How Do You Periodize Your Training To Mitigate Injury-risk?

What are some strategies people employ to continue training while not digging themselves into a hole or overexerting their soft-tissue?

In strength-training it is very common to have a deload week every 4-6 weeks. That community seems to have settled into keeping intensity high, and reducing volume significantly for one week.

Is that adequate for climbing or is the sport different enough to warrant another approach?

Do we need to reduce training stress more frequently or for longer durations given how long it takes for tendons and ligaments to recover?

I for one am thinking about exploring an idea Dan John employs, although again with strength & conditioning, namely

ow do you approach fatigue management in training?

“I believe that 1 out of 5 workouts should be “tonic””

— Dan John

Just Fly Performance Podcast: 96: Dan John “The Superiority of a Simple Training Program” | Sponsored by SimpliFaster Dan John: The Superiority of a Simple Training Program | Podcast #96

(I’m sorry I don’t have a playback position for you). Tonic meaning “easy”. Just get in there and move.

The more traditional deloading schema (high intensity/low volume) I think would be difficult to employ at my local gym. Especially with bouldering. I don’t like being the kind of person that mentions grades, but with regards to the idea raised in the topic

that grades within an environment constitute their own universe I’d argue that the universe I’m in is inconsistent.

I’ve been at this gym for about two years and during that time I’ve been spending the majority of my time touching plastic that is graded by either one of these three pieces of colored tape,

  • Black (6B+/6C+)
  • Red (6A/6B)
  • Blue (5A/5C)

When the gym was new, I’d oftentimes succeed at Black. Then came a long period of time when Red made up the majority of my climbing diet with Blacks being rare. During both times, everything below that was essentially flash grade.

Over time, the consistency has degraded. Now, unlike before, even a blue can send me (and others) back to the mat. The only thing that can be trusted for a blue is that it won’t be “pull-up” strength heavy, but you can’t go off of the grade as much to determine just to what degree the holds will be bad. The gym is very crimpy.

Sure, there is a spray wall and I could set up there but it’d take me away from climbing with my friends that are mostly just keen on solving problems.

Do you feel like you’re getting injured often with the way you’re currently climbing and training?

For myself I kind of follow a non- linear periodization plan based on Steve Becthel’s Logical Progression. Every 5th week I think about as a deload/reset week.

During that week I don’t do any energy system work, I cut the weight/intensity on my hangboarding/lifts and tend to keep my climbing sessions focused on movement.

I climb exclusively on a steep home wall during the week and boulder or sport climb out doors on the weekends a lot of my out door climbing is treated more like training than performance.

To avoid injury my main strategies have been to make sure I’m stacking projects, ie have different things I’m working on that stress different things. Drink water, sleep well and listen to my body.

I’ve had a fair bit of finger injuries in the past so if I’m doing a really finger intensive boulder I will get to it early in the session, take long rests and only do hard crimp boulders 1-2 sessions per week. It makes for slower progress short term but better outcomes for myself long term.

Since I’m setting my own boulders and not really beholden to a gym set I find that I sort of let my energy level and psych dictate my intensity for a session. My job is pretty intense and some days I don’t have it in me to really go nuts trying hard so I will switch gears instead of forcing it, this means I may have an easier week of climbing mixed in every now and again.

I’m not sure what you’re doing as far as training and climbing currently. If you’re going to the gym and climbing the set boulders a few times a week you may not really need to deload in the traditional sense, especially of your body is adapted to the stress.

You could try doing what you’re doing but taking much longer rests between boulders on your deload weeks if you wanted to try and keep the intensity where it is but lower volume.

I generally follow a deload every 4-6 weeks rule when programming, but I don’t necessarily try to equate it to lifting deloads. Unless the person is doing the same moves over and over, the intensity and volume can be spread in all sorts of ways. Some intense boulders are really easy on the fingers. Some easy moves are really intense on the fingers, or knees, or wrists, or whatever.

I can take all of that into account for my own training better than I’ll ever be able to for a client, which is the only reason I have a deload “rule” that I follow.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been in a consistent universe. Not a single gym, board, area or even a single boulder with more than 2 or 3 climbs. Wildly inconsistent everywhere.
Therein lies the only consistency. :thinking::face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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Haha, yes, definitely.

Injuries is really the main detriment to my climbing. I don’t plateau, I break something.

Usually, this happens when I’m finally starting to feel strong and confident. And now, I’m starting to feel strong and confident yet again. I still have a nagging elbow, and haven’t quite built up all the trust I want in my fingers, but I’m having a déjà vu feeling that the next one is on the horizon.

In the past it has been easy for me to argue that maybe it was a volume-, frequency-, (mal)nutrition issue, as these problems have arisen when more than a single variable changes. Or just general life stress, poor recovery, etc.

While life stress has been high, that’s been a truism for a long time. Trying to change that, but if I can change my “programming” to reduce injury risk then that’s a venue I want to explore.

I’m not entirely confident it is a programming issue or a load management issue. Honestly, it could be hormonal (I receive HRT).

Just wanted to strike out on the forums to see what others are doing to gather ideas :slight_smile:

Hey there Bologna!
I’ve been reading through your process journal over the last few weeks and must say I am surprised by the amount of volume you’re doing and the lack of rest days. To my count, you’ve had two (?) rest days since the beginning of october!

How do you think about rest? Do you think it would be possible to have higher quality climbing sessions if you were doing less volume? I think Steve Maisch says it really well when he says most climbers does way too much in his interview by Steven Dimmit at 1.05-1.20 EP 70: Steve Maisch — How to Structure a Bouldering Trip, the 85% Rule, and Hueco Debrief — The Nugget Climbing Podcast

Steve Bechtel also continually comes back to how he thinks BJ Tilden is such a great climber (partially) because he thinks BJ is so good at resting!

Also, this video by the lattice team comes to mind: How to Plan Your Climbing Training: Troubleshooting! - YouTube

Hope im not stepping on any toes here, im just a guy on the internet :slight_smile:

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Right here with @Kris on the 4-6 week deloads. I also try to show up feeling 100% for sessions and I feel like that helps keep me from needing deloads too much. Can’t remember who said it (Jim Wendler? Dave Tate?) but something to the effect of “if you’re doing deloads right, you’ll feel like you don’t actually need them but you do them anyway”. Also the 4-6 week deloads stack up nicely with the 5/3/1 templates for my supplemental stuff so it doesn’t feel like my off the wall work is fighting my climbing training. For climbing deloads I try to do a session or two that week and “quit while I’m ahead” so if I do something reasonably hard after the warm up and it feels low effort I just stop the session and go to bed.

Maybe 2, maybe 1. Astutely observed either way!

I don’t, really. I know that in theory I should have more rest days.

The reason I rest so rarely goes back to a long standing issue of disordered eating and (poor) anxiety management. At the moment, training is essentially the only thing that I can routinely engage in to help me manage my emotional state. In the past art, music, programming, and other activities did the trick but successively each one has soured — and can now become a stressor themselves.

On the path of figuring out why this is I’ve made several missteps along the way but as it stands I believe I’ve found the cause, it is one that can be managed a bit through medication, so all I’m waiting for is to undergo the final tests for a lack of a better way to describe it. But psychiatric healthcare in my country is overwhelmed so the wait is long.

As far as biology goes, I don’t believe that I’m different in any way. I understand that I probably need more rest than I’m affording myself. I’m emotionally bought in to the idea that more rest days would be good. I’ve had correspondence with a strength training coach that I respect and his advice to me would be to climb and lift on the same day creating more rest days. Climbing first as that is more neurologically demanding. And, I’ve seen the video from Lattice Training on how to organise a training week to allow for more rest so I’m not at a loss as to how that’d look practically.

However, I can hardly get food in me unless I’ve trained or exercised, and it causes a lot of mental stress. If I juxtapose under-eating severely several times per week to “resting” several times per week then I opt for less rest, more work, less stress, and more food.

Depends. Define volume! My AM bouldering sessions are quite short as I have a job to go to. Right now, I don’t feel as if climbing is a huge training stress. I’m quite limited by my elbow and my recovering fingers so the rest of my body is quite underwhelmed with the training sessions.

Haha, you even linked the video I referred to! Cool.

No worries. My toes are fine.

I know that my training might be an issue, or my nutrition, or it could be that I’m on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) which started when I was at my most underfed. To understand if I need that treatment I’ll need to discontinue it, but that’ll be tough as my body resets. A man that does not receive HRT produces testosterone on their own every day, meanwhile I get my “dose” every 9 weeks.

I climb with quite a few women that are conscientious of where they are in their cycle as there is a time-span during it at which they are most injury-prone. I’ve mulled over the idea that I end up in a similar situation.

“Remember, the reason to deload is so that you never have to deload. If you are already feeling run-down, you are too late. As you get more experienced, you’ll know the signs and be able to take a week and regroup.”

— Jim Wendler, 531 Forever

Hi Bologna,
I’m sorry to hear about your eating disorder. That really does sound like a big issue. Are you getting any professional help? Eating disorders can be treated and recovery is very possible, and it is not something that you have to live with.

I think that if you are underfeeding, how you choose to deload doesnt really matter, because you have a bigger issue that you need to solve first. Training has three parts: Training, Eating, Sleeping. You need to get all three right and right now it sounds like you are not getting the eating part right.

Some inspirational content could be EP 59: My Eating Disorder — Starving Myself to Climb Harder, and Lessons Learned — The Nugget Climbing Podcast

I also think Tom Herbert has a sound and useful view on undereating in climbers: EP 92: Tom Herbert (Part 1)— Eating More to Train Harder, Protein Synthesis, and Carbohydrate Timing — The Nugget Climbing Podcast

Hope this all helps! Send me a DM if you prefer to speak privately!


I am, and have been doing, everything I can to get the help that I need.

Sure hope so. I keep forgetting to revisit the Light documentary and check out the book that the doctor interviewed therein has written.

I agree. I don’t think I’m currently underfeeding. Weight is kind of stagnant, so I can’t argue that I’m definitely not experiencing anything akin to RED-S.

I’d say I don’t get the eating part right absent training as a driver. Sleeping could also use some work.

Haven’t heard that one, will queue it. FWIW, my under-eating predated climbing.

I appreciate that. Ditto.

I find it hard to be as open as candid as I have been on these boards but I believe it is the best way for me to be respectful to people that respond to the question. I for one would see a question such as this and try and help the original poster (OP) debug their situation. I know my situation is quite unique, and so I know that some assumptions a responder could make wouldn’t apply. That’s why I was searching more for what other people do to get inspiration.

Personally, I feel as if deloading as a concept is a lot easier to apply with for instance weight-lifting as the concept can be distilled into very concrete numbers while deloading in climbing is a lot more diffuse (for me).

I thank you for your kindness.

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