basically moving almost constantly. I should note, that when I do these laps, I downclimb something a bit easier (5.8-9ish terrain or just make my way down on whatever is available).
Here is my conundrum… I recently moved to North Carolina, with the New River Gorge being the closest good climbing. In the last few weeks I have been getting out there with the intention of racking up mileage and not overdoing it as I am close to full recovery. However, I have found myself clipping the chains of several low 5.12s. Prior to this intense ARCing phase, I usually had to work 12a’s pretty hard to get them. Yet, now with a rehabbing hand I have been putting them down in a try or two, and my first 12a onsight truly feels right around the corner. Climbing 12s comfortably was something that seemed extremely far away for me just 5 months ago.
My question to both of you is as my pulley is now fully recovered, should I move into the strength phase of my next cycle. Just before my injury, I had flashed V7 and was working V8s and V9s outside at our local (but surprising really good) bouldering area in NC, called Moores Wall. With routes being my primary goals, and those routes being mostly at the New and the Red, I am hesitant to completely stop this ARCing business. Recently I have read several accounts by strong climbers (i.e. Jonathan Siegrist, Kris Hampton, Ryan Palo and even you mention it in your book) that all of you had a phase where you essentially ARCed for months and then came out the other side a much better climber. Ryan Palo even goes as far as to say on his blog that it was after a winter of basically doing hard endurance traversing work that everything started to click and he went from mid 12s to mid 13s in a season.
So in summation, with stronger boulders (relative of course, as high single digits is not that strong) would you recommend a prolonged period of ARCing like this to get the endurance up to better match my level of strength and power? With this recent success, I have set the goal of getting to continuous 5.12- climbing for 3 x 30 minute ARC sessions (10 min rest between sets). Does this seem foolish and should I really take my new found endurance and head into the strength phase again?
Any thoughts you guys might have on this would be greatly appreciated, I am thoroughly confused as to what might be the best course of action here. Thanks again for the book and congrats to both of you on your recent sends. Insurrection looks like a beautiful route!
It sounds like you’ve become a victim of your own success! That’s a pretty awesome story. Its cool to see what you can do if you take rehab seriously.
If I were you, I would look at the calendar and figure out when you want to peak for the fall climbing seasons at the New/Red. My guess is that if you start a Strength Phase now-ish, you will be peaking in August sometime, which is far from ideal for climbing at those crags. I would aim for a peak in the October/early November timeframe, and then back out my training cycle to select a good starting point (perhaps in mid-July or so?).
Then the question becomes, what to do in the mean time? I would stick with your mileage strategy, climbing outside on routes around your onsight limit, and ARCing in the gym when you can’t get outside. Perhaps that will provide enough opportunity to do your first 5.12 onsight. Also, plan to take at least a week off before you start your fall training cycle.
In general, I don’t think a dedicated, several-month ARC binge is necessary, but it probably won’t hurt (there is some risk of finge tendonitis from over-ARCing). If you follow the Rock Prodigy program there is plenty of opportunity to get several months of ARCing in over the course of a year. That’s how I did it anyway 🙂
question about PE training. I was curious to know your thoughts on finger rolls or curls with a bench press bar. I have read about this for strength gains from old soviet climbers doing high weight low rep. But I have been experimenting with it after linked boulder circuits and the pump is insane. I understand the fact it is isotonic movement and lacks specificity, but the pump seems very similar to failing on endurance routes, and it can be controlled very easily. Just curious on your thoughts? I am primarily a boulderer, but have aspirations for some of the more bouldery routes in CCC and my limiting factor at this point is just getting pumped I am not having too hard of a time on the cruxes. Thanks
I’ve experimented quite a bit with Heavy Finger Rolls, but only for the purpose of strength training (that is, during a Strength Phase, when relatively fresh, and using high resistance with moderate reps). I never found them to be particularly helpful in that context, but I don’t have the experience to rule them out for PE training. I would think something more sport specific would be better, especially considering that you typically want to train PE during a performance phase, when on the rock time should be maximized. However, I could see a case for such an exercise if you didn’t have reasonable access to PE terrain (like a good gym or crag with pumpy climbs). In any case, the best way to go when considering a new exercise is to try it, document your results, and then draw your own conclusions.
Good luck, and if you decide to experiment further, please let us know what you discover,