Training Guide

Following are some training routines that have been developed through our own experience as well as that of our friends and associates. We are not professional exercise people. We are serious about our climbing and have seen the benefits of making training an integral part of our activities for many years. Our beliefs concerning training for climbing are the result of years of asking questions and searching for answers.

From our perspective, the single most important thing to keep in mind is that each of us has a very unique and complex body. To be most effective, your training program starts with a critical and complete assessment of your strengths and weaknesses along with your goals for climbing. If you use this realistic list as a filter for all the information available, hopefully you will end up with an individual program that is ideally suited to you. There are now many sources of information out there that pertain to training for climbing. Try to keep in mind who you are and who the information is targeted to, a person who can afford to climb and train full time or the weekend athlete who wants to make some gains in strength and confidence.

The bottom line in training is that you must be responsible for your own body and your own training schedule. Research the available information, listen to the "experts", take the time to experiment, and then do what works best for you.

Contact Strength or Finger Training is a Crucial Part of Improving Your Climbing

With the popularity and increased access to indoor climbing walls, fingerboards are becoming a second line method of training. However, we feel that there are some great advantages to the convenience and specificity of training boards. Having a board mounted in a doorway to a spare room or your garage makes it easy to schedule a quick workout if a little time is all you have. The specific nature of fingerboard training enables you to gauge your progress much more effectively than bouldering at the rock gym or your home wall. It is easier to control if and when you fail doing a set exercise on a particular hold on a board, than if you are desperately thrutching for the last hold on your latest plastic bouldering test-piece. This factor will hopefully permit you to work to your limits while minimizing the chance of injury to your fingers.

Finger training programs can be difficult to figure out. Keep in mind that what you are strengthening is essentially connective tissue, tendons and ligaments. It takes a long time to notice gains in strength in this tissue and a very long time to heal once it has been injured. If you are using fingerboard training in addition to indoor climbing on plastic, be aware of how much stress you are putting on your fingers and arms, and be careful to not over-do your training. If you start having problems, allow yourself time to heal. If problems continue, specifically long-term pain and swelling in your fingers, consult a sports-oriented physician.

The Training

There are two general categories of exercises that you can do on your Metolius training board. In simple terms, they are exercises that build power or exercises that build stamina /endurance. Endurance-oriented exercises are a set of tasks that put your muscles in a more or less aerobic state; that is, training your muscles to function for extended periods. They generally are a longer duration and a lower load exercises and you are maintaining a lower level "burn" in the muscles than the pump you get at the limit of your strength. Power-oriented exercises focus on short duration, higher load tasks that your muscles can't maintain for very long. With these exercises, you are building strength (muscle fiber size ) and the capacity to recruit more muscle fibers for short, quick bursts of movement.

Any of the training that follows assumes a good base strength level. Most of the work or exercises that follow are power-oriented for a couple of reasons:

The amount of load you use for each exercise is up to you to determine. We feel the most gains happen if you use a safe maximum load for the cycle that you are in. Try to pick a load that allows you to barely hold on for the time indicated in the exercise. Load is determined relative to your body weight. If you need to add weight, use a weight belt. If you need to reduce weight, use a chair or step stool set back from and under the board that allows you push with one leg. Make sure your other leg stays below you, so that if you fall, you land on your feet. You can use a bathroom scale on a chair to give you a more accurate idea of how much weight you are taking off (see illustration). If you don't feel safe using this method, have a partner lift you instead.

Use Partners

Partners can check your time and remove or add weight as well as give you assistance and cheer you on when you're trying to get that last bit of effort out. Having a partner spot you when training to absolute failure is highly recommended.

Setup A Workout Schedule & Stick To It

Make a chart and use it to keep track of your training. If you keep a detailed record showing amounts of weight and/or assistance for each segment of an exercise, it will be much easier to slowly increase your workload. These records will help you get the most benefit from your training time.

Use Any of the Holds For Any Exercise

You will probably find that certain holds are better suited to certain exercises than others. For example, you would probably do pull-ups on different holds than short duration hangs. It is also important to look at your weakest points and train those first. For example, if you have a hard time holding onto sloping holds, focus your training there early in your workouts. It is also a good idea to change the holds you use for a given exercise every few weeks, to maximize the effectiveness of your training.

Dos & Don'ts

Avoid doing an excessive number of pull-ups on your board. A lot of pull-ups on a static bar can lead to elbow joint injuries. If you wish to do more pull-ups than our exercises indicate, we recommend that you use Metolius Rock Rings.

crimp and open-handAvoid range of motion exercises for your fingers on any training board. Once you place weight on a hold do not attempt to move your fingers (don't do mini pull-ups with your fingers) as this can lead to injury.

Avoid using crimp or cling grips. A very important aspect concerning any hold is how you hold on to it. It is extremely important that you do not use any kind of cling technique regularly. Because of the increased angle of your fingers while clinging, the load on your finger joint is far too high to be safe for training purposes. We have found that if you keep your hand more open, you will be safer and still can strengthen your fingers for both open-handed and cling holds. The illustration pictured shows both types of holds. Use chalk when training and occasionally clean your board with a nylon brush to maintain a consistent surface.

The Tasks

Following are the basic elements of exercises that can be done on your training board:

Cyclic Periodization

As an overall strategy, cyclic periodization allows you to be at your peak when you want to be. Whether this corresponds to a big road trip or pushing your limits when the weather is the best is up to you. If properly done chances of injury and mental burnout are minimized and gains in strength and power are optimized.

The concept is simple; build a base of endurance then work toward maximum power. By pushing your body in these cycles you strike a balance between letting yourself be fresh and strong within the cycles and not letting yourself totally adapt to the stresses of the workouts. This keeps you from stalling at different plateaus and makes the gains possible much greater than doing the same sets of workouts month after month. Immediately following the peak cycle you should be ready to climb strongly. The Cycle Shown Below Would Start Again In June.


Peak Cycle

Intensity = 80-100%
Volume = Low
Loads = High
Repetitions = Low
Frequency = 2-3 days a week

Maximum strength and power. Most exercises done to failure. Taper training and focus on climbing midway through the cycle. After cycle ends, no gym time. You should be in peak condition for the crags for 4 to 6 weeks.


Load Cycle

Intensity = 75%
Volume = Moderate/High
Loads = Medium
Repetitions = Moderate
Frequency = 3-4 days a week

The foundation, endurance, connective tissue strength, some muscle power building.


Conditioning Cycle

Intensity = 60%
Volume = Moderate
Loads = Low
Repetitions = High
Frequency = 2-3 days a week

Warm-up and active rest cycle. Preparation for more strenuous cycles


Recovery Cycle

Intensity = 50%
Volume = Low
Loads = Light
Repetitions = Low
Frequency = 2 days a week

Rest and recovery, prep for peak cycle.

2 weeks

10 weeks
December - January

2 weeks

8 weeks
March - April


Other Elements to Consider

The Exercises

The 10-minute sequences lend themselves to experimentation. They are good combinations of endurance and power work and can be adapted to training for a specific climb. Keep in mind some general guidelines when thinking about adapting exercises to yourself. Power exercises keep durations of tasks short, with heavier or harder loads. Endurance exercises are longer, less intense; you should feel like you are maintaining a low-level pump. The easiest element of the exercises to change is generally load; be familiar with the various ways to do this. In the 10 minute sequences, if a 2-minute rest is not indicated, proceed immediately to the next task.

Warming Up

One of the most important steps in muscular development and injury prevention is a thorough warm up. Generally, the best way to do this is to warm up the large muscles that will be used first, and then move to the smaller. There are various ways to accomplish this; start with low level aerobics, then general calisthenics or weight lifting. You can follow this with a series of one or two pull-ups or a 10 to 20 second hang on each hold on your board, with a 30s rest between each task. Take time to stretch after you are warmed up, once again starting with the large muscles and working your way to your fingers. After you are completely warmed up give yourself a rest of 5 to 10 minutes before starting the workout.

Extra Training Tips

Warning All Training Board Users: Training on a hangboard carries risk of injury to fingers, arms, shoulders and the joints connecting them. Take every precaution to avoid damage to yourself; warm-up, stretch, don't overtrain and listen to your body. Remember, even under the best of circumstances, injuries can occur. In addition, however you mount your board, be sure that it cannot move in any direction. There should be no possible way for the board to come down while training.

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