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6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers: The Importance of Rest

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Jonathan Siegrist knows about climbing hard. The professional rock climber, currently based in Las Vegas, Nevada, has achieved an impressive list of 5.14 ascents, nine 5.15as, two 5.15bs, and plenty of double-digit boulder problems to boot. Training has been an integral aspect of Siegrist’s success, with finger training at the heart of his regimen. Through his new course 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers, Siegrist has created a finger-strength protocol for those looking to level up their climbing. This program is designed to help any climber establish a structured program for improvement, whether they wish to break into 5.11 or 5.13, and has two tracks depending on strength and experience levels.

Often underrated, and even overlooked, rest is a central tenet of Siegrist’s training routine. He has found that planned, proper rest helps him perform more effectively on rock, so that he has more power when he needs it. In this conversation with Climbing, Siegrist discusses what he’s learned about rest over the years, why he takes it so seriously, and why you should as well. To apply his advice to a structured training regimen, enroll in 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers.

On indoor training days, why confine yourself to only climbing for a set amount of time, as you recommend in the course, when trying to cultivate stronger fingers and greater power?

Jonathan Siegrist: Generally speaking, we want to aim for quality over quantity. Sometimes when we have epic gym sessions, about halfway through we are far too tired to do our best but carry on anyway. This attitude in general will encourage out bodies to adapt to long, medium-difficulty sessions as opposed to climbing our absolute best on one route or boulder problem.

Why are there prescribed amounts of rest between sets on the hangboard and campus board in 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers?

You can always change the amount of time you rest to make the session easier or harder, but the main idea is to keep all of these little details consistent throughout the entire cycle so that you can judge progress more easily. This ensures that the only “variable” in your training is the intensity—not time, location, how rested you are, or anything else.

Is it better to over-train or under-train?

I’d probably urge people to aim for under-training rather than over-training, especially if you are new to the whole training thing. Let’s say you can finish the workout, but in the last 10 percent of it your form is poor and you feel completely cooked. In this case, it would be far better to just do the first 90 percent of the workout and keep your form great, perhaps even ending with the sense that you could go on a little longer if you wanted to.

Many climbers construe the idea of a “rest day” to mean still doing light activity or cross-training. How seriously do you take rest and why?

I rest very hard, especially when I’m training or trying a project. Even if you’re exercising a different muscle group on your “rest day,” you’ll still need energy to help that part of your body recover—energy that your climbing muscles could be using to rebuild and recover instead. I would bet that nearly every person who does vigorous activity on their rest days would have more success on the rock if they just took it down a notch or two on off days and saved it for the cliff.

What have you learned about resting over the years?

Well, as I’ve grown older, I have needed more and more rest. I have also noticed that as I push myself nearer to my limit I, logically, need more rest to perform. I can still go on a climbing trip where I am climbing two number grades below my limit and probably send every day without rest. When it’s time to do my absolute hardest day on rock, though, taking a day off first is often the best.

Anything else about resting that you’d like to add?

Sleep is the most important part of resting! So, prioritize getting at least eight hours every night if you truly want to get the most out of your climbing and training. 

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