Joel Zerr - Breaking The Plateau Training Inquiry

Posted: 01-30-2012

Hey Timy!

My name is Joel Zerr. You may remember me from the Mad Rock team back when you used to be the team captain. You actually came to my home gym in Reno, NV and I got in a quick session with you. I may have climbed with you in Hueco as well.

Anyway, I was wondering if you’d be able to offer some training advice? I feel that I have been performing at the same level for longer than I’d like. I mainly focus on bouldering but definitely get psyched to sport climb as well. I have climbed some harder things over the last five years but nothing harder than V12 bouldering and 5.14a sport. I still have a great time each and every day I get out climbing, but I know I am capable of performing at a much higher level. Basically I have many projects I want to do, and I’m not getting any younger!

I feel that I have a lot of experience with training, but a lot of it has been very experimental. I never really had a good coach when I started climbing. The most successful results I’ve seen was when I was training on the rings and running twice per week plus gym climbing and or bouldering outside twice per week. I have tried other methods of training such as interval training with weights. I think overall everything I have tried has definitely helped but I’m at a point where I feel I need something more focused. Is there anything you could share with me? I’m really just looking for new way to train that will help me to break though a seemingly endless barrier.

Any advice would be much appreciated!


Joel Zerr

Of course I remember you Joel. I commend you on achieving such a high level in both bouldering and route climbing – something that is very rare. Most climbers have a significant discrepancy between their bouldering level and their sport climbing level, but you seem very balanced.

I would definitely return to what you feel has worked in the past as far as following a similar rhythm and general approach for your base moving forward. I would then expand on your training approach by integrating more integrated exercises into your sport-specific strength and conditioning training as well as targeting weaknesses (hand positions and movement types).

At your stage of development and with your current ability it is going to be crucial that you adhere to the following basic training parameters if you want to improve. Without programming the specifics of your training program, here are some ideas upon which you may wish to build your new training methodology:

Follow a more disciplined weekly and monthly training schedule.

Document your training.

Improve the quality of your nutrition.

Improve the quality of your sleep.

Refine the quality and specification of cross-training activities.

Adopt rehab-oriented exercises that address old injuries and injury prevention.

Introduce multiple sessions and contrasted types of workouts in a given day.

Emphasize the execution of more well programmed and organized training sessions.

Higher intensity combined with higher technical quality of execution will yield higher performance.

Incrementally increase and track your training volume.

Focus on your consistent performance level rather than your absolute limit.

Seek to qualify rather than only quantifying your performances.

Vary the training emphasis to avoid over-training and plateaus.

Re-asses your goals, reorganize the proposed chronology in which you feel you would most likely be able to get completion.

Enlist the right training partners who can help motivate you and push you in your deficient areas.

Continue to develop new climbing areas since this has proven to be a source of inspiration to you in the past.

I will be sure to continually add to this list as I remember more training wisdom from my coaches and trainers.

BTW: we should all follow such guidelines since none of us are getting any younger!