Manage Volume
& Mitigate Injury

Training and Injury Prevention

By Paul Norris (Physiotherapist, Climber, Vertical Junkie)

I want to start this article by sharing my first AHA! Training moment.  

We had just booked a climbing trip to the blue mountains. This would be my first dedicated sport climbing trip and I wanted to be STRONG!  I had about two months preparation, and I didn’t waste any time.  I threw myself into training.  Limit bouldering, Campus Board, Hangs, Repeaters, 4x4s, routes, you name it. I even remember one arm hanging jugs at home and clipping and unclipping draws with a tail of rope. 

The AHA moment happened two weeks before the trip began.  I launched up a 4×4 problem and halfway up my right a2 pulley instantly twinged and gave way to a dead sensation in my hand and a dread sensation in my gut.  It’ll be FINE I told myself reassuringly, slowly testing the hand and trying to ignore how weak it really felt. 

Two weeks later we packed into the car and off we went, smiles on our faces but a splint on my finger ☹ Luckily for me, but not for anyone else, temperatures plummeted and I don’t think anyone pulled onto any projects in the freezing wind and icy rock.  What a horrible thing to say!  Regardless a good trip was had all the same.  We sent plenty of local coffee hideaways and explored some breathtaking horizons.  It inspired many trips to come in such a beautiful landscape. 


With over 50 crags and literally thousands of routes.  The blue mountains hosts some of Australia’s most iconic and aesthetic climbs.

I took away many valuable lessons from that experience.  This day and age we all know that overtraining is a sin and that the real gains come from rest and recovery.  We all know that right? 

Then why are climbers so prone to these overuse injuries?  Tendonitis, flexor strains, pulley injuries, bursitis the list goes on.  Wait, you might say, aren’t a few of those acute injuries?  Well technically yes, but also technically NO.  Aside from traumatic injuries, most of our soft tissue related climbing ailments can be tracked down to a pattern of onset over a period of time.  

This pattern can often be hard to spot, and as a clinical PT even harder to drag out of clients in a subjective exam.  So tell me about the last 6 months of climbing and training… “uhh.. well, I do some hangboarding sometimes, oh and I did do campus last month, but wait was that last month? Oh no I think that was before that trip down.. wait, no it rained.”  You get the picture. 

Tracking your training tendencies can go a LONG way to mitigating injury.

When you monitor your training over a long period not only do you tend to put in a lot MORE thought towards your protocols, progressions and training goals, but it allows you to spot patterns of fatigue, discomfort and the red flags BEFORE injury which we often shrug off the second we leave the gym.

More so, if you do start having issues, it is the FIRST and BEST place for your coach or PT to start investigating. Allowing them to not only help resolve the issue, but to prevent it from happening again! 

Too often I see recurrent injuries popping up in friends and local climbers, and this is an article I am dying to write about in the future (Why traditional treatment models FAIL climbers!).  

So how to track it?  What to track! This is the question.

I love the What’s Measured is Managed phrase (and the fact that its almost always misappropriated from its original quote – “What gets measured gets Managed – Even when its pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation”).  But I digress, again a topic for another article! 

The controversial quote aside, I think monitoring and measuring is a staple to a good program.  Balance and relevance is key however, and you can lose yourself measuring every hang and every campus contact, but some element of monitoring is vital.

At Vertical Junkie, I prefer a simpler approach and use a training calendar which captures simple information about each session alongside a Volume Monitoring Score.   (Available as editable excel sheets in the Junkie Zone, Workouts come with Volume Tool embedded and training on using the Tool in Members Area)

This volume monitoring score is a tool our members are encouraged to use to assign volume to training sessions, climbing sessions and even general conditioning sessions.  It allows them to clearly see how their volume is trending in a given week, month, or year and how that volume is directed in their training.   It is quick and easy to assign and gives a useful metric in managing volume.  You can come up with your own system and as long as it’ consistent, it should yield results!

These kinds of tools can help you stick to those rest days or perform split sessions without leading to fatigue, injury or bottomed out training sessions.  It keeps you mindful of that thing that we all know but often forget – That Front Levers are BOSS (I kid… I kid) That overdoing it will always bite us in the ass!

The debate over what is useful to measure and manage and what is fluff is always a hot spot.  From a clinical and a climber’s perspective, where the number 1 rule to getting stronger is “Don’t Get Injured!” keeping a close eye on volume is a huge step in the right direction. 

Pro Tip – If you turn up to a PT session with me with any form of long-term training diary – I will seriously knock $10 off the price right then and there!  

Paul Norris (PT, Climber, Vertical Junkie)

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