The Rock Climber’s Training Manual is now available order yours here!

Find the answers to previously asked questions below!  We’d like this page to be interactive, so if you would like to expand on one of our answers, provide a different point of view, or ask clarifying questions, please use the Comment Form to do so.

If you can’t find the answer to your question, please ask on the RCTM Forum.


  • Question: When should I start training for climbing?

This question comes up quite a bit, along with the more specific, ‘when should I start hangboarding?’  Obviously this is a personal decision, and for many climbers (perhaps the vast majority) the answer is ‘never’.  For that reason it makes sense to start with the question, why train at all?  A few reasons can be found here.  I’m going to assume that if you are reading this blog you have at least some interest in training (or you are cyber-stalking me, in which case I live in Iowa with my many shotguns and doberman pinschers).   Read more… 

  • Question: Are there effective ways to train on real rock?

Nothing beats bouldering if you want to build power while climbing on real rock.  Smith has some bouldering, but it tends to be pretty miserable due to the freakishly sharp stone.  As a great compromise, I would highly recommend “roped bouldering”.  In many ways this can be even more effective than real bouldering, as usually the fall consequence is less serious.  The flip side is that it works best with a dedicated partner (although it can be done solo with a rope soloing device and much gear fiddling).  The procedure is simple: find a route with a boulder-problem crux, get a rope on it (preferably toprope through the next highest bolt above the crux) and work the boulder problem repeatedly off the dog.  I find it more motivating to pick a route I’m actually interested in redpointing at some point later in the season.  If you plan to spend a long time on your bouldering sessions, be considerate and pick a route that isn’t super popular, or save it for a weekday.  Read more…


  • Question: How do you incorporate a Long Term Goal into your training plan?

Setting up intermediate goals is a great way to work your way towards a “big hairy goal”.   The great thing about having the big goal in mind, is that it can help determine what those intermediate goals should be.  In this case, I would recommend selecting some project routes that you can use as stepping stones.  Ideally these routes would be at the same crag as your big hairy goal, and of similar style (steepness, hold type, length, continuity).  If geography prevents you from establishing intermediate goal routes at the same crag, try to find some routes nearby that are of similar style.  Some examples of crags with similar climbing to Penitente are Cochita Mesa, NM, Smith Rock, OR, and Shelf Road, CO.  How far you are from achieving your big hairy goal will determine how many intermediate goals are required.  I would recommend trying at least one route at each letter grade between where you are now and where you are going.  Read more…


  • Question: What is a Basic Hangboard Routine? 

We get some form of this question all the time, and we usually refer people to The Making of A Rockprodigy.  However, that is a bit of a long read,  so here is the Cliff Notes version of a “basic” hangboard routine (note, “basic” does not mean “easy”, it means “uncomplicated”).  Keep in mind that a hangboard can be used a myriad of different ways, for different purposes.  This is one way that has shown excellent results for increasing finger strength.  If you want to know the ‘why’ behind this routine, refer to the above linked article.   Read more… 

  • Question: How do I progress on the Hangboard? 

Hangboarding has a number of benefits, and we can debate the terminology until we’re blue in the face, but the primary goal is to increase finger strength.  Performance athletes have known for decades that in order to force muscular adaptation to increase strength, training must be “progressive”.  This means the resistance on the forearm structures must increase over the course of the training phase in order to stimulate strength gains.  On the hangboard, there are three basic ways to increase resistance: increase the duration of the hang, reduce the size of the hold you are hanging from, or increase the weight.  Like most things in life, there is no clear answer, and its not black and white.  The solution is most likely some combination of the three, but first, let’s consider each method individually.  Read more…

  • Question: Should I use big holds with lots of weight added, or small holds with lots of weight removed?

First, it will help to review Hangboarding FAQ #1, as these topics are related.  Next, consider the concept of “Specificity”.  This is a fundamental concept of all forms of training, and it basically means your training should be as similar as possible to what you are training for.  In the context of this question, that means you need to determine the type & size of holds you will be climbing on when you are at your limit.  If you primarily climb at a single crag, this should be fairly simple, as hold types and sizes tend to be fairly consistent at a single crag, with difficulty varying with other factors such as length, steepness, or hold orientation & spacing.  Read more…

Skill Development:

  • Question: How do you approach training in the gym…most gym routes seem to have huge feet and promote more “thuggish” style climbing?

Those who know me well know that the enormous-footholds-in-the-gym-thing is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  How hard  is it to screw a few jibs on the wall?  Even if your gym is anti-screw-in (as many are, due to the increasingly elaborate wall coatings gyms are using these days), there are many bolt-on footholds on the market that require some thought and technique to use effectively.  So to the gym-managers out there: you have no excuse–throw us a bone already!  Read more…


  • Question:  If you are going to spend a limited amount of time at the crag where your project is([such that] simply flogging the route every weekend is not an option) how would you stillwork your project without constant access to it?

As discussed above, find some routes or boulder problems near your home that are of similar style.  This will help with the mileage aspect, getting you accustomed to the style of climbing required.  If you have a home wall, or route-setting privileges at your public gym, build boulder problems (or complete routes) that precisely mimic your project or its crux sequences.  If you’re OCD like me you can take a tape measure to the crag and map out the distance between holds, and create a full on replica to train on.  This method was the secret to Malcolm Smith’s success when he famously came out of nowhere to nab the second ascent of Hubble, one of the hardest routes in the world at the time at 8c+.   Read more…

If you have questions or comments, please post them on the RCTM Forum. We will try to respond as soon as possible.

3 thoughts on “FAQs

  1. In the RCTM, you refer to “grip control,” but I can’t find any detailed discussion of how to target it (it mostly comes up as a listed benefit of ARCing). How can a climber identify (and improve ability to identify) overgripping, other than by “being relaxed and remaining calm”? Is it a skill that can be more directly targeted than that? Love the book–thanks!


      • Ah, “Finding Calm.” So overgripping is mostly a stress/arousal issue, rather than a problem with overestimating (consciously or not) the amount of effort needed. Got it–thanks!


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