Date: November 16th, 2017
About Matt Pincus
Matt Pincus is a good friend of mine and he’s my right hand man at TrainingBeta. He’s basically the person who keeps this website running. He manages and writes the blog, he manages our social media presence, and he’s added Online Climbing Trainer to his resume.
Matt is a boulderer and a sport climber based out of Jackson, Wyoming, and currently living in his van on the road. He’s climbed up to 5.14a and V12 and is constantly changing and tweaking the ways he trains as he learns new things. Because of his success with his own training and climbing, he began training others. Matt’s ability to listen to people’s needs, his attention to detail, and his keen interest in all things training contribute to his ability to create effective training plans for his clients.
I wanted to talk with him about how he approaches training people online, as well as his own climbing and training. If you’re interested in training with Matt after listening to this interview, you can sign up to work with him at www.trainingbeta.com/matt.
Matt Pincus Interview Details
- How he transitioned from boulderer to route climber
- How he stayed strong through his finger injury
- How he stayed strong through his leg surgery
- Why he thinks a personal online trainer can be beneficial to almost every climber
- How he overcame his fear of sport climbing
- How he uses people’s goals to inform their training programs
- An example of one of his clients’ training programs
Matt Pincus Links
- Train with Matt: www.trainingbeta.com/matt
- Matt’s Instagram: @mpincus87
- TrainingBeta Instagram (Matt manages it): @trainingbeta
- Matt’s article about transitioning from bouldering to sport climbing
Training Programs for You
Do you want a well-laid-out, easy-to-follow training program that will get you stronger quickly? Here’s what we have to offer on TrainingBeta. Something for everyone…
- Personal Training Online: www.trainingbeta.com/matt
- For Boulderers: Bouldering Training Program for boulderers of all abilities
- For Route Climbers: Route Climbing Training Program for route climbers of all abilities
- Finger Strength : www.trainingbeta.com/fingers
- All of our training programs: Training Programs Page
Please Review The Podcast on iTunes
Please give the podcast an honest review on iTunes here to help the show reach more curious climbers around the world.
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta Podcast, where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we’re on Episode 93 of the podcast, where I’m talking with Matt Pincus. Matt Pincus is a special one for me, because he’s the guy that I work with all the time on TrainingBeta. He does the social media for the website, he does our Instagram and our Facebook most of the time, and he also writes most of the blog posts. Now he’s taken on a new role as an online trainer for climbers. You can check out what he’s doing- we are going to talk about it a lot in this interview, but you can see what he’s doing with that at trainingbeta.com/matt.
Matt is a strong climber- he’s climbed 5.14a, he’s climbed v12, and a lot of double digit boulders. He has both gone through a lot of injuries and rehabbed himself really well through them, and stayed strong through injuries, which I think is impressive. He’s also really dialed in his own training over the years, and figured out what works and what doesn’t- he’s super analytical and objective with his own training. Because of all the research that he’s done and all the success he’s had with himself and his friends, he decided he wanted to be a trainer. He’s doing a great job, and so I wanted to talk to him about some of his philosophies, his background, where he gets his theories from, and all that good stuff- and how he approaches working with clients.
His viewpoint is unique, and it’s well researched, and he is well spoken. I hope that- obviously I really like him [laughs]. He’s a good friend at this point, and I enjoyed talking to him. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this interview, and I’ll talk to you on the other side.
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the show Matt, thank you very much for being with me today.
Matt Pincus: Hey Neely, thanks for having me.
Neely Quinn: It’s pretty crazy that we’ve worked together for years now, and you haven’t been on the podcast. I’m really excited to talk to you.
Matt Pincus: I’m psyched to be here- it’s been like three and a half years.
Neely Quinn: Three and a half?
Matt Pincus: Yeah I think so.
Neely Quinn: So for anybody who doesn’t know who Matt Pincus is, he is a crucial part of TrainingBeta. He does all of our social media, he does most of our blogs, and he helps me with all of your support questions. I’ll stop there- tell us about who you are Matt.
Matt Pincus: I’m a climber, primarily a boulderer and sport climber. I guess I’m based out of Jackson, Wyoming, but I pretty recently just moved into my van, and I’m living on the road, traveling and climbing as much as possible.
Neely Quinn: Which is something that you’ve been talking about doing for the last couple of years.
Matt Pincus: Yeah it’s taken a little bit of time to get back to that. I’ve done it for a six month period in the past, and have been working to get back to that. But yeah, I’m psyched to be doing that, to be working remotely, and yeah. Training, climbing as much as I can, chasing good weather.
Neely Quinn: Your newest role at TrainingBeta is as a coach- an online trainer for climbers.
Matt Pincus: Yup. I’ve put a ton of effort over the years into my own climbing and training, obviously. I felt like I had developed a skill set to help other people reach their own goals, with training for climbing. I’m excited to try to help as many people as possible and share that.
Neely Quinn: Alright, let’s back up and talk about your climbing. Tell me about when you started climbing, and the evolution of what you’ve done.
Matt Pincus: Okay. Well I’m from New Jersey originally, and I started climbing at the end of high school in the Gunks, and in the Gravity Vault in New Jersey. I pretty much exclusively bouldered for the first four plus years of my rock climbing, until I graduated college and then moved out to Wyoming. At the time, living in Jackson, there isn’t a ton of rock climbing close by, so we were traveling to Lander, WY all the time. The main thing there is sport climbing- although there is some good bouldering too. So I switched it up and had to be a beginner all over again and start sport climbing. That was about six years ago, maybe? Over that period of time, I’ve bounced back and forth between bouldering and sport climbing, and trying to improve my climbing across the board as much as I can.
Neely Quinn: And you’ve had a lot of success.
Matt Pincus: Uh, yeah, I guess. I mean, I’ve always sort of felt like I was a really goal oriented rock climber, so it’s something I like to put a lot of work into. I see results that way.
Neely Quinn: I know this is always the hardest part for people. Can you tell us some of your biggest accomplishments?
Matt Pincus: Um, sure. I guess from a numbers perspective, I’ve bouldered up to v12, and I’ve climbed 5.14a on a rope. Do you want specifics?
Neely Quinn: Sure, if you want to talk about a couple of your favorites.
Matt Pincus: Bouldering wise, I’ve climbed v12, I guess, let’s see, in Hueco Tanks and in Joe’s Valley- and a handful in both places. My first v12 was Beyond Life Sit, in Joe’s Valley, which is kind of a pretty amazing boulder problem on the Wills of Fire boulder. It’s long, power endurance-y with good compression and some kind of bad holds as well. Then my first 14a was Rodeo Free Europe on the Rodeo Wave in Lander, WY, at Wild Iris. It’s an area I’ve spent a ton of time, and kind of consider my home sport climbing area.
Neely Quinn: Cool. You also- I wanted to talk about your transition from bouldering into sport climbing, which you wrote about on the blog at TrainingBeta. I think a lot of people really appreciated that, because the training for both of those is kind of- well- maybe it’s not so different. Do you want to talk about how you transitioned, and then we can get into some of your training?
Matt Pincus: Sure. I think, first of all, I’m really impressed by anyone who is good at both bouldering and sport climbing all at the same time. I find it incredibly difficult to move back and forth between styles. I found it really hard moving from bouldering to sport climbing in the first place. I bouldered v11, and had done a good chunk of v10 and v11 before I ever even led 5.10 on a rope. I think most people sort of assume that you- if you’re sort of bouldering at a higher level, that at least some level of sport climbing will come quickly and come easily. I definitely did not find that to be the case. I felt like, and I still sort of feel like they are completely different sports in a lot of ways.
Neely Quinn: How so?
Matt Pincus: I mean, I think in bouldering, you sort of teach yourself and your body to give maximum efforts, and try your hardest for a really short period of time. You don’t have to be quite as efficient in your movements, and relax your grip, and climbing relaxed. I think in sport climbing, there’s just a lot more that goes into being able to climb a hundred foot rock climb, and being able to climb efficiently, and you know, try hard above a bolt. Obviously, there’s the difference between pure strength, power, and endurance, but I think there’s a lot more to it beyond that in terms of the techniques that go into climbing on a rope. There’s more that is holding people back on a rope than there is in bouldering. It’s pretty easy to go out and figure out how to do moves on a hard boulder problem, try your hardest, send, don’t send, keep coming back- the standard projecting process. I think people will see success with that, and on a rope I think there is more that goes into that. The tactics of projecting. I personally had a hard time learning that.
Neely Quinn: I remember you saying in your article that you were having a hard time on 5.10s and 5.11s, even though you were a v11 climber.
Matt Pincus: I think 5.10 came pretty quick. 5.11 I was scared to climb above the bolt, I’ll fully admit that. It was terrifying. I went out with a couple of friends from Jackson who were up there for the winter, and we’d only climbed inside. We went to Sinks in the spring, and when we were driving down- it’s about a three hour drive- they were listing all these mid 5.12s to 12+ routes. I was kind of like “Guys, I don’t think you really know- I don’t think this is going to go as well for me as you guys are suggesting here”. I think I climbed 5.11 that day, and I know that they put me on 5.12s, and I was giving v11 effort on 12a.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. So let’s talk about how you changed that. Tell me how you were training as a boulderer, and then what happened when you started training for routes.
Matt Pincus: Well, I think at this point, in my climbing, I wouldn’t even really say I was training. We had a good climbing gym in Jackson at the time, and I think my training as a boulderer at this point was just to go into the gym a couple times a week, three to five times a week, and climb with friends. Try whatever boulders seemed cool, and sort of just have the bouldering session kinda thing. I wasn’t doing any specific training at that period of time.
Neely Quinn: Okay. So you didn’t start training until you started doing routes?
Matt Pincus: Yeah, and even then I feel like it was a little bit after that. That’s kind of what I was getting at, in that I think there is more that goes into switching from bouldering to sport climbing than just the physical side of it. I hear all the time boulderers talk about “Oh I would really like to go do this route, but I don’t have the endurance, I need to go train some endurance for a bit”. For me, I think the biggest part of switching was accepting being a beginner again, and trying to learn the skills around sport climbing.
I’d say my initial training for sport climbing was really spending the time to go out sport climbing and just do volume. Spend time on lead, get comfortable climbing above a bolt- things that when you’ve been sport climbing for a while that seem super silly, but are really important. Learning the systems of being able to get to the anchors, whether that’s stick clipping your way up the route, going in straight and resting when you need to- all those things I think, especially when you are scared of falling. Just tying in on the ground and starting to climb, especially if you are hanging your own draws, can feel like this overwhelming commitment where you are like “Oh man, if I don’t get to the anchors, I’m not gonna get my gear back”. Taking the time to really learn the way to just get up rock climbs and it not be this overwhelming thing.
When you’re bouldering, it’s not a big deal to throw your pads down, put your shoes down, and try once. It’s a bit more of thing when you are sport climbing, but it doesn’t really have to be this massive commitment of “I’m gonna have to do all the moves on this rock climb just to get my gear back”.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s a big deal. That’s why I always climb with people who are stronger than me [laughs].
Matt Pincus: Or just climb in places where you don’t have to hang draws. It’s a lot easier that way.
Neely Quinn: Exactly [laughs]. I think a lot of people have these same issues. They’re afraid of climbing above their bolt, this whole fear of committing to a route, blah blah blah. I’m wondering if there are certain tactics you used to get over the fear of climbing above your bolt?
Matt Pincus: Yeah. I’d say a fear of falling is definitely something that holds a ton of people back. I see that all the time when I am traveling around and climbing. I’m not an expert at this by any means, and there are plenty of resources out there to help people. I think the thing that really helped me was initially dropping the intensity and getting on easier climbs, and just doing a lot of pitches. Spending time just completely regardless of the grade, whether it was 5.10, 5.9, 5.11, just doing a lot of pitches in a day, and all of them on lead- not top roping. Just getting used to climbing above a bolt, especially on terrain where maybe you have to try a little bit, but you’re not going to feel like you’re at your max and scared of falling all the time. That helped me feel comfortable on lead, that was one thing.
I think another thing is to think of falling as a skill that you have to practice. I know even still, I don’t think of myself as somebody who is scared above a bolt anymore, but if I’ve been bouldering for two months, the first time I tie in on lead, I don’t feel as comfortable and like I’m flowing and relaxing as well as I do when I’ve been sport climbing consistently. I think people need to practice taking falls. Start small and obviously in a safe setting, and work your way up- whether that’s just letting go at bolt at your waist or shoulders or whatever, but just practicing that and doing it over and over again, so it feels normal.
Neely Quinn: Okay, cool. That’s great. You just went out and climbed, you climbed a ton of pitches, got used to climbing on a rope. Then it seems like you started to take things a little bit more seriously, and started having loftier goals. How did you start training for those?
Matt Pincus: I guess when I started training more for harder sport climbs, I mean, the first thing was that I had never hangboarded before. With hangboarding I saw some massive gains in my rock climbing- both bouldering and sport climbing- from the first time that I committed to a consistent hangboard cycle.
Neely Quinn: Did you use the Anderson Brothers or something?
Matt Pincus: No. I would say it wasn’t even that advanced. I literally downloaded the Beastmaker app, which is like Anderson Brothers repeaters, but it varies the grips even more. There’s no added or subtracted weight. There are different graded workouts, so there is a 7c workout or something, which would be impossible because they are really hard. It’s just repeaters on different grips. Basically what happened was the climbing gym in Jackson closed, and this was maybe a month and a half before I was scheduled to go on a six month road trip, and I was kind of like “Well shoot. All I want to do right now is be training to be as strong as I can for when I hit the road, and I can’t do that”. A friend had a hangboard and set of gymnastics rings in a garage, so essentially all I did was go hangboard twice a week and work out on the rings, and then climb outside on the weekends. I saw a pretty dramatic increase in my finger strength, and that translate to both my sport climbing and my bouldering.
Neely Quinn: Cool. So then you went on that six month road trip, and was it successful?
Matt Pincus: Yeah, and on that trip I was mostly, almost exclusively I went bouldering. I’d have to look at the exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure I doubled the number of double digit boulder problems I’d done while on the road. At that point I think I’d done somewhere around thirty-five or thirty-six double digit boulders from v10- and I’d done my first v12 before. While on the road I did three other v12s and I think close to forty double digit boulder problems in those six months.
Neely Quinn: That’s awesome- that’s when we met, right?
Matt Pincus: Yup.
Neely Quinn: That’s saying a lot, I mean the fact that you didn’t even have a climbing wall to train on, and you did that.
Matt Pincus: Yeah, and I think if you can go into the technical side of why that is from a training perspective- I’d just never worked my fingers before, so I had a lot to gain. Or I’d never worked my fingers before on hangboard in that way, so I had a lot to gain from it. To anyone out there who’s never hangboarded, whenever people ask me what they should do for training, if you’ve never done anything before I think that’s the single best thing that anyone can do.
Neely Quinn: I think that’s an interesting topic. I was talking to Jonathan Siegrist when he was back, and he’s a mutual friend of ours. He basically said that he had done maybe a three week training cycle of finger training before he just went to Spain this time, and he was like “I don’t think I’m going to do this for a year or two, because I don’t see anymore gains. I get back up to my max weight super quickly now”. So it seems like there’s some sort of diminishing returns with that- maybe I’m using the wrong term. But what are you thoughts on that?
Matt Pincus: I think that’s pretty spot on. I think we call it “training age”. When something is super new to you, and you haven’t trained your finger system adequately before- we’ll just stick with this as the example- you have more to gain. You haven’t gotten close to reaching your maximum potential for finger strength. Somebody like Jonathan, who has, like we both know, insanely strong fingers, and has done a ton of hangboarding over the years… for him, it’s probably not the thing that’s holding him back anymore. For him to squeeze out another two to five percent gain is going to take a ton more work, whereas somebody who’s never trained on a hangboard before, getting a five percent increase in finger strength- which would be amazing and really help your rock climbing- is going to happen a lot quicker.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. That’s pretty encouraging to train fingers.
Matt Pincus: I think so. I think it should be one of the basic building blocks of any successful training program.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Which we will talk about more soon, about your philosophies. So since you went on that six month trip and had all that success, you’ve put a lot more into your training since then, and it’s gotten more detailed. Do you want to talk about that?
Matt Pincus: Sure. Basically when I got back from that trip, I’d just been bouldering pretty much exclusively for six months. I was excited to mix it up. I think at this point I’d climbed mid 5.13, but I was still feeling like my bouldering performance far exceeded my performance on a rope. I really wanted to devote some time to getting better at climbing on a rope. I went back to Jackson, WY, and at this point a buddy of mine and I had built a training wall in his garage. It was a fifty-two degree board, and probably about twelve feet tall and fourteen feet wide, and we had a bunch of holds. It’s a pretty good training wall. I got a lot more- this is when I would really say that I got more specific and scientific in my training.
What I moved towards was- we’ll just stick with the 9-5 kind of schedule even though I was working nights bartending. So I would go climbing outside on the weekends in Lander, maybe Saturday Sunday. I would come back, rest on Monday, and I’d have a limit bouldering session and hangboard on Tuesday. I would rest on Wednesday, and on Thursday I would do power endurance work. I’d have these approximately- I think my circuit on the board at that time was twenty seven moves. I would do that, and then rest twice as long as it took me to climb it, and sort of keep repeating that until I started failing, which was usually around six to eight sets of that. That was my power endurance work. Then I would rest on Friday, and go back to climbing outside on Saturday and Sunday.
Neely Quinn: That’s a lot of training.
Matt Pincus: Uh, yeah. I think it’s a fair amount of volume, but I think the power endurance workout probably only takes about an hour and a half. When I said I was climbing outside on Saturday and Sunday, that was just purely going cragging, working on whatever route I was working on at the time. I wasn’t training at the crag or anything. I think I’ve always used that Tuesday limit bouldering workout and hangboarding as the anchor of my week, and it was a pretty long session with a bunch of volume in it.
Neely Quinn: Okay. And so how did doing that improve your climbing, or not?
Matt Pincus: Up until that point I think I might have climbed one 13c at this point, but maybe one, and a handful of 13bs. Over that summer I think I climbed 13c in a day on the Rodeo Wave, and I actually got really close to doing my first 14a that summer- the Rodeo Free Europe- but I didn’t because I got hurt. It had a pretty dramatic effect I would say, on my sport climbing. 5.12 didn’t feel like my limit anymore. I felt like I could go climbing outside and be working on things that required the same level of commitment and projecting as my bouldering projects took when I was on the road.
Neely Quinn: All of these things that you’ve done have had an obvious effect on your climbing. I’m wondering- there are a lot of people doing their own research about how to train, and they’re listening to this podcast right now. You seem to have cracked a code for yourself. Who did you learn from? Where did you get your information from?
Matt Pincus: I get a lot of information through just doing my job for TrainingBeta. In doing the blog, and keeping up to date on that, I end up just reading a ton of stuff online and in books- exposing myself to as much as I can through that, and listening to the podcast. Then I’ve sort of settled on different methods for myself, mostly through experimenting with my own training, and seeing what has really worked and what didn’t work for me. I’ve done full cycles of the Anderson Brother program before, and just sort of felt like I wanted to climb more, and had the time to climb more outside than that program really allowed.
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Matt Pincus: What I really took from that, that I really thought was useful, or what was the most effective from that program, was the hangboarding, and a strength focus. I’ve sort of kept that in my training, instilled in there. I’m pretty consistent hangboarding, always when I’m training, and sort of keeping that as an anchor. There’s no such thing as having too strong of fingers.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Are there people who- you know, there’s Steve Bechtel, obviously the Anderson Brothers like we’ve been talking about, Eric Hörst and all these other people who are doing research and writing books. Did you use any of that to learn?
Matt Pincus: I’ve definitely read a lot of Eric’s books, and I’ve read all of Steve’s books. I work with Steve currently- he’s my coach. I’ve obviously taken a lot from him, and I think my views on training, a lot of it comes from Steve, and I agree with Steve’s overall philosophy.
Neely Quinn: Steve does a lot of weightlifting with his clients, as far as I can tell. Is that something that you do with your people?
Matt Pincus: I don’t program a ton of weightlifting. It sort of depends on an athlete’s experience. With working with someone remotely, Steve works a lot with people in his gym in Lander. He has the ability to coach one on one, on proper form, and make sure people are doing the lifts correctly. That’s not something that is really very easy over the internet. If I get an athlete who has a weightlifting background, and I’m confident that they can deadlift without hurting themselves, then I’ll include that in their training. But if I get an athlete who has never lifted weights before, I’m not about to program them a deadlifting workout.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Which is one of the reasons I was really excited to have you be a trainer for us, because I think that’s really responsible. It seems like, especially with your own training experience, you can definitely make gains without lifting weights.
Matt Pincus: Yeah, totally. Even in my person training, a lot of it because of facilities I had available in Jackson, in terms of training in a garage. We didn’t have a full weight set up kind of thing. I haven’t done a ton of weightlifting in my own training. I’ve definitely done some- I’ve done some kettlebell work and some shoulder press work, but a lot of that I’ve done on the gymnastics rings.
Neely Quinn: Is this something that you want to do more?
Matt Pincus: It’s something that I would do more. I’m not doing a ton of it right now because I’m climbing a lot outside. It kind of takes more to recover from, and I’m just not going to have the- I don’t have the consistent access to a facility right now, because I’m moving around a fair amount and focused on climbing outside. This is another thing I stress quite a bit with athletes I take on now- I think there is a certain amount of a track to trying to always be training and always be going outside and trying your hardest. I don’t think we can do that effectively. You have to sort of have off seasons, or seasons that are more focused on training, and less focused on outdoor performance, and then vice versa. Right now I’m a little more focused on trying to climb outside.
Neely Quinn: It’s funny that you bring that up, because the other day I almost wrote a blog post on how I think that people are training too much. I had this conversation with a friend in the gym, who’s been trying this project for I don’t know how many months, or maybe years. He was like “I just don’t have the power, or the energy to get through these five moves of the crux. I’m just exhausted by that time”. I was like “Well, are you training during the week?”. He was like “Yeah, yeah, I have to get my Tuesday-Thursday in, and it has to be intense”. I said “Well, maybe that’s….”. And I hate to laugh about it, but it just seems super obvious to me that if you are training while you are trying to send something, something has got to give.
Matt Pincus: Yeah. To that person I would say two things. One is that obviously, if that is a multi-year project, if that is really the goal right now, to finish that- the training you are going to do on Tuesday and Thursday isn’t going to help you send on Saturday. The training you’re doing now is for the future. I think Steve talks quite a bit about that, and has on the podcast. You’re not hangboarding for finger strength gains tomorrow, you’re hangboarding for finger strength gains next year, and the year after that, and for the rest of your climbing career. If you are really that invested in a project, you need to set aside time to be rested, recovered, and give those really quality efforts. That’s what is going to lead to success.
Neely Quinn: So if you have a client who is- I mean, when would you tell a client to train during the week, and try your projects during the weekend? Is that something you would ever say to do?
Matt Pincus: Yeah. I think that there is use in that too. Climbing is a skill sport, so we should be spending a lot of our time practicing climbing. And climbing outside is fun, that’s why we do this. I try to climb pretty consistently outside year round, and it’s just a question of prioritizing. When you are in a heavier training cycle with a higher amount of volume, you’re not going to be showing up on Saturday a hundred percent rested and recovered. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go climbing, it just maybe isn’t the time to be invested in your multi-year project. You can climb on some second tier routes or boulders. You can climb on routes you haven’t done at the crag, whatever. Just enjoy being outside, practicing working on routes, working on boulders, and your skills- but not expecting a lifetime performance kind of thing.
Neely Quinn: Right, okay. That’s a great answer, that’s a perfect answer.
Matt Pincus: The flip side of that though, is when the weather is awesome, and you’ve done the training cycle, and you have conditions, you’re feeling tuned up and strong. It’s time to prioritize that. Maybe instead of training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, maybe you have hard session on Tuesday and you rest until Saturday. Or you train hard on Tuesday, you have a pretty light session on Wednesday, and that gives you two days off, Thursday and Friday, to recover. But I’d recommend seeing an overall decrease in that mid-week training volume when it’s go time.
Neely Quinn: Okay, alright. Cool. This is great. There are a few things I want to talk about with you. I’m trying to figure out which ones we should go to. One of the things you have a lot of experience with, unfortunately, is injuries. I think that a lot of people struggle with some sort of nagging injury, so it might be worth our time to talk about that a little bit. Do you want to just briefly update us on the injuries that you have recovered from, and maybe some key points for people?
Matt Pincus: Sure. Well, knock on wood, I am healthy right now, which I am very pleased about. A couple summers ago, I had a pretty bad finger injury on my right middle finger, from climbing at the Wild Iris. Anyone who’s climbed there knows, it’s a lot on small one and two finger pockets. I didn’t actually hurt my flexor tendon or any pulleys. I actually injured- it’s called a central slip injury, and it’s the extensor function, which is what lets you straighten your fingers. It was from pulling on a side pull mono. That required, I was in a splint for almost three months to let that heal, which was brutal. Then I sort of rebooted my climbing, and came back from that.
Neely Quinn: Well you also- sorry to interrupt- but you wrote an article on that, which was super helpful. Would you recommend that article to anybody who has a finger injury?
Matt Pincus: Yeah, I think it’s definitely a good resource. I think it’s maybe slightly outdated at this point, in that some of the stuff that Esther and Jared have put together is… I think what I did is sort of in line with that, but theirs is a more scientific approach, or a more controlled approach that’s probably going to be more reliable.
Neely Quinn: But in any case, the basics of what you said was that you needed to strengthen the opposing muscles and tendons or whatever in your fingers, in order to heal.
Matt Pincus: Totally, yup.
Neely Quinn: Okay, keep going.
Matt Pincus: Okay. So I came back from that injury, had a really good climbing season. Then last winter I broke my leg in a sport climbing fall in Sinks Canyon. It wasn’t that fun. I broke just the fibula, which is the non-weightbearing bone in your leg. It was a super clean break, but it require surgery. I had a plate and seven screws put in, and spent six weeks in a boot. I sort of came back from that, was able to climb again, and then I had surgery a second time to get all that hardware out. That is finally completely behind me, and my leg is back to a hundred percent. That’s sort of the injury run down.
Neely Quinn: First of all, I want to commend you. I think a lot of the time when people have injuries, including myself, you can get really unmotivated for climbing. You’re like “Ah I give up, I’m cursed, I’m just gonna sit here and do nothing”. You are inspirational, in that you continued to train through all of these injuries, as far as I can see. You kept your psych high, you were excited, you had goals. I just think that that’s something that all of us can learn from.
Matt Pincus: Well I appreciate that. For me, climbing is obviously really important to me. It’s what I love to do, so injury or no injury, there was never a question of whether or not I was going to try to come back and keep climbing. It was always important to me to do whatever I could to make that process as easy as possible. Climbing is the way I get the vast majority of my exercise, so when you suddenly can’t climb, I go a little stir crazy.
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Matt Pincus: I just needed… when I was sitting on the coach with my leg in a boot, this is maybe the only time in my life that I’ve loved forward to going and hangboarding because it was what I had for exercise.
Neely Quinn: I don’t know how many days or weeks it was after your surgery on your leg, but you were bouldering [laughs].
Matt Pincus: I was.
Neely Quinn: You were traversing and falling on it, I’m assuming?
Matt Pincus: Yeah, so basically I was in the boot for six weeks, and three of those weeks I was fully non-weightbearing on crutches. Three weeks I was sort of walking, but in the boot. After that, I was told I was done with the boot, and maybe a week after that I was climbing on a wall again. I had been told that- this is maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done- but I was told to avoid impacts. I felt like I had spent so much time climbing on the boulders on our wall that I felt like I knew- you know- enough of them well enough to avoid taking uncontrolled falls, and it was pretty nice to just have climbing shoes on again and be moving.
Neely Quinn: Right. And then you were pretty much back at base line very soon after you were given the go ahead to climb.
Matt Pincus: Yeah. I wouldn’t say I was feeling a hundred percent, but I was back to trying hard, and back to putting in good goes on projects that I had from before I had broken my leg, within maybe ten, twelve weeks after breaking my leg.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s like nothing. So in general, what are the takeaways that you would tell people, and what do you tell your clients who are struggling with injuries?
Matt Pincus: I’d say the main takeaway for me, when you’re injured there is probably something that you can be doing that can still help you stay fit and well, and still maybe even help your climbing. It just depends on the injury, but it makes the re-entry to climbing process a lot easier and quicker if you don’t fully stop. When my leg was broken, it was pretty obvious. I was like “Well, I can definitely hangboard”, so I did a ton of hangboarding. I probably even overdid it a little it. And then I was doing some strength stuff on the gymnastics rings, like low rings near the floor, so flys, ab roll-outs and those kinds of things. Some general conditioning stuff.
It was obviously a little harder to be climbing specific in my training when my finger was in a splint, so that one was a little bit more of a full lay off. I couldn’t hangboard, I couldn’t do any specific training like that. I could hold the gymnastics rings, so I did a fair amount of ring work, and a bunch of core training, and that kind of stuff. Even though it had been like three months when I was finally able to climb again since I had pulled on a climbing hold, I felt like my overall body hadn’t lost too much strength.
Neely Quinn: That’s pretty awesome. And it seems like you did a lot of experimentation to figure out what your body could handle in all of these circumstances.
Matt Pincus: For me, I never suggest to a client to myself that anyone ignore a doctor’s orders. But I think for most people who are pursuing climbing and taking it seriously, you have a pretty good understanding of your body and what it can handle, and what it can’t handle. I just try to use pain as a guide, and obviously in none of these situations was I doing anything that felt like it was aggravating my injury, or was painful to whatever injury it was. You just have to be patient, let things heal, and give things a chance to heal. But also there is a good chance you can figure out something that you can do to still help your climbing. It’s just kind of on a case to case basis.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I mean with your clients, do you take on people who do have injuries?
Matt Pincus: Again, I think it’s a case by case basis. If somebody came to me and we had the finger injury I had several years ago, and the finger was immobilized in a splint, I would probably tell them “Hey I’d love to work with you, but you’d be better off waiting. Give your finger a chance to heal, try to stay fit, maybe focus on some core training, that kind of thing. But there’s not a ton you can do right now”. It kind of depends totally on the injury.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Matt Pincus: I’m definitely open to working with somebody who has an injury.
Neely Quinn: Cool. I’m curious about your- we’ve talked about this- but what are your main training philosophies? What are the basic things that you are going to teach people and have people do? I know that it’s doing to be different person to person, but what are your general philosophies?
Matt Pincus: I think most importantly, one of the first questions that I ask any new athlete is what is their goal? The more specific the goal the better. The goal of general improvement- “I just want to get better and stronger at climbing”- that’s great, and anyone who is a climber has that goal, but it’s good to be specific in your goals and use them to inform your training. For somebody like me, when I bounce back and forth between bouldering and sport climbing, if I have a specific goal of going to do this boulder problem, it’s going to change the way I train a little bit, versus if I’m them training to go do a sport route. Even there, if I am training to climb 5.14 at the Wild Iris, versus training to climb 5.14 at Rifle, it’s going to be a pretty big difference, in terms of what I focus on. I think it’s important that people use their goals as a starting point to figure out what they should be doing, and then you need to take an honest look at what you need to improve on, or what’s holding you back form achieving that goal. That’s really what you should focus on.
Neely Quinn: How do you feel like… you’re almost exclusively seeing people online. I feel like sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint what a person’s weaknesses and strengths are without actually climbing with them. How do you do that?
Matt Pincus: By asking a lot of questions. Any time somebody can give me video of them climbing, that’s obviously really helpful. You can kind of get a pretty good idea of what people are good and bad at through conversation. Asking people “Where do you usually climb, what kind of routes or boulders do you prefer? Compression boulders, and avoid crimps, or do you prefer really long routes and avoid the short and powerful ones?”. Questions like that can get you pretty far. Once you have a baseline to pursue from there, I think you can get more specific in terms of why do you think you are failing on that route? Are you falling off because you’re just gunning for the chains and you’re just pumped out of your mind? Or are you falling because this crux section, you just can’t make it through this crux. Is the crux really hard for you just even from the hang, or is it just hard linking into it? You can kind of parcel out a lot of where people need to improve from there.
Neely Quinn: And then you either have them train finger strength, or you have them train power endurance or what?
Matt Pincus: I like to have a fair amount of all of that involved in everyone’s training, at all times. Figuring out those sort of areas of weakness lets you know what you should be prioritizing in your training, and making sure you are putting the effort into improving. I think every training program should have some amount of finger strength training, some amount of strength training, some amount of power training, and some amount of energy system training.
Neely Quinn: What do you mean energy system training?
Matt Pincus: Like endurance, power endurance. The umbrella of endurance and power endurance training, and which system you target is more dependent on your goals. If you’re a boulderer, you’re obviously less concerned with super long route endurance, but you still need to be doing some amount of capacity work so that your overall work capacity- you don’t just get two good tries on your project kind of thing. Then if you’re a route climber, obviously it’s pretty important to be able to hold on for a long time, and not just get pumped, but you also still need to be able to do hard moves and use small holds. You ca’t just train endurance and power endurance and neglect your power and finger strength completely. You’d run into a wall of just not being able to do a certain crux.
Neely Quinn: And that’s where training for months at a time comes in. Because you can only focus on one or two things during a four to six week cycle, and then- I mean, what are your thoughts on that?
Matt Pincus: In terms of athletes I work with?
Neely Quinn: Yeah, or with people in general.
Matt Pincus: I think the periodization models that most people are moving towards and seeing the most success with are the conjugate periodization, where you’re not just doing six weeks of strength, then six weeks of power, then six weeks of power endurance. You’re keeping all the balls in the air, so to speak, and training or at least maintaining all those areas across the board, prioritizing different ones for different blocks.
Neely Quinn: Right. Which Steve Bechtel just wrote that book about, the Anderson Brothers are changing their philosophies now on purely- why can’t I think of the word? Periodization.
Matt Pincus: I think people in climbing training are moving away from a linear periodization model, which is what the Anderson Brothers Rock Prodigy method originally in the book, is sort of the very basic linear periodization. Logical Progression that Steve wrote is more of that conjugate periodization.
Neely Quinn: I have sort of a bold question for you.
Matt Pincus: Okay.
Neely Quinn: What do you think makes a good climbing trainer, and why do you think you are a good climbing trainer?
Matt Pincus: [laughs] Okay. Well, I think what really makes a good climbing trainer is obviously, you have to have a basic understanding of what goes into rock climbing, and then how to improve them, those attributes so to speak. You have to know that finger strength is important and you have to know how to improve finger strength. I think that’s becoming more commonplace, that more and more people are understanding that. What I think really makes a good trainer, or even more importantly a good coach, is learning to work with athletes, whether remotely or in person, and really customize their training to them. I think that is really where the magic of having a coach comes into play, is getting a training program designed for you that is more specific to your goals, and exactly what you are looking to do, what you need to do to improve in that way.
I think you really want somebody who is really analytical about rock climbing. I’ve sort of always felt that personally, my biggest strengths and what I rely on most in my rock climbing is that I don’t like to quit, really ever. I’m never going to go give up. I am also really good at figuring out why I’m not doing something, and I think somebody who has that ability, to really break down why they are failing and what they need to do to succeed, I think that really gives people a good skill set, if they’re researched like you’re saying, it’s a good basis to then be a coach from. You can apply that same process that I do to my own climbing, I can apply that to my athletes training, and their climbing.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, yeah that makes sense. Can you give me an example of a client that you have right now, what you’re working on, and how you structure their programs?
Matt Pincus: Sure. I have an athlete right now, she is a boulderer. She is trying to get ready for a trip to Bishop in, let’s see. I guess she has five weeks left until she’s going. When she contacted me, she had eight weeks until the trip, and she had some specific goals of problems she wanted to do when she’s there, and we decided to break up her training into two three week blocks, with a de-load week as the fourth week. So three weeks of pretty hard training, back it off for a week, three weeks of hard training, back it off for a week, and then she’ll go on her trip. That’s sort of the overall plan for those two months. She’s got some pretty serious scheduling time constraints in her life, which I think is- just as a quick aside- that’s another way working with a coach can really help. Not everyone has unlimited time to put towards their training, and working with somebody who can take that into account and figure out and work with you to come up with a schedule that’s going to help you reach your goals, but also be realistic in terms of the impact it’s going to have on your life overall is a really big benefit of having a coach, and pretty important. There is no best training program in the world, so to speak, but no training program is going to be effective if you can’t actually follow it.
So for the first three week block, we were focusing mostly on finger strength, strength across the board. She does have a weightlifting background, so we are doing some integrated strength work, taking from Steve. Hangboarding, deadlifting, pressing, squatting kind of work two days a week. Then two days a week of basically limit bouldering sessions inside. Occasionally some of those weeks it’s two limit bouldering sessions, some of those weeks it’s one limit bouldering session and one density bouldering session, where she’s not necessarily trying just the hardest possible problems, but trying to do a bigger volume of problems, slightly below her limit. So we are doing that for three weeks, and gradually increasing the intensity of that. Then we are going to de-load for a week. Then in that second three week block we keep going on the strength stuff, but we put a bigger emphasis on the work capacity side of it in those density sessions. We’re practicing doing more moves and climbing really efficiently and moving well on the wall in leading up to that trip, and not just trying to limit project during our limit bouldering sessions.
Neely Quinn: Okay. So even though it’s a bouldering trip, you still are going to focus on basically power- or strength endurance at the end?
Matt Pincus: A little bit, but it’s not strength endurance like doing intervals or anything like that. We’re doing these workouts where it’ll be like, take forty-five minutes. You warm up, and you have forty-five minutes to do as many problems as you can, from v1 to your project level. Then you tally up the score, and keep track of that. If we are doing a good job week to week, we should be seeing a gradual increase in that overall score. You’re able to do more hard problems in a set period of time.
Neely Quinn: Right. Which is great on a bouldering trip, because then you can climb all day.
Matt Pincus: Exactly. She’s going to Bishop, she’s got ten days there. You don’t really want to be reduced to three good tries a day, and have to rest after every climbing day. We just want to make sure that that work capacity is up, so she can enjoy as much of her trip as possible and achieve those goals.
Neely Quinn: How hard is she climbing? What kinds of people- not should- but do you have to be at a certain level do you think, to seek out a coach?
Matt Pincus: No. I think that it can be helpful for people across the board. I don’t really think- there’s certain things… I wouldn’t program campusing workouts for someone who is really new to climbing, or who is climbing at a lower level kind of thing. I think it can be really beneficial for climbers of all ability levels to have somebody help them figure out what’s holding them back, and then add some structure into their training.
Neely Quinn: So if a person is climbing v1, and 5.8, should they seek out a coach?
Matt Pincus: I think they could, and I think it would be beneficial for them. I would say that that person, probably depending on how long they’ve been climbing, could spend the time just going and climbing more, and that they’ll probably keep improving that way. That would have more of a- you know, they’ll still benefit quite a bit from that at that point. Really newer climbers who are climbing at that level, so much of it is just learning how to climb well. That’s where I think an in-person coach at that level, like a technique coach, would be really beneficial to a person like that. Somebody more like me, who is writing training programs remotely, you’re maybe not- it’s not quite ready for that yet. It could still work, but I wouldn’t say that training should really be the priority for somebody climbing at that level yet, it should just be climbing.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, got it. Cool. Well I think I’ve asked you all the questions that I wanted to ask you. Are there any other things that you wanted people to know about you, or about getting a climbing training coach in general?
Matt Pincus: I think the one thing I really wanted to add, and I kind of meant to throw it in when we were talking about coming back from injury. The reason why I sought out working with Steve as my coach, and I think a big reason that a lot of people, especially people who have suffered climbing injuries and have chronic overuse injuries should work with a coach, is that it’s really easy. We read all this stuff online and in books about all the things that we should be doing for climbing training. You can really quickly get to a point where you are doing an insane amount of work, because you gotta fit in your hangboard workout, your campus workout, your MoonBoard workout, your endurance workout, your rings, your weightlifting. You can go on and on and on here.
I think that, especially with my finger injury, part of the reason I hurt it- yeah I was on a pretty aggressive mono, but it wasn’t a traumatic injury. I didn’t hear it pop, there wasn’t a go where I was like “Oh god, I just hurt my finger”. It just crept in slowly, and I think it was because I was so psyched, and I was doing too much, and I wasn’t managing the training load effectively, so I developed an injury. I’ve sort of seen that pattern in my own training, where I’ll train, I’ll be seeing really good gains, and I’ll try to squeeze out that last five or ten percent, and that’s when I overdo it a little bit. I think a lot of people are doing that, and that’s where a good coach can really help you moderate the volume, so that you continue improving, but you don’t overdo it and you don’t get hurt.
Neely Quinn: Right, I think so too.
Matt Pincus: So yeah, I’d hope that that’s a good selling point for anyone looking to, debating whether or not to hire a coach. I think that’s something that people should take into account. And then the other thing I think I’d love people to know about hiring a coach, is that I hope that most people think of it as more of an ongoing, longer term commitment. I think that that’s where people see the most gains. I’m always happy to write a one month program for somebody, but like you said earlier, you can only focus on so many things at one given time. I think that people see a lot more benefit from working with a coach when they let their coach plan out a years worth of training for them, or at least several months, so you can progress through different focuses.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I think so too. Takes practice- this stuff takes practice.
Matt Pincus: Yup.
Neely Quinn: Well thank you very much. It’s been cool talking to you in this way about training. I don’t think we’ve sat down and talked about training, which is ironic because both of our jobs revolve around training for climbing. I hope that people enjoy what you’ve had to say, and if you guys are interested in working with Matt, you can go to trainingbeta.com/matt, and find more out about what he’s offering. So yeah- thanks Matt, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Matt Pincus: I appreciate it, thanks for having me Neely.
Neely Quinn: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Matt Pincus. You can find his personal account on Instagram at @mpincus87. He’s a really great photographer, and some of the photos that you see on TrainingBeta were taken by him, and he’s really active on his own account. He also manages the TrainingBeta Instagram, which is @trainingbeta, and like I said, he manages our Facebook account, so you can find that at TrainingBeta as well.
If you’re wondering about more details about working with Matt, what he’s offering are basically one month or three month programs right now. If you sign up with him for a month, what will happen is you’ll get on the phone with him, talk for a little while- half an hour- about what’s going on with you, what your needs are, what equipment you have, if you are dealing with any injuries, and stuff like that. Then within a week, he will make you a four week training program, and it will be tailored specifically to you, and all the things you guys talked about. You’ll get that program via the app FitBot, which is something that he will give you access to after you guys talk. After that, you’ll start following the program, and you’ll have access to him through FitBot whenever you need him. He’ll watch and see what workouts you’re doing, if you’re missing workouts, if you need help on any workouts, he’s there to answer any questions through the app. He is very available, he makes himself very available- it’s something he’s taking really seriously. So if you want to do that, or three months of that, you just go to trainingbeta.com/matt.
I think that’s all. If you have any questions, you can e-mail him at email@example.com, or you can e-mail both of us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think he’s doing a great job with people so far, and if you need more individualized help with your training, definitely check him out.
Coming up on the podcast pretty soon, I was supposed to have an interview with Esther Smith this week, but we are going to reschedule until after Thanksgiving. We are this time going to talk about hips and knees. She’s the physical therapist I’ve had on the show several times now, and she’s just a wealth of knowledge. Stay tuned if you have any hip or knee issues for that, and otherwise, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving if you’re in the States, and I will talk to you in a couple of weeks. Thanks so much for listening.