UPDATE: We recently created a training program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all about how to train at home with minimal equipment. We hope it helps you stay motivated and strong! Learn more about the program.

For those of you who would rather read than listen, today we have an enlightening excerpt from the transcript of the TrainingBeta Podcast Episode 147: Steve Bechtel, Kris Hampton and Tom Randall on the Best Practices for Training at Home. You can find the entire transcript and audio on the episode page. In the interview, Neely talks with well-known training experts Steve Bechtel, Kris Hampton, and Tom Randall about training at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They answer all the questions we have had about training at home and they give us a ton of incredibly useful training insights.

Among all of the useful information that we received in this interview, one of the best pieces of advice we were given was this: Hanging on a hangboard is not a direct replacement for climbing 3-4 days a week. Hangboarding is a super high intensity exercise and is hard on the fingers, making it easy to overload the finger joints, tendons and tissues. We want to utilize this time at home as wisely as we can. Meaning, we certainly do not want to come out of the pandemic with a finger injury when it’s time to climb outside on our projects again.

So in this excerpt, these 3 training experts weigh in on:

  • How much time did we really spend hanging by our fingers when we were able to climb?
  • If we shouldn’t be hangboarding 4 days a week, what SHOULD we be doing?
  • What other areas of training should we be considering?

Be sure to check out the full episode or transcript if you’re interested. Otherwise, if you’re interested in more guidance on how to train at home, check out our COVID-19 At-Home Training eBook.

Transcript Highlight Episode 147


Neely Quinn: In general, what do you think people should be doing at home?

Tom Randall:I think, as Steve said, one of the things that’s really important to realize is that most people go from this balance where they put aside a certain part of their week where they might do some quite focused work where they’re trying to make improvements – so what we put in the ‘training’ envelope – and then another part of the week will just be in the ‘general practice/having fun/unstructured work’ and that will go on that side of things. 

What a lot of people are finding themselves in now is they have all of that space now and it’s suddenly in this ‘training’ envelope. They feel like they can fit all of that activity in that time that they put aside previously in that split and balanced way, just into training. I think this is a really big mistake, especially as people might tend to do it very quickly and kind of jump into it too fast and too hard. 

I think it’s really good to try and break down and look at what you have previously done over the last three months or six months or last couple of years. Look at your history of what you put into your body and try and replicate that as much as possible in this home environment. If you were someone who did 1-2 days of training and this was focused work, previously to the situation we’re in now, do not suddenly try to put it up to 3-4-5 days of focused training. Try and mimic that. Keep that balance of focused training in your time at home. 

If you then went out two days a week for fun, just try and look at other activities which mimic that as much as possible. That might be working large muscle groups, doing generalized strength and conditioning, circuit training, going for a walk, a bike ride, a run, any of those things that we can do that keeps that balance. Ultimately, your body won’t be very happy if you flip things too quickly and suddenly and secondly, it’s really hard motivation to do that. You can kind of pull it out of the bag for one week or two weeks when you really make massive changes but some of us might be down there for four weeks, eight weeks, maybe even longer in some countries. It’s difficult to say. 

I think we’ve got to take a little bit of a longer-term view on this and actually build something that is realistic that we can do for a certain amount of time and still come out of it motivated for the thing that we ultimately love, which is a bit of training, a bit of climbing, and a nice balanced mix. 

Neely Quinn: Thanks. 

Kris, what do you have to say about it?

Kris Hampton: I would say number one, I think bouldering on your kitchen cabinets is a great alternative but make sure you get video when those fail and post it on Instagram.

Neely Quinn:Lots of injuries there, lots of injuries.

Kris Hampton: Yeah, no, don’t do that at all. I agree with Tom totally that you should try to take what you were doing before and keep that same level, that same frequency, and not ramp it up massively. If you find yourself with all this free time and you’re filling all that free time with extra training, maybe consider finding a hobby that you’re going to enjoy. Try to find something fun to do. Play with your kids. Even watch Tiger King, even though everyone already has.

Neely Quinn: I kind of want to go into this training too much thing because I think you guys are right. It’s definitely peoples’ tendencies to be like, ‘Well, normally I climb for a couple hours 3-4 days a week and sometimes a couple times a week I do a half hour to an hour of training on top of that.’ It might be more or less than that. People are trying to fill all of that time with exercise or training. Can you guys tell me the cons of that? Tell us why, if we’re normally climbing for two hours 3-4 days a week, hanging on the hangboard is not a good direct substitution for that.

Steve, do you want to start?

Steve Bechtel: I think it’s really important to take a good look at what the loading cycle of your training is and how much time you spend at each of these intensities. Yeah, if you go to the climbing gym for two hours normally then you’re like, ‘Oh, I climbed for two hours.’ Actually, you’re climbing for five minutes every 25 minutes or five minutes every 15 minutes and it’s probably at a fairly low load. If we look at it as a percentage of your maximum finger strength, you’re not real close to that, even on hard climbs. 

What happens when we try to replace it minute-for-minute with hangboard training is hangboard training is, by its very essence, super high intensity. Even just hanging bodyweight is quite hard on the fingers and it’s the exact same loading direction if you’re just hanging on a board. It’s always arms above the head, fingers in however many positions, so it’s really easy to overload the tissues.

We’re not going to overload your lungs, we’re not going to overload your muscles probably, but we are probably going to overload your finger joints and your tendons and then we’re going to end up with an injury, which is a really, really stupid thing to come out of this time at home with. ‘Oh yeah, that’s when I really hurt my finger.’ You want to hurt your finger sending your hardest route ever, not sitting in your kitchen.

I think going back, like Tom said, and look at the last 3-6 months and go: ‘This is how much I did of focused training,’ and then break it down and say, ‘How much time did I really spend hanging by my fingers? How much time did I spend doing maximal antagonistic training?’

That other thing there is maximal antagonistic training. People are going to go, ‘I’m going to get really good at push-ups now or I’m going to get really super, mobile shoulders.’ You can only adapt so much. Once we’ve hit that adaptation threshold, anything over that point is just moving into that area of injury so let’s do a variety of things that might help us but then we’ve got to stop at a reasonable amount of time. Then we start progressing that but you’ve got to have an all new plan, like Tom was saying, to go from where we are now to increased volume and intensity in the new style of training that you’re doing. You have to do it progressively and slowly.

The other thing you can do is work on other aspects of your game. Your mental game, your strategies and tactics. You can watch videos, learn beta, do all kinds of that sort of preparation as well but definitely not trying to replace minute-for-minute climbing with the hangboard.

Full Episode/Transcript: TBP 147: Steve Bechtel, Kris Hampton, and Tom Randall on the Best Practices for Training at Home


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TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, climbing training classes, nutrition classes, regular blog posts, interviews on The TrainingBeta Podcast, personal coaching for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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