SEALgrinderPT Interview with climber Eric Horst

Eric Horst is the author of many climbing training books and one of the top climbing trainers in the world.  With a long history of first ascents at the New River and a world wide climbing traveler – Eric has a ton of experience to help climbers learn and grow as athletes.  SEALgrinderPT sits down with Eric and gets the low down on what he is doing these days and how to get in some killer training without getting sidelined with injuries.

Eric HorstSGPT: How did you start climbing?

EH: My older brother introduced me to climbing in Spring 1977…I was just 13 years old. “Youth climbers” were almost unheard of in those days.

SGPT: Who were your early mentors?

EH: My brother was my initial mentor, although I climbed with several other 20-somethings during my formative days. My biggest influence was John Gill—although I hadn’t yet met him–his biography Master of Rock was an inspiration and a strong influence in my early days as a climber interested in training.

SGPT: Where did you climb?

EH: Mostly in the Northeast….Gunks, Seneca Rocks, North Conway, NH, and numerous back water crags around PA. I did a couple trips out west in 1979 and 1981 that, as a teenager, opened my mind to all the great climbing in the Rockies…and this helped establish my desire to roadtrip west each summer…something I still do all these years later!

SGPT: Tell us about your years at the New River and what that scene was like back in those days.

EH: I first traveled to the New in late 1986, and I was amazing to find an area with so much potential for development. A small group of locals were in the process of firing in traditional lines…then in 1987 and 1988 sport climbing arrived at the New. The local climbers immediately welcomed me to join in, and so I spent most of the next 7 or 8 years traveling to the New when weekend weather allowed. Over those years I established over 200 new routes, both trad and sport, including the areas first 5.13 way back in 1987. In recent years, of course, younger/stronger climbers have blown the lid off our achievements back then!

SGPT: How did you gravitate towards coaching and writing about climbing training?

EH: Training for climbing was an obvious thing for me to do, when I got into climbing in the late 1970s…but few climbers really trained back then. Again, John Gill was a huge influence. I trained with a couple other high school climbers that lived nearby (Jeff Batzer and Hugh Herr) and we pushed each other on occasional bouldering outings. My interest grew throughout the years and I studied exercise physiology and sports psychology…and experimented and tested out training routines at my home gym. I started writing for Rock and Ice and Climbing mags in the late 1980s…and that lead me into writing my first book in 1994.

The rest is history…as my 6th training book was recently published Maximum Climbing: Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal Experience (How To Climb Series).

SGPT: What would be the one or two things that a young athlete could do today to improve their climbing?

EH: Climb 3 or 4 days per week and travel as much as possible to gain experience on a wide range of rocks types. First and foremost, climbing is a skill sport….so developing skills is paramount. Some sport-specific strength training certainly can’t hurt, but you must never train and the expense of actual climbing time.

SGPT: Do you incorporate other types of training into climbing like weights, gymnastics, rings, sprints or running?

EH: Climbing-specific training is far more beneficial than general training, however, mixing in some other training activities (in intelligent ways) can help keep things fresh and encourage muscle balance (important).

SGPT: How do you work to keep a young athlete from getting injured as they may want to train more.

EH: Rest is important…overtraining is a real problem with young/enthusiastic climbers. Training the antagonist muscles and rotator cuff, 2 or 3 days per week, is vital to maintain muscle balance and help stabilize the shoulder joint.

SGPT: What about keeping an older athlete from getting injured? Tips on keeping an older athlete injury free?

EH: Old climbers must warm up carefully and should avoid dynamic moves. Regular strength training is important to maintain strength and power, which naturally wane (especially after age 45). Climbing “smart”, with superior technique and mental control, will go a long way to make up for the loss of raw power.

SGPT: Do you incorporate the campus board into training? System boards?

EH: System and campus training are excellent training techniques, but they aren’t for the novice or injury-prone climber. You must ease into these exercises slowly, and resist the urge to overdo it. For example, It only takes a few sets on the campus board to get the necessary stimulation—do too much and you increase injury risk with no added training benefit. My book, “Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)“, provide comprehensive guidance on these training technique….and dozens of other!

SGPT: Thanks for the interview, Eric.

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