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How Reducing Garbage Volume Will Decrease Your Risk of Injury and Make You a Better Climber

To be as upfront as possible, the easiest way we have found to not only reduce risk of injury, but also to improve performance in our patients is by reducing “garbage volume.” This is something we talk about with almost every climber that works with us at Peak Pursuit.

Volume management is the lowest hanging fruit in both preventing or rehabbing an injury and improving our performance on the wall.

But what is “garbage volume?”

Garbage volume is the “extra” climbing or training you do. By “extra” I mean the training that isn’t actively improving your performance or helping prevent injury. In fact, this “extra” training may actually be putting you at a higher risk of injury.

It is the warming up on 5 V2’s when you’re a V6 climber. The cooling down on 4 V3’s because you’re too tired to try hard on problems that are challenging for you, but you don’t want to leave the gym yet. It’s the extra hour of climbing in your 2.5 hour gym session–where you are not actively challenging yourself, but rather climbing many “easy” problems.

This is the sort of climbing that we deem as “garbage volume” because this climbing is not actively making you stronger. It may improve your overall endurance, but it is likely decreasing your performance in the long-run and increasing your risk of sustaining an overuse injury.

When we are trying to peak and reach a new grade, climbing many easy problems isn’t helping us get stronger– just like climbing on 150 jugs won’t prepare us to hold on to a 10mm crimp.

We’re all guilty of doing the extra “garbage volume” at some point in time in our climbing careers– especially when we are climbing for the social aspect.

However, high training volume is also highly associated with injury. And often the way we go about when rehabbing our own injuries isn’t actually beneficial in addressing the root cause. When we feel an achy shoulder or a tweaked finger, we tend to continue to climb but instead climb many “easy” things– in effect increasing our volume more without actually strengthening the tissues involved.

If it is a goal to improve your climbing performance then it is important to be intentional about the way you train. This means warming up correctly, training for specific features that we plan to project, taking appropriate rest breaks, and reducing meaningless volume.

So what would you recommend– volume-wise?

Our training volume should be tailored to our goals. It will change depending on your training goals and your primary discipline. But for all climbers, keeping in tune with how our body is responding to our training session can greatly impact how we improve. If you’re a boulderer who has been appropriately resting between attempts, but starts to feel your power begin to decline– it is probably time to be done training for the day. The same thing goes for sport climbers. When you feel your body fatiguing and you are no longer able to make moves that you were able to do earlier in the session (even after resting) that means the benefits of your climbing session has likely concluded. Doing easier routes after this point may improve endurance, but likely won’t make you stronger or improve your performance in the future.

If you are going to do a lot of easier routes, do yourself a solid and focus on doing something to improve your climbing— like creating more body tension, figuring out new techniques, working on footwork, etc. MAKE YOUR TRAINING INTENTIONAL.

Hope this was helpful,

Peak Pursuit Team


Dr. Drake Griggs

Peak Pursuit Performance & Rehab

We Help Active Adults In The Salt Lake Area Overcome Injury And Reach Peak Performance, Avoid Unnecessary Time Off, All Without Medications, Injections, Or Surgery.