The Simplest Finger Training Protocol with Dr. Tyler Nelson
Date: October 2nd, 2019
About Tyler Nelson
Tyler Nelson has a lot of qualifications, so I’m going to let his website sum those up for you:
Tyler is a second generation chiropractor whose father was a leader in chiropractic sports medicine for many years. In graduate school he did a dual doctorate and masters degree program in exercise science with an emphasis on tendon loading. He completed his masters degree at BYU and was a physician for the athletics department for 4 years out of school. He currently is the owner of Camp4 Human Performance where he treats clients through his license as a chiropractic physician. He also teaches anatomy and physiology at a local college in Utah and is an instructor for the Performance Climbing Coach seminar series and a certified instructor for gobstrong. When he’s not working he’s climbing or hiking outside with his family.
You can find Tyler in Salt Lake City at his clinic, Camp 4 Human Performance, where he tests athletes, creates training programs, and treats all kinds of athletes for injuries.
I met Tyler at Steve Bechtel’s first Performance Climbing Coach Seminar in Lander in May of 2017, where we were both instructors. Since then I’ve done 4 more seminars and 5 other podcast episodes with him:
- TBP 084: Injury Rehab and Blood Flow Restriction Training
- TBP 098: Isometric Movements to Prime and Test Your Body
- TBP 108: Bood Flow Restriction for Injury Healing and Performance
- TBP 118: Latest Technology for Finger Training and Performance Testing
- TBP 128: Surprising Methods for Healing Tendon Injuries
He is well-spoken and a wealth of knowledge about how the human body responds to climbing and training.
Tyler recently wrote an article for TrainingBeta called “The Simplest Finger Training Program,“ and it was one of the most popular articles we’ve ever published, so I figured it warranted a podcast episode! In this interview, we go into more detail about that article. We talk about how to use isometrics for finger strength training in the simplest way possible. Basically you just pull on a hangboard with just your own force – no weights or pulleys required. He describes what protocol to use, depending on what you’re trying to train and how long you’ve been training, among many other things.
Tyler Nelson Interview Details
- How to increase finger strength without weights
- Finger protocols laid out
- When to work these sessions into your schedule
- Anatomy and physiology of tendons under load
- Beginner, intermediate, and advanced protocols
- Tyler’s protocol for himself and what it’s done for him
Tyler Nelson Links
- Article on TrainingBeta about this interview
- Personal website: camp4humanperformance.com
- Instagram: @c4hp
- Facebook: @camp4chiropractic
- Other Podcast Episodes with Tyler
- TBP 084: Injury Rehab and Blood Flow Restriction Training
- TBP 098: Isometric Movements to Prime and Test Your Body
- TBP 108: Bood Flow Restriction for Injury Healing and Performance
- TBP 118: Latest Technology for Finger Training and Performance Testing
- TBP 128: Surprising Methods for Healing Tendon Injuries
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/mercedes
- 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
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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.
I want to remind you that the TrainingBeta podcast is an offshoot of a site that I created called trainingbeta.com. It’s all about training for climbing and over there we have regular blog posts, we have climbing training programs for all different levels and all types of climbing, we have nutrition coaching with myself – I’m a nutritionist – and we also have online personal training with Matt Pincus.
You can go to trainingbeta.com and find out more about all of those services and hopefully one or more of them will make you a better climber.
Welcome to episode 133 of the podcast. Thanks for joining me. Today I’m going to be talking to Doctor Tyler Nelson but before that I’ll give you a little update. I’m sorry I haven’t published a podcast in a while. I’ve been really focused on climbing and it’s cool that I get to do that. I’ve been going to Rifle every Wednesday-Thursday with Paige Claassen and she’s crushing. She’s doing super well and she’s trying something really hard for her and I’m trying something really hard for me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the projecting process and I’ve been doing what I set out to do this year, which is super exciting for me. I’ve always struggled up this climb. It’s called Tomb Raider. I’m two-hanging, or I two-hung one time, [laughs] and that was my season goal as well as to get this particular high point that I’ve been wanting to get forever.
I tried it before surgeries and I decided that I wasn’t going to go back to Rifle until I was strong enough to have trained to do the things that I wanted to do in Rifle. So now I’m on Tomb Raider and it’s been just a chipping-away process this season. I find it to be really, really rewarding because even though I’m not sending anything – I mean, I’ll send my warm-ups – I get to see a little progress like I make bigger links some days or I’ll make a high point or I’ll figure out an easier way to do moves. This climb is definitely at my limit and so it’s interesting having to keep my ego in check and not compare myself to other people’s experiences on this same route. That, I think, has been the biggest improvement I’ve seen in myself, just being able to stay focused, stay grounded, stay in my own lane, and not worry about what other people are doing. That’s been really cool.
I love projecting. I know not everybody is as super into it but I just did an interview with Matt Pincus, our resident trainer at TrainingBeta, about the projecting process because we have done a couple clinics on this at the International Climbers’ Festival. We talk a lot about that and hopefully that podcast will come out next week or the week after so stay tuned for that.
Moving on, today I’m with Doctor Tyler Nelson who has been on the show I think five other times now. He’s pretty cutting edge. He’s a trainer, he’s a chiropractor, he’s a teacher of anatomy and physiology, and he’s also a fellow instructor with me at the Performance Climbing Coach seminars which he and Steve Bechtel put together. I think we’ve done six of those now and our next one is coming up – actually, I leave tomorrow for it in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Tyler will be there teaching as well and I think we’ll be teaching to over 40 climbers and coaches, just talking all about training for climbing.
If you’re interested in attending the next one you can go to performanceclimbingcoach.com but today I’m talking with Tyler about finger strength training. He recently wrote an article for TrainingBeta called ‘The Simplest Finger Strength Training Program.’ It was one of the most popular, by far, articles we have ever put out on the site. Tens of thousands of people have read it which is really huge for us. We figured that it warranted a podcast episode so here we are.
I’m just going to ask him some more questions about the program. He’ll tell you all about it and hopefully it will give you more clarification. If you’re interested in reading the article it’s really in depth and I found it really interesting. It will be linked in the show notes on TrainingBeta, on this podcast episode, or you can just go to trainingbeta.com and search ‘Tyler Nelson’ and you’ll find it in there.
Here’s Doctor Tyler Nelson. I hope you enjoy and I’ll talk to you on the other side.
Neely Quinn: Welcome back to the show, Tyler. How have you been?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Thanks for having me. I’ve been doing great, thanks. All is well.
Neely Quinn: Yeah? Things happening in your world?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Oh yeah. Lots of things happening. Things are great. I’ve just been doing a bit of traveling and scheduling spring time and eating lots of donuts and hanging on bars and seeing patients.
Neely Quinn: I have noticed a lot of donut consumption.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: [laughs] Yeah, it’s been pretty funny. People that are interested need to message me or just see the hashtag. It’s pretty hilarious. It’s kind of caught on. It’s a thing.
Neely Quinn: Let’s just explain to the people who don’t know what’s going on.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: It kind of ties in nicely to what we’re going to talk about. A long duration isometric has a specific function in training and that’s kind of where some of the density hanging stuff that we’re going to talk about comes from, but you can also use that same principle for other body movements and other movement patterns. Hanging onto a bar with one arm is a lock-off position that climbers have been using for a very long time.
I’ve been on this new diet where I’ve been eating a donut every day in the morning so I somehow came up with the idea of: I wonder if I can eat a donut while I’m hanging on with one arm the whole time? One of my local climbers, here from Maryland, Danny and I shot some videos the first day that we tried it and called this the donut lock-off challenge. There’s a hashtag now and there’s been some people – quite a few, I think 37 the last time I counted – from around the world who have been doing this.
It’s very entertaining. It’s way harder than it looks and it hasn’t officially been – the original challenge has not been sent yet which is an apple fritter consumed while hanging on a bar in a 90° or larger lock-off position. I don’t think it’s possible but someone’s got to do it. Someone has got to do it.
Neely Quinn: Some Cirque du Soleil performer will have to do it.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Oh yeah. I have some ridiculously strong climbers that come to my office and they all have failed so it’s a first ascent still waiting to happen.
Neely Quinn: It’s so funny. People come in and you’re like, ‘Alright. I have this new test that I’m doing on everybody. This is very serious,’ and then you tell them to do this.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: It’s just fun. It’s another way to bring up an important topic of physiology and have fun with it, where for our event in Murfreesboro in October I have a donut sponsor. Someone is actually Venmo-ing me the money to buy donuts for our group so that we can do the donut lock-off. It’s pretty cool. It’s kind of leading to strange but fun pathways.
Neely Quinn: Right? This might be your whole new career path.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll open a donut shop some day.
Neely Quinn: A donut training facility.
Anyway, [laughs] what are we talking about today?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Today I thought it was a good idea to do a podcast follow-up to the article, ‘The Simplest Finger Training Program,’ that I wrote for you guys a couple months ago now, just to make it a little bit more clear. I get a lot of messages about set rep schemes and exact principles and it’s hard to include everything in an article because then it gets really long. I tried to make that one unlike my other ones and as simple as possible and quick, to-the-point without lots of jargon. We can do the same on this podcast but I think it would be helpful for people to listen to it as well, maybe that haven’t read it.
Neely Quinn: You wrote this article and then you did something on your social media where you did a survey about whether or not people wanted to hear more about it.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: And people wanted us to do a podcast about it. In learning, I think the last time I read into this you have to hear something seven times until you really understand it. For me, it’s probably more like 11 but you have to hear things a lot. Especially hearing it in different forms, too. Reading something – and I tell my anatomy students when I teach that you have to read it in the textbook – you have to talk to your friends about it, you have to listen to me talk about it, and you have to teach someone so that people can really understand the information.
The principles are very applicable to any type of training that athletes want to do. They just need to understand some basic principles and that’s kind of where the genesis of the article came from. All of the things that we need to have for our fingers for rock climbing, we can pretty much do with a hangboard without any extra equipment, as long as we understand those principles. That’s kind of where the name came from. It’s the simplest thing because setting up the pulley system and getting different types of hangboards and having weights at your house – most every climber I know has a hangboard at their house so they should be able to do really effective training for their fingers at home with no extra equipment besides a hangboard, which is cool.
Neely Quinn: So that’s why it’s called ‘The Simplest’ and also the protocol is pretty simple.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, there’s three primary protocols that you would do and depending on the training age of the individual and their finger strength and their years climbing and all that kind of stuff, that will dictate maybe the order and frequency and volume and all that kind of stuff. We can narrow it down to just three things that you need to do with just that one tool.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so I think the biggest question that people are going to have is we’ve all been told over and over that adding weight to your body is a good thing with finger strength when you’re hanging because obviously, the more weight you can hang with with, the stronger your fingers are going to be. How is it possible to train strength, even for an elite climber, with no weights?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: The reason that you would add weights to your body if you were hanging on your fingers is to improve the recruitment. When you improve the recruitment you utilize more of the muscle fibers as a percentage of 100%. You use a higher percentage of them to hang on your fingers. We slowly increase the load each time you train, each subsequent session or subsequent week, to train your nervous system to use more muscle fibers to hang from your fingers. Then when you go climb on the rock you have now trained your muscle fibers to recruit a larger percentage, right?
We can do the same thing by just hanging on to failure. The difference between me hanging onto my fingers with 50 pounds added to my body for 10 seconds or me hanging on in the same finger position for 25-35 seconds is when you hang on for a longer duration, you’re still going to cycle through all the motor units. You’re just going to do so at a little bit different time frame so you’re going to do so at a slower time frame.
One of the ways that we can get maximal recruitment is if we hang on for a long duration. The other way we can get maximum recruitment is if we just grab onto a specific edge size and pull as hard as we can. Those are two of the three protocols and the other one that I really want to spend some time talking about is the tendon density that accompanies the long duration hangs, or what I call the ‘density hangs.’
What the recruitment protocol or the recruitment pulls are is essentially stand underneath the hangboard, find the joint angle that you’re looking for at the elbow and the shoulder, find the finger position, and just pull down as hard as you can, just like if you were doing a maximum weighted hang with a set time.
Neely Quinn: Standing on the ground?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, just standing on the ground. If you’re strong enough, like most elite climbers will be able to lift their body off the ground if they’re using a 20-millimeter edge or so. They would just need to use a smaller edge. You would get the same outcome essentially if you’re pulling down as hard as you can than you were if you were hanging with maximum weight. It’s the same thing. The difference that’s kind of unique about just pulling on your fingers, though, is it’s autoregulated. You’re not stuck with a fixed load.
We’ve talked about this a lot in other podcasts where even if you’re a beginner and you’re doing that protocol, you’re probably just not putting that much force through your fingers. If you’re an elite-level climber, you’re putting a lot of load through your fingers but your fingers, because you’re an elite-level climber, can tolerate that load. The only way you can make that harder is by trying a little bit harder. The one confusing or downside to this is it’s hard to understand how hard you’re trying and that’s why in previous podcasts we’ve talked about how I’m a big fan of measuring things so you have some way of quantifying that. It’s not absolutely necessary and at its most simple level, it’s totally not necessary.
Neely Quinn: Right, and by measuring things you’re talking about a strain gauge.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, some sort of strain gauge or standing on a scale or adding weights to your body. The reason that adding weights to your body is intuitive for people and makes sense is because you can add more weight to your body so you can document for yourself that your fingers are getting stronger, but it’s by no means necessary to make your fingers stronger. It’s just a convenient thing but when it comes to a convenience thing for home, nothing is more convenient than just grabbing onto an edge size and pulling as hard as you can.
But, then if you’re someone who has stronger fingers and you can do a one-arm hang for 10 seconds on a 20-millimeter edge size, then I usually just tell people, “Do a one-arm 20-millimeter hang for 10 seconds and you’ll see over time that you’ll be able to improve the time that you can hang on that specific edge size.” When you’re doing the recruitment pull, if you’re getting to 20 seconds you should just make the edge size smaller so you’re failing around 5-10 seconds, approximately.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so let’s go back because I think there were a lot of words just thrown around, and terms, and I have a bunch of questions just to clarify for people. When you say 20-millimeter edge I think a lot of people are confused by that because it doesn’t say it on the Beastmaker and some of the others. Do you know on a Beastmaker what is the 20-mil edge?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: The top ones I believe, between the middle slopers. There’s one 20-millimeter and one 40-millimeter. The one that people commonly hang on in the middle at the bottom is 22, I believe. I use the Tension Board because the Tension Board, which I love, has the numbers on it so it’s easy to quantify. The Beastmaker has a 22 in the middle and then it has two 13s, I believe, on the outer edge that people hang on as well.
Neely Quinn: And you’re talking about the Beastmaker 1000 or 2000?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: 2000 is the one I have. Usually when I do 20, 50, and 10 I use the Tension hangboard. The Beastmaker one is probably just the most commonly owned board, I would guess, that’s wood. That middle edge I know is a popular one to do a one-arm on and that’s 22-millimeter but it doesn’t really matter. I have lots of remote clients that say, “I don’t have a hangboard,” and I say, “Buy a Flash Board or something that is portable.” For the edge size, it doesn’t really matter how big it is as long as the edge size is getting smaller if your fingers are able to lift your body off the ground with one arm on a larger edge.
Neely Quinn: So basically a 20-mil edge is usually a pad or ¾ pad, right?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah. Hanging on one arm – like, I can’t do a one-arm hang on a half crimp on a 20-mil edge whereas if it’s an open crimp where my pinky and my index finger are open and my middle two fingers are in a half crimp type position, I can hang on one with one arm.
That’s another way that you can manage the intensity if you’re going for a half crimp. Literally get into a half crimp and pull down as hard as you can for five seconds. That’s a really hard thing to be able to do with one arm.
Neely Quinn: This is what I want to back up with: can you do me a favor and just recap the article for people so that people have an understanding of the basic premise of the actual protocol that you laid out?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Sure. There’s three different types of training interventions for your fingers with this particular article. One is called ‘Recruitment Pulls’ which is what we just described recently, which is literally one arm at a time standing underneath a hangboard getting your fingers in a position that you choose and then pulling down slowly at first but as hard as you can for 3-5 seconds.
The second one is called ‘Density Hangs.’
Neely Quinn: Wait – for how long do those last?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: How long would you do those, like in a training cycle?
Neely Quinn: How many seconds would each pull last?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: About 3-5 seconds. The second one is called ‘Density Hangs’ and the density hangs are a long duration fingerboard hang. Those ones the science would say 30-45 seconds is the timeframe that most studies have used to show improvements in tendon density and improvements in hypertrophy and recruitment. Those ones are two arms at the same time and those ones are the slow, static hang like you’ve done in the past but for a longer duration, to failure.
Neely Quinn: To failure, so you’re pulling as hard as you can.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Those ones you’re just hanging. It’s just a density hang. That’s a literal hangboard routine.
Neely Quinn: Oh, you’re hanging.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yep. Hanging with both arms. I usually use one sloper, one size at half crimp, one size at full crimp – for me, personally. People at expert level could use something more intense in terms of half and full crimp and someone that’s more of a beginner could use sloper jug, 35-millimeter edge, etc. But again, everyone is going to autoregulate their own capacity and their own strength where a new climber is not going to hang on as long as someone who is a very advanced climber. They’re going to be able to hang on for a longer time so the way that they would manage their load, because they’re looking for that 30-45 second window, is they would just use a smaller edge size and the newer climber would use a larger edge size and try and hit around 30 seconds.
Neely Quinn: Right, because you’re saying there are no pulleys involved so you just have to find the edge or the hold. What if somebody can’t even hold onto the biggest edge on a Beastmaker and they need a jug? Is it worth their time?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Probably not worth their time training their fingers at that point but there intuitively probably is some benefit in doing the bar isometric stuff, two arm or one arm at the same time. I use that and suggest that to my clients as a finger training warm-up because if you’re hanging onto a bar, especially a wide bar, with one arm at a time and you’re doing an isometrical lock-off position, that’s a really good stress to the finger flexors as a part of a warm-up. For a beginner they could just hang onto a bar and they would get some benefit out of that in terms of their tendon density.
After we talk about the protocol we can talk about why people care about tendon density. Ultimately, this is a safe protocol because everyone autoregulates by themselves but also it’s a really important couple of principles to understand for maintaining finger health and making sure that we don’t get hurt in the future with climbing.
Neely Quinn: Right. I do want to talk about that because that was one of the most interesting parts of the article. You did describe the anatomy and physiology behind these things which nobody really does.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That was the second protocol.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, the density hangs.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: The third one is ‘Speed Pulls’ or ‘Velocity Pulls,’ I think I called them. That one is working contact strength, so just like we do when we’re on a campus board. There’s a lot of different ways you can use a campus board to make it effective so in that context what we care about is teaching the muscle and the tendon to function as a unit and to contract very quickly. When we do that we use an overall smaller percentage of our maximum in our forearms compared to if we were doing the recruitment pulls. If we’re doing the recruitment pulls we’re trying to utilize all of the muscle fibers that we can. Same thing with the density hangs because we have to because of the duration, whereas the velocity pulls or the velocity hangs we only use a smaller percentage but we’re training the muscle and the tendon to function as a unit, which is the ultimate in sports-specific application to finger training. In order to do that effectively and safely you need to have already trained the previous two.
The velocity pulls I don’t suggest to beginners to do because they don’t have the training age, the tendon density, the recruitment, and the pulley strength to tolerate that protocol. It’s kind of like a 1-2-3 protocol and the third protocol is reserved mostly for people that have had some finger training experience that have strong enough fingers to tolerate and would benefit from doing finger training specifically.
For this protocol you could do it one arm at a time, if you are capable of doing that, where you would use maybe a 20-millimeter edge or a 15-millimeter edge and you could preload the hangboard maybe with 10% so you have force already engaged and you would just quickly lift your feet up.
Neely Quinn: Meaning that you have your fingers on the edge and you’re kind of loading it a little bit.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, just so your fingers are in position because still this is a hangboard and we still want to be as safe as we can with the hangboard because one of the benefits of using a fingerboard is that we do have more control than we do when we’re on the wall. It should be safer in terms of an intervention than it is just doing limit bouldering or hard climbing on the wall because we have control over more factors.
I usually tell people to find the edge size that they’re choosing, get in the finger position, get a little preload, and then quickly and as rapidly as possible lift their feet off the ground. Obviously, advanced climbers will be able to do this one arm at a time. If you’re not an advanced climber and you can’t do it one arm at a time it’s essentially just doing the exact same thing with the density hangs except you’re going to pick your feet up really quickly with two arms on the hangboard at the same time.
Neely Quinn: So what position are you going into? A half crimp? A full crimp? What?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That just depends on the athlete and projects they have outside and what they feel their weaknesses are, etcetera. I for sure at a minimum would do a half crimp. I’ve personally loaded a full crimp in this position as well or gone from a half crimp and quickly gone into a full crimp right after, just like it would be if you were hitting a hold on a limit boulder problem that’s on a small edge.
These ones, the science would say the first 100 milliseconds is what really matters for dynamic performance so we want to focus on being as fast as possible when we lift our feet up. It’s not about generating maximum amounts of force in this context, it’s about making the movement and the muscle contract at a really high velocity and then we can hang on for three seconds as well. It has been shown to be more helpful.
Neely Quinn: When you say, “Pick up your feet off the ground,” basically you’re going into a half crimp while simultaneously lifting your feet off the ground?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, you can imagine if you put your fingers into a half crimp position on the edge size, two arms at a time, and you’re lowering into the position because most hangboards – some are really high off the ground but most are a little above your head. You can lower into it as if you were going to hang on it and as soon as you feel like you’re in the good position then quickly lift your feet off the ground for three seconds.
Neely Quinn: Okay, and just for people, you have videos of all of this.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, there’s videos that I think that Matt linked.
Neely Quinn: They’re on the article and they’re really helpful. They’re super helpful.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: It’s really easy which is really cool. It sounds complicated but it’s so simple to apply. The other thing that is really cool about it is it can be done on a really frequent basis as well, which is another thing we can talk about, the importance of keeping your connective tissues healthy and the benefits of doing regular loading.
If we can have climbers loading their tendons more frequently at their house it’s just more convenient for everyone. When they go home at night cooking dinner – I was chatting with someone this morning on Instagram saying, “The best time to do density hangs? I do density hangs and finger training at work after I’m done with my day, on a climbing day, while I’m doing paperwork.” It’s not as time sensitive as a repeater protocol where you’re doing it 10-seconds on/50-seconds off and you have to have the timer and you have to have the pulleys. When it comes down to it, a lot of those interventions are a gigantic pain in the ass to do. Then you get tired and you get emotional and all these other factors that contribute to it being a real hassle. This one was designed intentionally to avoid all of that and have it be really basic.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, so in your session, for instance – actually, did we finish out the whole protocol? It’s just these three things, right?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, it’s just those three things.
Neely Quinn: So when you’re saying you’re doing paperwork, what is your protocol, for you, and why?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: For myself I will climb really early in the morning and usually at lunchtime or when I’m done with my day, so at least 4-6 hours later, I will do some tendon training. I prefer doing it on the days that I climb, later in the day, so I know that I am geared up for a training day and then so my subsequent day is for sure a rest day unless I’m climbing outside and then I won’t train my fingers.
The other thing that I always like to educate people about is if your program is not flexible, it’s not going to work for you and you’re not ever going to stay up with it. If I have a hard climbing day outside because now it’s the season, like yesterday, I did not load my fingers later in the day because I trained them very hard in the morning. Having the option is really good and knowing you always don’t have to do it is also very important.
On days that I do I’ll do some warmups and I’ll do the isometric bar warmups, I’ll do some two-arm hangs at a couple different joint angles, a couple different hand positions meaning a regular pull-up position, a chin-up position, neutral position where the palms face each other, for maybe 5-10 minutes. Then I’ll do some body weight hangs on a sloper edge to warm up my open hand position, then I’ll do an open hand position on a smaller edge for maybe another 5-10 minutes, not timing it just hanging on my fingers and warming up because I had already primed my muscles previously in the day. I’m more quick to get back to warming up so I’m just warming up the synovial fluid in my fingers.
Then I personally will do a couple one-arm hangs on a 20-millimeter edge and a 15-millimeter edge at the open crimp position for maximum time. My maximum time has gone up slowly so my maximum time on a 20-millimeter went from 7 seconds to the last one I did was 20 seconds. My 15-millimeter edge, my time went up from 3 seconds to I think 10 seconds over the course of a couple months. That would be my recruitment pulls because it’s really high intensity, it’s really hard. The 20-millimeter one is getting too long of a duration where I need to use a smaller edge so I’ve been using the 15-millimeter edge more. I literally will only do four of those per side and that’s it.
Neely Quinn: Four of those per hand?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Four of those per hand and that’s it. I’ll hang on to, let’s say the 20-millimeter edge for 20 seconds and then I’ll do the left side same thing. Then I’ll do some notes for a couple minutes and then I’ll go back and I’ll do another one. Then I’ll do some more paperwork, go back do another one, etcetera.
Neely Quinn: How many of those will you do?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Just four per hand.
Neely Quinn: Oh, got it. Two sets, basically.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Literally just one set of four repetitions with one arm. Then I’ll go do some density hangs. My density hangs have, I think, been the most helpful for me because I’m new to bouldering so I haven’t really spent a lot of time in my life crimping. When I hit holds I don’t really crimp actively. It’s just something I haven’t trained myself to do a lot of but I know I need to to climb hard boulders. I do open hand density hangs on the Beastmaker and that usually lasts 30-45 seconds at the very bottom edge of the sloper on the Beastmaker and I’ll do three of those with two arms.
Neely Quinn: Wait – the bottom edge of the sloper?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, if you get your hand all the way on top of the sloper, like your whole finger on there, it feels different than if you just hang your tips toward the end. It’s more like an open-handed hang, it’s not as much of a literal sloper. It’s open hand position and it feels more open hand on my fingers because there’s more contact with the board so it doesn’t feel like the weird open crimp position. I’ll do three of those with 3-5 minutes of rest in between to failure. I’ll hang three of those only.
Neely Quinn: It seems like the rest time on those needs to be bigger, considering you’re going to failure.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, super long, and you want your connective tissue – the whole point of that and we’ll talk about it after is to slide your connective tissue so you want them to return to their normal shape as much as you can in that timeframe.
Then I’ll do two more hangs. I’ll do a full crimp, 15-millimeter hang to failure with both arms, three repetitions. Just one set of three repetitions, same rest time in between, and then I’ve been doing a full crimp, 10-millimeter hang. One set of three repetitions to failure as well.
Neely Quinn: You’re going to failure three times, right in a row?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Nope. Just like we did before, I’ll hang with a full crimp on 15-millimeters for – I think my time on a 15-mil was 32 seconds. Then I’ll rest 3-5 minutes. Then I’ll do a second one, rest 3-5 minutes, do a third one, rest 3-5 minutes, then I’ll do the 10-millimeter edge.
You can imagine that there’s literally just one set of all these exercises. There’s just reps. For the density hangs I do three sets total and those are three different positions with only three reps each. There’s literally only nine hangs but all of the hangs are to failure so it’s really good for the density of your connective tissues and your tendons but also the density of the connective tissues in your pulleys. Like I said, for me, I’m learning how to make my fingers more comfortable with the crimp position.
After I do these full crimp hangs I for sure get off of it and my knuckles ache. My distal interphalangeal joints ache for sure. That’s a function of when you take your cartilage and push it together, you push water out of it pretty aggressively and it really hyper-stretches the joint capsule but that’s okay because the load is really low still. The thing about the density hangs is that the science would tell us as long as we’re in the 40-70% range of our maximum, we still can get really good density in our tendons and we can still get lots of recruitment in our muscles.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: When we’re doing the recruitment pulls, when the intensity needs to be higher, it needs to be above 85%. That’s really good for recruitment but as well that’s really good at training stiffness in our tendons, making our tendons stiff for harder, more intense work.
Then the velocity pulls or velocity hangs, that’s kind of the dynamic, tie-it-all-together contact strength training intervention for climbing.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Let’s talk more about that but I have a few questions: how long does your protocol take you?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I usually don’t time it. It usually probably takes an hour. That wasn’t me talking about doing the velocity hangs, too. I usually don’t do those every day. I personally think that most of the dynamic, high velocity contact strength type of work is done obviously best on the wall, limit bouldering. Lately I’ve been bouldering so I’ve been trying hard in the morning. I get a lot of velocity-specific contact strength training on my office wall so I don’t think for me, right now, that’s as much of a priority as me continuing to train my density and my recruitment in my fingers.
Neely Quinn: I think that this is one of the other things that people were confused about in the article: the timing of things/when you suggest people train. I know you explained it a little bit but I got a little confused earlier. You climb in the morning, right?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yep.
Neely Quinn: Then 4-6 hours later you’ll do your hangs?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yep.
Neely Quinn: And then you’re done for the day.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yes.
Neely Quinn: Then the next day you take a rest and then you’ll do it the next day? Or how often are you doing it?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah, I mean that’s different for everyone, obviously. With my schedule, it works really good for me if I’m not climbing on the weekends, which I usually don’t. If I go climbing outside, unless I travel out of town, I climb outside in the morning still. Even if I had an early morning outdoor climbing session before work I would still train my fingers later in the day that day. What works for me is three days a week. I usually don’t train more than three days a week.
Neely Quinn: Okay. If people can’t climb early in the morning and they’re going – like, most of the people that I work with are climbing in the evening. Would you recommend doing this after a session?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: No. I would just flip it. A lot of clients of mine just train their fingers in the morning and do the climbing later in the day and that’s totally fine.
Neely Quinn: So you have them get a hangboard at their house and they just do it there?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yep. They can do some finger training in the morning then later in the day they can work on the wall and do their climbing-specific training.
Neely Quinn: Okay. You would never suggest somebody go to the gym, do this protocol, and then try to climb right after?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: There’s some really unique physiology principles that you could apply that would be helpful for climbing in the gym that you could do before, specifically the recruitment pulls. Just a couple of those. That would be the final primer to the fingers before they go climb on the wall. I have people do that and I think that is one of the original – first or second – articles that I wrote for you guys, the post-activation potentiation.
You warmup your fingers, you go climbing, but then you’re never ready to do your project until you try really hard, right? That’s usually a function of trying really hard on your fingers so your fingers are fully primed, so to speak, before you go and do your official session. That would be okay to do. The recruitment pulls would be okay to do before but definitely not the density hangs.
The density hangs – this kind of leads nicely into describing why we would do those – are really good at building the density inside your tendons. Your tendons are steel cables, more or less, that have little elasticity and there are individual compartments inside a larger compartment that holds them all together. When we hang onto something for a really long time we say isometric but isometric isn’t really ever an isometric. It’s never really a static movement. Whenever you’re holding onto something for a really long time the tendon is slowly stretching that whole entire time while the muscles inside the forearm are continually shortening and getting smaller and contracting the whole time. There is joint movement, it’s just very slow and you can’t really see it objectively.
While we’re doing that we’re stretching the tendon and making the tendon more elastic. It makes very little sense to, before you go climb, hang on your fingers for a long time to try and improve the elasticity in your tendons before you go out on the wall and try and get them to contract and be stiff.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That one for sure is a no-go. That doesn’t make any sense. You could do some of the velocity hangs before, quickly, as well but again, we want to make sure we understand the principles behind why we’re doing what we’re doing. With something like the density hangs it’s a slow chipping-away at that process over many years that will really make your tendons more dense and more resilient and tolerant to load over and over and over. There’s no quick fix or quick injury preventative thing for fingers. The long term goal is to create more dense tendons which come in the form of more cross-lengths together so years from now your fingers can tolerate much more hard climbs than you’re climbing currently.
Neely Quinn: That’s the goal.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That’s what people maybe don’t understand in general. They say, “My finger training,” but for me, it makes very little sense to train your fingers after you rock climb because the whole goal of training your fingers is either to improve the density of your tendons, to improve the recruitment of your muscles, or to improve the speed of the contraction. All three of those are kind of hard to do after you’re fatigued so it’s always better.
The other thing about making sure that we don’t get hurt the whole time that we’re climbing on the wall or while we’re stressing our fingers, especially when we’re doing hard bouldering, we’re stretching the pulleys of the fingers. In order to keep the pulleys healthy we need to give them time so they can return to their normal shape and we can stay hydrated so we can get hydration to the tendon because most of the tendon is water. What’s called the viscoelastic properties of the tendon means that the longer we pull on the tendon, the more it slowly stretches. We want that tendon to go back to its normal shape and that’s where the multiple times per day separated by hours between idea comes from. It’s well-studied and well-accepted.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Doing it right after makes very little sense to me. Doing it before, if you know what you’re trying to target, makes sense to me but for most beginner climbers it makes little sense at all to do it close to climbing. That’s why doing it at home makes way more sense. Hopefully that wasn’t a mouthful.
Neely Quinn: No, it’s fine. We went over some of the anatomy. Did you miss any of it? I don’t know that we went over the physiology and anatomy of the speed pulls, the velocity pulls.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: We can kind of go into all three of those simultaneously. You can think about it as the rationale as to why we would use the density hangs. The rationale I described just recently for doing the density hangs is to take those individual compartments inside your tendon and have them slide right next to each other. We do that by hanging onto something for 30-45 seconds or to failure, which is in that time frame. Those individual compartments slide next to each other and the bonds that connect them together break apart.
While we’re letting those tendons slide next to each other we’re making the tendon more elastic. The whole time we’re going through all of the muscle fibers in the forearms because we’re just constantly using more and more energy to shorten the muscle fibers so we can hang on. When we do that we get good rest. When we get good rest we get good water, we get good nutrition, we actually grow more cross-lengths in the same tendon so our tendon slowly, over time, increases their cross-sectional area. The type one collagen can actually become more dense. That’s how we make our tendons bigger.
You can imagine a bigger tendon like a bigger spring. Larger springs have more resilience to tolerate more load over time. The springs on your car and the springs on your mountain bike – the springs on your car have way more resilience and they have way more elastic potential over time than does the springs on your mountain bike.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That’s the rationale for doing those so those are done. We should do those regularly, all the time, and in some capacity we should be doing something to affect the density of our tendons.
The reason the slow static load works versus a 10-second weighted hang is that it takes a long time for the connective tissue to ‘creep.’ The longer we hang on, the longer these duration movements, we slowly and slowly engage all of the muscle fibers and all of the tendon and its substance versus when we grab onto something for 10 seconds, let’s say we’re getting maybe 50% creep. For that protocol we intentionally want the intensity to be low and we want the duration, or the time under tension, to be long.
The second protocol that we’ve talked about is the recruitment pulls. The name gives that one away. The recruitment pull is a higher intensity, intermediate or shorter time under tension. That’s the one where you would stand underneath a board and you would bring the force on slow, maybe just for a second, and you would pull down as hard as you can for 3-5 seconds. Because the intensity is higher and the duration is lower, we’re actually training the tendon to be more stiff because we’re not allowing enough time for the tendon to stretch very much. We’re still getting a little bit of stretch but not as much as we would if we were doing the density hangs.
The recruitment component of that also suggests that that one’s intermediate in terms of its sports-specific nature because we’re still going to get lots of recruitment because the recruitment principle would say that you have to try really hard to get the big muscle fibers to engage. We get some recruitment with the recruitment pulls and we also get some stiffness in the tendon.
The last one would be the velocity hang or the velocity pulls. That’s the one where we want to make sure we have good density and we have trained stiffness already because here we’re requiring the muscle and the tendon to act as a unit and to contract very fast. Overall we produce the least amount of force in all of those, maybe the same amount of force or close to as the density hangs, but we definitely produce much less force than we do with the recruitment pulls but the focus is on being very fast and increasing the velocity to a maximal level. That’s going to be the most sports-specific thing you can do for climbing: hitting a hold and making sure your muscles contract very quickly so your fingers can hold on to that specific edge size.
Neely Quinn: Okay.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That’s kind of a quick descriptor of the rationale for all three of those, back-to-back.
Neely Quinn: Got it. That was succinct and hopefully helpful for people to understand what is actually going on in there.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I’ve been reading all these review papers on isometrics and the last couple that I read had these basic tenets in there and what isometrics specifically can be used for in different functions of athleticism. It just made perfect sense that that’s exactly what we do with our training interventions with a campus board, with weighted hangs, with limit bouldering, and with longer endurance-type hangs but we can do all of those things with the exact same tool. It just makes sense to teach people how to understand those three principles and then they can apply some finger training to themselves very easily and very safely.
Neely Quinn: I think I’d like to talk about the application of these things to the different levels of climbers.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Sure. We can start with the beginner. Beginners would start with doing density hangs and doing recruitment pulls only. Most people would say that climbers that haven’t been climbing for four years don’t need to train their fingers. I would say they probably can train their fingers and they’ll actually get better density over time, probably more quickly, if they load their tendons more frequently.
Beginning climbers get limited by learning how to do the movement, which obviously they’re going to do all those things and that’s ultimately the most important thing, but they can still hang on to their fingers even if they’re just hanging on to a bar and doing the lock-off position stuff. If you hold on to a bar for 30 seconds, that’s still slowly stretching the tendons in your finger flexors, right?
Beginners could start with hanging on to a bar to failure. Do 4-5 repetitions total hanging on to a bar or a jug to failure. Maybe have them hang on to a 35-millimeter or a flat edge with their fingers for 30-45 seconds to failure. Do that three times a week. That would be plenty of introductory tendon density training for a beginning climber.
Neely Quinn: What is a beginner climber?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: A beginner climber? Jeez. A beginner climber is climbing lower than V3 and been climbing for – I’m sure someone has a categorization of this – 1-2 years.
Neely Quinn: What about people who have been climbing for 10 years who climb V3?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: People that have been climbing for 10 years that are climbing V3 for sure can do all of these protocols and they probably should.
Neely Quinn: What about route climbers? What is a beginner route climber?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: A beginner route climber is probably someone that’s just beginning to lead, maybe 5.9/5.10 I would imagine.
Neely Quinn: Sometimes people don’t lead, ever.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Oh. I don’t know. That’s a hard, strange question.
Neely Quinn: These are the million dollar questions, right? People want to know what category they fall into.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: The cool thing about this is even if you don’t categorize someone, who the hell cares? It’s still autoregulated. If you’re a beginner climber and you’re doing the recruitment pulls on a 30-millimeter edge one arm at a time and you’re only pulling 20% of your body weight, so what? You’re only pulling 20% of your body weight. That’s not very risky.
If you are someone that’s a new climber and you can pull on your fingers like someone that’s a very high level climber, that would be risky because your pulleys are not dense enough or they’re not capable, likely, of overcoming that type of intensity or that resistance.
Again, the autoregulated nature of it leads me to believe that anyone can do it as long as they are using the tenets of the protocol and they aren’t getting too tired when they’re doing it. I don’t think there’s any real injury risk because if you’ve seen a new climber climbing at the gym, they’re still trying as hard as they can. They’re still putting a lot of force to their fingers, it’s just when they’re doing their climbing-specific movements. I would argue that on the fingerboard is a little bit less injury prone because there is more control.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, for sure.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: That would be a beginner.
Neely Quinn: So the beginner has different definitions but a newer climber, and you call it ‘the training age,’ right?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: The ‘climbing training age’ or ‘the training age.’ How many years have you been climbing on rock? How many days have you been climbing? There are all these subcategories. How many weeks in a month? How many months in a year? How much time off? Etcetera.
I tell skiers and people that do other sports that take seasons off that there’s no downside and there certainly is a lot of upside to continually train your fingers while you’re not climbing. The tendons respond to load and they’re designed to tolerate load. That’s how they stay healthy. If we don’t use our tendons we actually lose density and we lose capacity very quickly. If we’re someone that’s leaving the sport for whatever reason then we need to make sure we keep our tendons dense and we need to make sure we keep our tendons partially stiff. If you’re a new climber you can think about that as someone that’s taken a lot of time off. You need to start making your tendons dense. You need to start loading your tendons at a very low-to-moderate intensity for a longer duration at a very high frequency.
I would say the beginner protocol could do one-arm recruitment pulls after you’ve warmed up, obviously. One-arm recruitment pulls on a flat edge or 35-millimeter to a 30-millimeter edge, 3-5 seconds, one set of four reps per side. Then some density hangs. Two positions meaning maybe a sloper and an open crimp and then an edge size. One set of three repetitions to failure each position. That’s enough. That’s plenty. Twice a week is plenty, probably.
Neely Quinn: Great. Awesome! What about an intermediate climber?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: An intermediate climber can do the same thing, they would just use smaller edge sizes and they could use literally the same number of repetitions and sets. That’s how much I do and I’m probably an intermediate to upper-intermediate climber. I use one set of 3-4 repetitions each exercise. I would do recruitment pulls, which is the high intensity, then I would do density hangs, and I would probably do those as a pre-season thing like 3-5 weeks as a pre-trip thing. Then a couple weeks before a trip or before the season starts I would start doing more velocity-focused pulls or the velocity hangs or transfer to doing more limit bouldering, specifically.
Again, I think the icing on the cake one, the sports-specific one, is the the velocity pulls but if you’re doing a lot of bouldering and your coach programs limit bouldering into your sessions, that’s where most of that happens. You probably don’t need to worry about that one as much. If you’re someone that’s on the road and you have a hangboard at your house and you don’t live by a local gym and you don’t have a campus board at your house, then you want to do the velocity pulls.
Neely Quinn: Real quick, what’s the definition of an intermediate climber?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Oh jeez. You love these categories. Intermediate climbers are climbing up to V8? No, V7 probably?
Neely Quinn: Alright. And what about an advanced climber?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I don’t know. Someone is going to be like, ‘That’s so not true.’
Neely Quinn: Who knows?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: You would do the same thing. That’s what is so simple about this. You would do the same thing except an advanced climber is going to use small edges. An advanced climber is going to be able to do one-arm hangs on a 15-mil, probably, and this depends, right? It depends on the individual and how strong their fingers are. They’re going to use smaller edges, though, and they’re going to use the same protocol. Maybe they would do more repetitions.
Again, the point of this is not to do a lot of volume because tendons don’t respond well to volume. That’s another reason I didn’t mention about why you wouldn’t do this after you climb. Tendons like intensity and they respond really good to intensity and they respond really good to frequency because the capacity of your tendons is right near, above and below – given the particular phase of training and your health status – of the normal load that you always put on your tendons. If we’re putting this high intensity load and this moderate-to-failure intensity load on our fingers, we don’t do so frequently but we don’t want to do so for a really long session, so to speak.
An expert level climber would do a similar thing, they would just need to use different edge sizes and they presumably would be much smaller.
Neely Quinn: Alright. Last question about this is how do you know how hard to try? I know that’s a really qualitative question but do you have any guidelines?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: It’s easy to know how hard to try when you’re doing to failure because that should be volitional failure, when you’re starting to change your body position and starting to get more recruitment. Don’t slide off the board, don’t dry fire off the board. That’s why I usually give people the 30-45 or 20-40 range time for the density hangs. If they’re hanging for 60 seconds, they need a smaller edge size. That’s too easy for them. If they’re hanging for 15 seconds and they’re doing density hangs, they probably need a little bit longer of a time so maybe a little bit bigger of an edge size.
The one that’s hard is the recruitment pulls. That’s why I’m a big fan of using strain gauges to measure force so that people can actually get something objective to see how hard they’re trying. You just have to try hard. Try and lift your feet off the ground with one arm at a time. If you haven’t done it, eventually you will.
I remember Steve always talks about Milo and the Bull, about picking up a calf and carrying it to a field every day and the bull gets bigger and the individual that’s carrying it gets stronger. Same thing with the finger training. You grab on to an edge size and you pull as hard as you can. Keep doing that and eventually you’re going to lift yourself off the ground kind of thing. You have to be part of the response, physiologically, that any athlete gets. It’s based on their intent so they have to want to try hard as well, which is maybe another reason why doing these right after climbing makes less sense.
After a climbing session you’re going to be tired and you’ve already utilized a lot of the chemicals necessary for creating energy in your forearms. You can’t get fed that fast in your blood glucose – well, you could, but it would be a little more challenging than if you would rest, get plenty of water, get some substrate back in your muscles, some glycogen, and then you can try hard again.
The velocity ones, you have no choice. You either pick your feet off the ground or you don’t, right? You want to just do it as quickly as possible.
Neely Quinn: Got it. I will put those videos up on this podcast page.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Oh cool. I’m sorry the videos aren’t that great or sexy or anything. I just shot them very quickly with my phone one day for the article. That’s something that I’m not good at that I need to maybe work on because people make these legit videos with music and text and all that stuff and mine are just random iPhone videos that I made in my office.
Neely Quinn: Yours had music. Now we know what music you train to.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Everyone does. It’s either Tool or Del the Funky Homosapien, as of lately. Hopefully it doesn’t have too many bad words for our young rock climbers.
Neely Quinn: Anything we missed?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: No, I think that was pretty much it. We talked about the donut lock-off challenge. That was a priority.
Neely Quinn: Most important.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: We talked about the PCC and then we talked about The Simplest Finger Training Program. People can reach out to me if they have any questions about it. The other genesis of it is I’m one that’s all about complicated programming and dealing with numbers and all the nuance of training, but that’s kind of annoying to people sometimes. It’s annoying for people to not have the fancy tools. The reality is it’s not totally necessary so as of late, I’ve been using this exact type of protocol on myself, as I’ve described, and my fingers have gotten way stronger than they’ve ever been.
Neely Quinn: Really?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Yeah. As a testament to myself, I’ve been pretty psyched about it myself because it’s just so easy. It’s a real pain in the ass to carry 45-pound plates around and hook them to your waist and hang on your fingers. That becomes really annoying after having done it a long time and it’s kind of hard on the spine, too. I hear a lot of clients that get back pain from doing weighted hangs and weighted pull-ups and that kind of stuff. That’s kind of where the one-arm hang thing came from.
If I tested myself isometrically, my pull strength is pretty good one arm at a time. I add those together and subtract my body weight and it was 180 pounds on top of my body weight. That was the force. For myself, I added 180 pounds to my body – this was a couple months ago – and did a hang to see if I could do it. I sure enough could but it was so annoying to set it up like that. I was like, ‘Huh. I should just hang one arm with 10 pounds in my other hand.’ I just grabbed onto a bar and did a hang with 10 pounds in my other hand and it felt the same intensity but it was just way easier to set up. In that context, I’m going to do what’s easier for me because everyone is strapped for time and everyone is busy.
If we can make training really simple, people are likely to do it and people are likely to remember that the training has a very specific purpose and it should be very short duration. You can do it more frequently. That’s helpful for people to learn because people want to do the exact opposite. They want to do lots of volume and lots of frequency which always leads to getting hurt.
Neely Quinn: Right. The most important question is did your fingers getting stronger make you better at rock climbing?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I’ve kind of gone through a cool experiment on myself, like I said, because this is my first season bouldering. I’ve done a weight cut, too, so I’ve gotten lighter for sure. I’ve definitely worked on doing full crimps. Some of that could be from me learning how to crimp again or learning how to crimp and utilize crimping types of holds but for the couple projects that I did that were the hardest boulders I’ve ever climbed, I would say they’re my style of course but they turned out well.
Neely Quinn: Nice.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: I was psyched, so yeah. We’ll see. I have some goals before I’m 40. I’m 37 now so we’ll see if I can keep rolling in that vein. There’s so much more benefit to strength training than there is to just – whether it’s a direct sports transfer. I was talking about that this morning after reading another paper last night. There are so many other benefits to training your tendons other than just making sure that you can see it on the climbing wall, right? That’s the best option that we have for preventing injury: strength training. We get new recruitment patterns, we get more dense tendons that have more capacity.
There are really, really good reasons to train your fingers aside from it translating directly to sending harder boulders, in my opinion. There’s a shitload of science to support that exact suggestion. That isn’t science on the fingers, obviously, that’s science on the knee and the Achilles tendon but there’s plenty of research to convince people that strength training is a great idea as long as it’s just not making us too tired and we’re doing things that have similar movement patterns to the sport.
Neely Quinn: Cool. I think that’s a good final message so thank you as always for your knowledge and your wisdom and your experience with this. People can find you on Instagram @c4hp and are you open to receiving messages? Should people just DM you on Instagram?
Dr. Tyler Nelson: People do DM me a lot on Instagram and I’m pretty good at responding to them. I’ve always tried to be pretty good at it. If I don’t get back with you it’s usually because I forget but I usually will. 90% of the time I respond to people. Sometimes it will be a short, brief response and sometimes it’ll be a little bit longer depending on what I’m doing.
What you don’t ever want to do, though, if you send someone a message is, ‘Sorry for the long message,’ as the first sentence. If people do that to me I usually don’t read them so just ask if you have a question about it.
There’s other places that people can find me and clinics that I teach individually that I have lined up for this spring. I have email correspondence and I do some online courses, not related to finger training specifically but there are other ways that we can communicate as well.
Neely Quinn: Cool. Alright, well thanks, Tyler. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Tyler Nelson: Cool. Of course. Always. Thank you. See you soon.
Neely Quinn: Talk to you soon. Bye.
I hope you enjoyed that interview with Doctor Tyler Nelson. You can find him @c4hp which is Camp4 Human Performance. That’s also his website. He does all kinds of clinics. He definitely doesn’t just do the Performance Climbing Coach clinics. He does his own clinics and teaches people all about the cutting-edge stuff that he’s doing. He also tests people in his clinic in Salt Lake. You can contact him if you want to work with him or learn from him.
Coming up on the podcast I have an interview with Matt Pincus and then I just want to thank you guys. Last episode I said, “I don’t know what you guys want to hear about. Please let me know,” and I got so many great emails from you about topics that I just wouldn’t have thought of myself. I really appreciate it.
I’m going to have a mom of several children on the podcast and she’s going to talk about how she went through pregnancy climbing, how she trained after, how to do it safely, and how it’s affected her life. I think a lot of people are interested in that.
I’m going to try to interview somebody on kids coaching and then I have an interview with a 5.11 climber coming up where Matt Pincus is going to train her on that episode, and a bunch of other stuff. I just wanted to thank you. Thank you very much.
I think that’s pretty much it. The only couple of other things I wanted to say is that I’ve gotten personally into Instagram, finally, so if you’re interested in learning about my life [laughs] personally you can go to Instagram @neelyquinn. Hopefully I’ll see you over there.
You can always follow TrainingBeta @trainingbeta on Instagram and Facebook. We also have a training Facebook group and there are, I think, 12,000 people in there now talking about training every day. It’s pretty cool. You can go to trainingbeta.com/community and ask to get into the group and I will get you in there.
Thanks so much for listening all the way to the end. I will talk to you in a week or two. Thanks so much for listening.