/ What causes finger tendon tweaks?
I can see a whole load of intuitively plausible causes of tweaked tendons, eg:
* not warming up fingers properly
* too much force on the fingers on a single occasion eg an uncontrolled lunge for a small hold
* not enough rest between fingery routes
* too many fingery routes in a session
* not enough rest between sessions
but if I avoided all of these then I'd turn up for the wall once a fortnight, warm up for an hour, do one easy slab route, rest for half an hour, warm up again, do another easy slab route, warm down and go home, and wouldn't actually get much climbing done.
So how can I avoid dodgy tendons while still actually doing a decent amount of meaty climbing and getting stronger?
FWIW I mostly boulder (because that's all there is at my local wall) and seem to climb at about V1 to V4 (depending on how the wall chooses to interpret low V grades) or 6bish when I'm doing routes.
The short (but perhaps not useful to you) answer is climbing on plastic, and particularly bouldering on plastic.
You don't often see european sport climbers who live near the rock sporting multiple taped fingers like a wall bred climber.
I pretty much gave up on bouldering when I got fed up with tweaky tendons - even projecting stuff way above my grade on the comp wall causes nowhere near the same problems.
I'm considering trying again now that I have a couple more years training under my belt, see if the tendons are now strong enough to cope, but if not I'll revert back to staying on the ropes.
Oh, and to put those grades into context, I rarely do anything harder than V4 (have done a couple of V5s) but climb up to 7b indoors and several 7b+ outdoors, so there's plenty of scope to improve your climbing without pushing your fingers while your tendons toughen up if you want to do so :)
I'd agree with most of that. Really bearing down hard on very positive small incuts is a feature of much indoor bouldering, one that I find very quickly causes me pain. Avoiding it is tricky if that's all you have locally! I guess you just need to be sensitive to what causes you pain and be prepared to walk away from a problem or session before you do any lasting harm.
I think some of it is down to poor technique too, you do see some people yanking and deadpointing moves to tiny crimps that could be done statically. All it takes is a little foot slip and pop!
I'm by no means an expert but I think just listening to your body, especially when bouldering on plastic, is a good shout!
Dave MacLeod ( who should know about this stuff if anyone does ) says
"I changed my technique to move more dynamically, reducing the stress and risk for my tendons. I gained some openhanded strength and reduced my reliance on crimping. I learned that I needed to take care of my body better, and started eating and sleeping better. Finally, I thought tactically about what today’s climbing decisions meant for tomorrow, instead of just thinking about right now. A big part of this was simply being very careful climbing in warm or humid conditions when the risk of injury was much higher. "
Full text at http://onlineclimbingcoach.blogspot.ca/2012/08/another-good-injury-story.html
Yeah, unfortunately there isn't much real rock on East Anglia.
The thing with bouldering seems to be that a lot of people recommend doing a lot of (indoor) bouldering as a good way of getting strong and improving technique - presumably the point being that there's a lot of pulling involved so if you do just the right amount you get really strong but if you do a bit too much then you'll get injured.
FWIW my current approach is to limit the fingery stuff I do to:
* about 30-45 minutes per session
* once I'm well warmed up but before I'm tired
* leaving about 2-3 minutes between attempts (no matter how brief the attempts are)
and then spend the rest of the session doing macro-pumpy overhangs or balancey stuff on slopers or power-endurancey stuff on reasonable holds or whatever. But it's kind of hard to say whether this is too much or too little...
Soft tissue, like that of your forearms, repairs quicker making it less prone to over use injuries also allowing muscle density to increase at a faster rate.
Tendon and ligament(what your fingers are made up of) injuries take a long time to heal (12-18 months is not uncommon), and there is a reasonably high risk of recurrence unless management of the injury is first class right from the time it occurs. The reasons for this include the facts that tendon tissues have a very poor blood supply, making healing slow, and also that new tendon tissue is not strictly the same tissue as the original (original tendon is type 1 collagen, and new tendon is type 2 collagen, which is not as elastic or as strong, and tends to produce scarring if not managed effectively).
The above facts result in your tendons being more prone to over use injuries and also allow for a muscular in-balance between your tendons(fingers) and the pull muscles your forearms. Resulting in further injuries.
It's certainly a good way of getting strong (assuming you're not always on the treatment table, but personally, I think the technique benefits are often exaggerated (unless of course you see bouldering as your main discipline.
Sure it teaches you lots about technique for hard moves but it teaches you very little about technique for efficient movement, resting on a route, etc.
I see a lot of guys down the gym who are way stronger than me, bouldering quite high V numbers, but struggling to climb 6c sport because their footwork is woefully bad.
Bouldering with bad footwork? That's strange but must be dependant on the routes set / the venue. I'd say, from what I see, good foot work is essential to high level bouldering. The best boulderers at the GCC are not big pumped up guys but fairly thin & lean, albeit with well defined muscles, moving with careful foot placement.
Indeed it is essential, but I'm not talking about the best boulderers, I'm talking about the big pumped up guys.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying bouldering isn't useful for improving technique, just that indoor bouldering teaches you to do movements with hard footwork very well, but it doesn't prepare you for the sort of footwork required to do well on long routes on real rock, so if it's seen as a magic bullet it can become counter productive after a while.
Generally one of the best defences against injury is being stronger. It also makes you climb better. That's a big reason why Chris Sharma suffers less from tendon tweaks than you do despite him pulling on smaller holds. Once injured you are prone to re-injury and some people seem to be genetically more prone to finger problems. So - once your fingers are in a healthy state commit to a programme of deadhanging across all the main grip positions. Deadhanging is controllable so you can take care when doing it not to over do it. Generally err to hanging smaller holds too particularly for max hangs. Bigger holds can sometimes lead to too much force which your muscles are strong enough to hold but the tendons and other supporting structures aren't. Warm up, stay hydrated, stop strong. Do it in phases of a few weeks. Don't go nuts.
Sound advice, and one I think I should follow... particularly as I'm out of climbing with a slipped disk at the moment, I should be able to do a consistent fingerboard program without risking overdoing things with the normal training on top.
So deadhanging from smaller holds will be more beneficial, less prone to cause injury than bigger holds?
What about using a beastmaker overhanding training wall? Not that I can climb any of the routes, but hang from some of holds with a foot on one of the feet placements?
Agree with Shark's comments, also consider when/where you get tweaks. I find plastic, especially the local wall, somewhat tweaky but have had few issues on rock, apart from the odd collateral tweak in my left ring finger. I avoid lunging at or pulling hard on small holds when tired on the plastic, hardest thing to do is getting into the habit of stopping trying hard (for me) problems whilst still strong as the natural reaction (in me) is to carry on until you are beasted. I usally finish with an easy but long mildly pumpy traverse or similar where I have no risk of a tweak
Touch wood (sic) I have not had a problem on my Beastmaker
Some good advice above.
For me, finger tweaks have nearly always been caused by hard (for me) route onsighting or redpointing indoors.
I find that indoor bouldering I warm up more effectively, and am more relaxed about letting go if a hold doesn't feel right.
On indoor routes I just seem to get tweaks. I can't identify the precise instances as I've never had a sudden 'pop', just lots of tweaks that will start to twinge at the end of a session (and then persist for months). I think maybe it comes from being less relaxed on a hard route, or holding poor holds for longer/less dynamically eg. clipping.
My solution indoors is to use easier routes without tweaky holds for lapping/endurance work, and then boulder for strength and power.
For me, this has worked this year, and helped me improve 2 sport and boulder grades.
I've never hurt my finger tendons on a route or boulder outside.
I've fallen on love with large unpleasant slopers and volume hugging as while I frequently fall off without warning and punch myself in the face I don't suffer with tendon problems to anything like the same degree. :-)
> So deadhanging from smaller holds will be more beneficial, less prone to cause injury than bigger holds?
> What about using a beastmaker overhanding training wall? Not that I can climb any of the routes, but hang from some of holds with a foot on one of the feet placements?
I made the point because it was inobvious (pointed out to me recently) as some people might think they are being more careful using med/larger holds (sometimes with less fingers) but in fact this can be counteracted by higher forces whereas hanging smaller holds is more limited by things like skin friction. Having said that if you have a long history of finger work then hanging off medium sized holds with massive weights using the right regime can be highly effective and not too risky.
Using a fingerboard or training/systems board/woodie/bouldering wall with feet-on is a great way for newbies and the weak fingered to start finger training and you can really vary the holds which spreads the load. If you can do one handed hangs with feet on this can work really well and help you find good body positions. If on a fingerboard I recommend using a pulley and foot sling setup with weights as you can adjust the weights and monitor your progress better. Experiment with doing stints of 3 weeks with at least a week off. Maybe 3 weeks on / 3 weeks off would work well for beginners to allow tendons and supporting structures to recover/catch up. Dunno.
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