Monday, February 20, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions about Progression® and Finger Strength Training (I)

Progression and other fingerboards that we are releasing have a drawback with respect to other boards, or other climbing training gear:

To make the most of these boards, the user must play an active role and invest lots of time and effort:
-To understand and master the supplied documentation
-To be persistent and systematic about the practice of the methodology that is offered along witn the fingerboard
These boards won't work without your involvement. You are part of your own process of improvement
This no doubt will be a worthwhile task for some, when they reach their expected goals or get to manage and enjoy their gains.
They will be proud of their efforts and determination, and of being responsible for their own achievements.

For others, though, this will be an inconvenience that they will have to weigh up when deciding wether to purchase or not this product. Work and daily chores are tiring enough, to go and feel like "working" in your free time... so think about it carefully.

While you make up your mind, and given that a nice way of learning is, once you master the basics, try to adapt them to your personal needs with the help of someone who can oversee the process and solve the doubts, you can read this entry. In it I have tried to compile some of the most frequent questions that are arising on the topic of Progression and training on it.

If you come up with more questions you can add it as a comment and we will do our best to answer them so you learn more about using this fingerboard.

Question about training load evolution and periodization.
september the 13th, 2011
By Carlos

Hi Eva,
I have a question regarding the training program that comes with Progression: In the method for Phase 1, you say that the first week you have to perform 2 sets of dead hangs on a small edge.
If, as is the case, I would rather begin doing a bit more, would there be a problem? am I doing it right?
I have started doing 3 sets of dead hangs on the 22 mm edge without added weight instead of the 2 you recommend for Phase 1. I would like you to tell me whether this is correct or not.
Thank you.

Hi Carlos,

What you have decided to do with your training periodization is something a lot of people tells me, or even ask for my "permission" to do in the first weeks they begin training with me... in part because they are highly motivated; in part because the are convinced that they can do "a lot more" than they are told to.

This is an example of the so called "Lake Wobegon effect"; according to it, 9 out of 10 people believe they are 1 out of 10 :). That is, they overrate themselves and think they are above average.
Alberto Montt:En dosis diarias

The planning guidelines that I propose in the guide have been designed attending to something that is really important and a lot of people ignores:

-It is desirable to use the easiest possible intensity, volume, rest periods and method that are enough to yield gains.

-It is more effective to slowly increase the difficulty of methods and intensity level than to progress by leaps or very fast, because the long term progress will be greater and it will be safer when it comes to avoiding injuries.

So, even if 2 sets seem too few, it's in your interest to go slowly so that you can adapt to the exercise, the method and the sensations. Keep in mind that this first Phase has the goal of preparing you for the "proper" training that comes after.

Question about the advisability of training with Progression for beginners.
august the 29, 2011
By Agustín

Hi Eva,
I wanted yo ask you about Progression. I am currently following a training plan and I wonder if the fingerboard had a place in it.
I have been climbing for 8 months now, 3 of them training systematically.
I can onsight 6c+ and have redpointed 7a on the second try.
Some friends tell me that with my current level I don't need to use a fingerboard, but others disagree... so I need to ask you.
Thank you very much.


Hi Agustín,
I don't recommend to start training with this board to those who have been climbing and/or training regularly less than 2 years. And you say yo have been for only 8 months...

The reason is that muscles take short time to adapt, in the order of weeks of months.
But other tissues like tendons, capsules, cartilages and ligaments get the needed adaptations (like increased thickness and tensile strength) only after years of systematic and progressive practice. Roughly 2 years is the minimum.

So it is the duration of systematic practice along -possibly- with genetic factors, and not the climbing grade, what enables us to believe that those adaptations have already taken place.
Half-crimp grip
Damage that the tendon can sustain due to overload or incomplete adaptation to load.
So, for the time being focus on doing a lot of rock climbing and train judiciously, using the easiest methods while gradually increasing volume, intensity and specificity.
With time, if you still are into this and have the drive to keep evolving, then purchase a board and enjoy it.

Have luck sending those routes!

Question about mixing in the same microcycle fingerboard training and rock bouldering.
October the 3rd, 2011
By Carlo:

Hi there and congratulations for your priceless work.
My question: how do you combine training on Progression and going to the crag to do some bouldering?
If you need to rest for 48 h after training on Progression:
-When is it most effective to train so it WORKS, going out bouldering the day before or the day after the dead hangs?
-If I just go bouldering and use the fingerboard (no gym), would it be correct to do dead hangs twice a week?
-Would it be possible to fit 3 days of outdoor bouldering or would it be better to just climb 2 days to meet the required resting periods?
Pavi Casas -  Belmez Face Team - Photo: Guntram Jorg - Source:
My Answer:

Thank you for your compliments!
Regarding your question, hmmm... it's really interesting, because it allows us to discuss an important physiological effect when preparing a training plan, and the short term effects of ONE training session. When the energy sources have been replenished and the structures involved in the session have recovered... or even better have surpassed their initial level thanks to the effects of supercompensation (graph B of the figure below).
Zatsiorsky, V., & Kraemer, W.J. (2006). Science and practice of strength training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
It also gives us an opportunity to review the mid- and long-term effects of the sum of several training sessions, which are even more interesting and so we will seek them.
As you can see on graph B of the figure above, the absolute gains of a series of sessions will be greater than those of one session, because they are the sum of several chained supercompensations, and what's more important, they will last longer.

In the PROGRESSION Training Guidelines there is the recommendation of a 48-72 hour rest period between finger maximum strength sessions. This is to ensure an adequate recovery.
And, in many cases, this will lead to a small supercompensation that will improve the quality of your next session. That is, you will be able to hang from a smaller edge or to add a bit more weight using the 20 mm edge.

So back to your original questions:

1- Is it better to go out bouldering the day before training?
  • If you did not exceeded yourself at the crag you will be able to do a goog training, because it is fundamental to be as fresh as possible when training maximum strength.
  • If you had a really hard climbing day, the next day you won't be able to cross the intensity threshold that is needed to improve maximum strength.
   2-Is it better to go bouldering the day after training?
  • That is more advisable.

To conclude, if in your microcycle or training week your as so lucky as to being able to both train and climb on rock, you can try to do it this way:
  • Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday: Rock Bouldering
  • Monday and Thursday: rest
  • Tuesday and Friday: fingerboard training
But keep in mind that perhaps sometime you will need to prioritize one content over the other.
  • If you feel like doing the most effective finger training you will have to reduce the load in one of the three climbing days, or climb for two days only.
  • If, by the contrary, you want to send your project, delay the board session so you can get to the crag fully rested.
Regarding this last statement, however, you must be aware of something:
You can't sow and reap the fruits at the same time.
Thank you for your trust on me.

Question about choosing a board model.
October the 11th, 2011
By Kur:

Hi Eva, I'm enjoying your blog a lot.
Can you give me some advice?
I wanted to try Progression, but from what I've read perhaps it's not for me: I can hang for more than 10 seconds from a 10 mm edge (around 13'', open crimp), and can climb 7B boulders fairly quickly.
Maybe I can train on Progression, and by using added weight it will still be a good match for me in the future, or perhaps I should go directly with Transgression.
What do you think?

My answer:
Thank you, Kur!
And thank you for your question. I'm sure there are a lot of people in a similar situation.

Your 10 mm edge time comes a little short of the time I defined as minimum to choose Transgression, the higher level board, which is 15''. So with a bit of training your profile would match this board's. Another thing is if you are systematic training and climbing.

Bouldering grade is not as representative as a specific dead hang test. What is your time for 20 mm?

For your case, my proposal is the following: Do you have access to any gyms that already have the board?
Have your gym any PROGRESSION yet? Send me the logo or name and I'll put it on this photo
In that case choose one and train on it. Do the two first phases of the training guidelines (2 cycles of 4 and 8 weeks) and check your progress. If after those phases you are able to meet the 15'' mark on 10 mm and the 40'' one on 20 mm... congratulations, you can get the Transgression fingerboard.

Well... anything else?

Then wait for future blog entries where we will try to clear up things a bit further.


  1. Hello

    Do you only recommend doing open crimp? How about open hand position? For me that is my weakest gripping position, and the one I usually try to do dead hangs in.

    While trying my time on a 20 mm edge, my index finger gradually slips from open crimp to open hand but second and third finger are still in open crip. Should i count my maximum time (about 60") or when index finger starts to go into open hand (45")

    Cheers Magnus

    1. Hello, Magnus

      Answer to question 1:
      I really recommend to train both grips. You can start to train using half-crimp (even better open crimp), and then train open hand too, or alternate both grips.
      I have to tell you that in case you wanted to train open hand, you will have to soften a little bit the most sharp edges in order to prevent skin damage. But don't make more blunt all of the length of the edge bacause you still will need half of it to be sharp when you use other types of grip!

    2. answer to question 2:
      Your real time on 20mm is 45". The interesting and frequent "slip effect" you are describing comes from fatigue, which leads to muscular inability to hold the joint angle needed to maintain the grip.

      Cheers, Magnus!

  2. Clearly it is an easier job (but still complicated) to quantify maximal strength gains versus climbing ability. Although ive never climbed in Spain I get the impression that many of the difficult sport routes are sustained, technical, and quite long in many cases. How would you transition from power training to implement your new found strength from the Transgression/Progression to hard sport routes? What im asking is - when do you apply climbing volume and how much is enough ( im assuming that a less is more approach still applies somehow)? You are an inspiration and im hoping to take your program and apply it over a year or two to see some real results! Thanks for all your work and willingness to share.

    1. Let's see... in Spain there are more than 900 crags, and therefore thousands of routes. Among them there are a lot of short 10-15 m routes, many of 20-25 m and a smaller proportion of 30+ m ones. Currently the more visible ones are those of Rodellar, Sta. Linya or Oliana, which happen to be in the long side of the spectrum.

      But here's a interesting fact: in almost all of them, short or long, the movement or section that gives the route its difficulty consists of grabbing significantly smaller holds than the rest of the route, for a longer time or with fatigue; or you have to put on them a greater portion of your body weight because the section is more steep, the footholds are smaller or the holds are far apart. In short, for the crux you will need more finger maximum strength (for women also more pull strength).

      No matter what phase of the season I'm on, I NEVER abandon finger strength training and boulder. As long as we place carefully the maximum strength sessions, at the beginning of the workout and preferably separated from intensive strength-endurance days or days of high volume; and as long as we observe the 48-hour rest between strength sessions, we will achieve a better finger strength.

      Consequently the first part of my planning is based on a lot of boulder, both short and long, with complete rest, and also endurance; in the second phase there's short and long boulder with incomplete rest and power endurance, but always keeping the maximum strength and hard boulder work; in the final part the contents are similar to those of the competition or project, alternating with short sessions of high-intensity and power exercises.