My Climbers

Varazze - one of Italy's finest bouldering destinations

Since I started coaching climbers back in 2019, I've had the opportunity to work with some exceptionally strong and motivated athletes. It has been a real privilege to guide them and learn from them at the same time, but naturally also a considerable challenge to make sure that they keep progressing despite already being at a very high level.

Federico is one of the best performing boulderers I've trained, and he very kindly agreed to write a few words about his five most meaningful ascents from last year in this post. We started working together in late 2020, and since then, he progressed from having climbed a few 8A blocs to sending his first 8B project. He's very fortunate to live close to Varazze, one of Italy's best bouldering areas, frequented by the best climbers in the world, including Adam Ondra, Paul Robinson, and Nalle Hukkataival [1][2][3]. Maybe this article will encourage you to visit the region and try Federico's favorite boulders yourself?

Federico's training progress

Before we present Federico's best ascents of 2021, I'd like to share a few words about his training progress. First, it's interesting to see that his half-crimp strength increase aligns well with his improvement on the rock. We've been monitoring Federico's one-arm half-crimp hang finger strength on a 33 mm edge since the beginning of 2020. Initially, he needed to reduce his body weight by -5 kg, to perform a 7-second hang. However, in November, he was already able to add 9 kg to his harness - that was roughly the time when he sent his first 8B. Since then, his finger strength has only kept increasing. Recently, he established his personal best by adding 16 kg on his right hand, and 15 kg on his left hand one-arm hangs on a 33 mm edge.

finger strength plot
Figure 1: Federico's plotted one-arm hang half-crimp (MVC-7) finger strength progress on a 33 mm edge - total load in [kg].

What's great to see is that this progress happened somewhat naturally - we didn't really force it. We use routines such as Density Hangs, MaxHangs, Heavy Repeaters, and BFR. Still, all the time, hangboard training was only secondary to Federico's bouldering. I'm excited to see his further climbing development! But now, I'm handing the floor over to Federico so that he can tell you himself about his last year's bouldering experience [4][5][6]!

Introduction by Federico

Hi! I am Federico, I'm 25, and I'm a very passionate boulderer from Italy. I have been climbing for 11 years now, and more or less 2 years ago, I decided to dedicate more time and energy to outdoor bouldering. So about a year ago, I asked StrengthClimbing to help improve my performance. As a result, I sent 15 boulders between 8A and 8B and 120+ boulders between 7A and 7C+ in just 13 months, nothing comparable to the previous years!

But climbing is not all about sending and sending hard. This is a small part of a process that leads you to the interior, mental and physical growth. Spending a lot of time alone in front of rocks brought me to give much more value to my free time and all the things around me. Definitely, outdoor bouldering can teach you to stay calm, focused, motivated and gives you the feeling of owning your life and time. So here are the best five and most meaningful climbs of this last year!

Dreamland 7C+, Quarzina

It's the long, beautiful, crimpy line to the right. No hard moves but perfect holds on high-quality rock. Managed to send it on my third try before night with the support of my amazing girlfriend!

Video 1: Dreamland 7C+, Quarzina [7].

Il Sorriso 8A, Val Ellero

Incredible moves on a short, slightly overhanging boulder. Pretty technical, it took 30 minutes to figure out all the moves but two sessions to send and a tremendous number of tries from the start. This boulder taught me a lot of different aspects of this sport [8]!

Video 2: Il Sorriso 8A, Val Ellero [9].

Rampage 8A, Varazze

Masterpiece. This is the most beautiful piece of rock I have ever seen. It's an overhanging prow on perfect crimps and pinches till the very end. Needed four sessions in total to send this iconic line! One of the best in Italy [10][11][12]!

Video 3: Rampage 8A, Varazze [10].

Excalibur sit 8A+, Varazze

Endurance overhanging boulder on quite good holds. Never too hard but it was a great fight! Ten sessions in total, most of them failing at the last move 5/6 times per session. Finding good conditions was hard but I managed to keep having faith and climbed it [13][14]!

Video 4: Excalibur sit 8A+, Varazze [13].

Fortunadrago 8B, Varazze

Fortunadrago is one of the highlights of Varazze, first climbed in 2002 by Christian Core. This one took me some time. I believe 9/10 sessions in total. I made all the moves in two sessions, but then it took seven sessions more, changing beta every time and never finding a good way to arrive at the end of the boulder, fit to stick the last crimp. Then one day, I sent it quite effortlessly! The most technical line I have ever climbed. Holds are simply unique on this one. First of the grade [15]!

Video 5: Fortunadrago 8B, Varazze [15].

That's it! Hope to push my limits further in the next years and keep falling in love with this amazing sport!


  1. Adam Ondra climbing Gioia 8C+, Dec. 14, 2011. (link)
  2. Paul Robinson: A Tour of Varazze, Italy, Jan. 25, 2013. (link)
  3. BD Athlete Nalle Hukkataival sends Gioia, Varazze, Italy, Apr. 9, 2014. (link)
  4. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Dr. Tyler Nelson’s Density Hangs Finger Training For Rock Climbing, Feb. 28, 2022. (link)
  5. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Eva

Hangboard Training Program – José Antonio

José Antonio is a highly motivated climber from Mexico who likes both lead climbing and bouldering alike. When José Antonio and I met in June, he’d been climbing for over three years, and his personal best was 5.12a/7a+. After two months of following the program, he quickly sent his first two 5.12b/7b routes, and now he’s hungry for more! 

Since José Antonio was completely new to hangboard training, I decided to put him on a long and easy adaptation cycle to ensure that he doesn’t become overtrained or injured. The cycle was a mix of weighted hangs, Endurance Repeaters, Moonboarding, and lead climbing. Despite the seemingly low hangboarding volume, José Antonio improved his strength and aerobic endurance significantly, allowing him to enter the 5.12b/7b grade.

StrengthClimbing Climber on Katmandú", 5.11d/5.12a (7a/7a+), Guadalcázar, San Luis Potosí, México
Photo: José Antonio negotiating the steep overhang of “Katmandú”, 5.11d/5.12a (7a/7a+), Guadalcázar, San Luis Potosí, México.

Here's what José Antonio says about the Program:

I was searching for a way to complement my training at home in 2020 because of the pandemic, and finding StrengthClimbing was not just what I was looking for but much more. I found a new way of training, which is addressed to the more specific requirements needed by a climber in order to get stronger and keep leveling up. I used to overtrain, but Jędrzej's personalized approach has given me also more time to dedicate to my daily life by training just what's most important. The result has been finding myself with more energy and strength when I rock climb, which makes me enjoy more Improving becomes an inevitable consequence!
José Antonio (5.12b/7b)
Sport Climber and Boulderer (Mexico)

Results of Cycle 1 (Strength/Endurance – Adaptation)

When José Antonio started the program, his MVC-7 on a 20 mm edge was 117%, and his Critical Force (CF) was only 28%, which is very low for a lead climber. After five months of an adaptation training cycle, his MVC-7 load increased by a remarkable 7 kg! In parallel, he managed to improve his CF to 35% MVC-7, which is a much more acceptable value. 

José Antonio is now ready for his training loads and volume to be carefully increased to ensure that he keeps progressing evenly without hitting a plateau.

Table 1: Hangboard Training Program progress.

Beginning (07.2020)After Cycle 1 (12.2020)
Completed cycleJust ClimbingStrength/Endurance Adaptation
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]7784
Body weight [kg]6671
MVC-7 (20 mm) [%BW]117%119%
CF [%MVC-7]28%35%
CF [%BW]32%42%
CF [kg]21
Bouldering level predictionV4 (6B)V4 (6B+)
Current bouldering levelV5 (6C) V5 (6C)
Lead level prediction5.11d (7a)5.12b (7b)
Current lead level5.12a (7a+)5.12b (7b)

Figure 1: Critical Force as percentage of MVC-7 – progress plots.

Figure 2: Critical Force as percentage of bodyweight – progress plots.


Hangboard Training Program – Piotr

Piotr is an extremely motivated and experienced lead climber, who excels at crimpy slabs and vertical walls. He lives in Mexico, where he has access to vast areas of high-quality virgin rock, which allows him to bolt his own new lines.

To me, Piotr is a bit of a mystery because, based on the score from my lead climbing grade prediction algorithm, his level should only be 5.11d (7a). So far, the algorithm has been pretty accurate at estimating the current lead climbing level for other climbers on the program. And yet just a while ago, Piotr managed to send his fourth 5.13a (7c+) route. I believe that what Piotr lacks in terms of physical determinants, he makes up for with experience, technique, a strong mental game, and commitment. On top of that, being six feet tall gives him an extra edge on crimpy and slabby routes. 

Piotr is currently climbing a lot outdoors, so he follows a low volume hangboard training program, which strikes an equal balance between strength and endurance development. It also needs to be mentioned that Piotr never really trained on the hangboard before, so he still has a huge potential for physical development. I believe that if he combines his improved strength and endurance with his technique and experience, he will significantly progress as a climber.

Climber on an overhanging route in Mexico

Photo: Piotr in his element – projecting a 5.13a route in Mexico – Project sent in Dec. 2020.

Here's what Piotr says about the Program:

"Tired of reading, analysing, and piecing together everything I found on- and offline, I decided to look for help. Being a 43-year-old with very specific needs, I decided to contact various online coaches, who unfortunately could or did not want to take me under their wings. Through sheer luck, I came across StrenghtClimbing website, and upon having read all (sic!) its content in one go, I decided to contact Jedrzej to ask a few questions. He got back to me quickly, answered all my Qs and offered help with training. I started Jedrzej's training programme 7 months ago. At present, I can feel my fingers (crimping and grip) much stronger than before and my endurance has grown substantially. For the very first time, I am motivated to train on a fingerboard, which I had avoided and used infrequently before. I meticulously write down my results and J meticulously gets back to me with his feedback. In short, I have found my coach!"
Piotr (5.13a/7c+)
Sport Climber (Mexico)

Results of Cycle 1

When Piotr entered the program his MVC-7 on a 20 mm edge was only 114%, a result typical for a V5 climber. His critical force was 33% of his MVC-7, which is more common for boulderers than lead climbers. For sport climbers, this number normally lies above 40% and it’s not uncommon to see ratios as high as 50% or even 55%. Taking into account Piotr’s results, and the fact that he never trained systematically on the hangboard, I decided to put him on a balanced program, with a slight emphasis on endurance development.

Cycle 1 was three months long, from mid-June until mid-September when we ran the performance assessment. As a result, Piotr’s strength increased by 4 kgs, which is a very respectable 5% improvement. However, Piotr’s gains in terms of endurance were even more spectacular. In only three months his Critical Force went up to 40% MVC-7, and 47% body weight. In August Piotr confirmed his physical fitness by redpointing a 5.13a (7c+) project. 

I believe that Piotr still has some way to go before he’s ready to lead his first 5.13b route, but he’s on the right track, and with his commitment and discipline, it’s just a matter of time.

Results of Cycle 2

Cycle 2 was also three months long, from late September until the end of November. Regarding strength training, this time, we opted for a more relaxed approach, with shorter and less intense hangboard sessions and with a lot of lead climbing and a bit of gym bouldering. The results exceeded our expectations by far! 

Piotr’s strength increased by 5 kgs, which is almost a 6% improvement. What is also very interesting, Piotr managed to improve both his anaerobic and aerobic endurance significantly. His time under tension (TUT) for the 80% MVC-7 Repeaters on a 20 mm edge increased from 42 seconds at 68 kg to 60 seconds at 72 kg. The TUT at 45% MVC-7 increased from 341 seconds at 38 kg to 510 seconds at 41 kg.

After five months of training, Piotr continues to progress systematically. He also keeps relentlessly ticking-off more 5.13a/7c+ routes from his projects checklist. Piotr is now physically ready to tackle his 5.13b (8a) lead climbing projects. I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the hope that he will soon reach his personal best!

Results of Cycle 3

Piotr started Cycle 3 at the beginning of January 2021 and completed it by the end of March, with regular strength and endurance tests. Cycle 3 was a mix of Tyler Nelson’s Density Hangs and Steve Bechtel’s GO plans. Piotr’s half crimp strength continued to improve, albeit at a slightly slower rate, to reach 92.5 kg for 7 seconds on a 20 mm edge (MVC-7). 

However, it was his aerobic endurance improvement that surprised us immensely! And while the anaerobic endurance did not change significantly, Piotr managed to exceed 20 minutes of total exercise time on his 45% MVC-7 test. That means that his Time Under Tension (TUT) increased from 510 seconds at 41 kg load to 894 seconds at 42 kg load! Quite an achievement and a testimony to the effectiveness of the program.

Table 1: Hangboard Training Program progress.

Beginning (06.2020)After Cycle 1 (09.2020)After Cycle 2 (12.2020)After Cycle 3 (03.2021)
Completed cycleJust climbingStrength /EnduranceStrength /EnduranceStrength /Endurance
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]81859092.5
Body weight [kg]71.571.572.571.5
MVC-7 (20

Hangboard Training Program – Sam

Samantha is a super experienced lead climber, who has traveled worldwide and climbed rocks on almost every continent. She likes climbing bouldery routes, with short cruxes and good rests in between, but since her aerobic endurance is excellent, she can comfortably project longer routes as well. 

Sam’s Critical Force to MVC-7 ratio is high, reaching almost 50% (Table 1), so it is no surprise that she established her 5.13b (8a) personal best in Red River Gorge [1]. Because of that, we decided to emphasize strength development, to help her improve on overhanging and powerful routes. Sam trained diligently throughout May 2020 and significantly improved her finger strength, strength endurance, and aerobic endurance, as can be seen in the progress plots below.

At the moment, Sam is climbing mainly outdoors, so we reduced the training volume accordingly, but strength training remains the cornerstone of her hangboard program.

Photo: Samantha cruising up a powerful vertical route.

Here's what Sam says about the Program:

When COVID hit, and all the gyms closed down, I knew I needed something more than the standard repeaters method that I had been doing on my hangboard for years. I took to the internet and was immediately overwhelmed by how much information was out there and the conflicting schools of thought. I am the type of person that works best when someone tells me exactly what I am supposed to do, but after spending a bunch of money on websites, books, and programs, all I had was a bunch of information to sort through and no detailed plan. I came across the StrengthClimbing website and was immediately drawn to how organized the information was and how thoroughly Jędrzej analyzed and explained various training methods. I messaged Jedzej to ask him about some of his research, and I was so impressed with how quickly he responded and the amount of information he provided. I have been training with him now for around 7 months. His programs are always so easy to follow and specifically designed for my needs and style of climbing. He is constantly communicating with me, tweaking my plans, reassessing, testing, and ensuring that I am on the right track. His programs range from complex to quite simple. If you have tons of time or barely any time at all, he will be able to find something that suits you. It's easy to remain motivated when I have someone to report to, and the programs switch frequently enough that I am never bored. If you want to get stronger and remain motivated, I strongly recommend training with Jędrzej
Samantha (5.13b/8a)
Sport Climber (Canada)

Results after Cycles 1 – 4 (1 year of program)

After one year of training with my Personalized Hangboard Training program, we found that Sam’s relative finger strength increased significantly, from 127% to slightly over 140% of her bodyweight. Her aerobic endurance remained at the 50% MVC-7 level, which is an excellent result, even among proficient lead climbers. However, we managed to greatly improve her anaerobic alactic and anaerobic lactic endurance relative to the MVC-7, which can be seen in Figure 2.

The fantastic progress Sam made is even better visible in Figure 3, where the endurance curve is plotted in relation to her body weight. I firmly believe that if all goes well, Sam will enter the 5.13c level this season! 

Table 1: Hangboard Training Program progress.

Beginning (04.2020)After Cycle 1 (06.2020)After Cycle 3 (12.2020)After Cycle 4 (03.2021)
Previous cycleMixedStrength /EnduranceStrength /EnduranceStrength /Endurance
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]73.476.676.681.4
Body weight [kg]58585858
MVC-7 (20 mm) [%BW]127%132%132%140%
CF [%MVC-7]49%47%53%50%
CF [%BW]64%61%70%71%
CF [kg]37
Bouldering level predictionV4 (6B+)V4 (6B+)V4 (6B+)V4 (6B+)
Current bouldering levelV6 (7A) V6 (7A) V6 (7A) V6 (7A)
Lead level prediction5.13a (7c+)5.13a (7c+)5.13b (8a)5.13c (8a+)
Current lead level5.13b (8a)5.13b (8a)5.13b (8a)5.13b (8a)

Figure 1: Sam’s general progress in terms of MVC-7 and Critical Force, expressed as absolute loads in kg.

Figure 2: Critical Force as percentage of MVC-7 – progress plots.

Figure 3: Critical Force as percentage of bodyweight – progress plots.


  1., Red River Gorge Climbing, July 10, 2006. (link)

Hangboard Training Program – Daniele

Daniele is a powerful all-round climber who specializes in bouldering but is also successful in sport climbing. He’s had a great summer so far, and he managed to set personal bests in both bouldering and lead climbing. His most spectacular achievement in 2020 was climbing Souvenir 8A in Chironico, which was set by Fred Nicole [1]. Below you can see an example ascent video.  

Video 1: Example ascent video of Souvenir 8A.

Another success for Daniele this year was that he improved his personal best in sport climbing to 8a+ in August. Daniele prefers short and bouldery routes. When we look at his progress table, we can see that his Critical Force is currently 34% of his MVC-7, which is typical for boulderers. Still, because Daniele is very strong, his CF relative to bodyweight is 66%, which is definitely sufficient to send hard lead climbs. 

Focusing on improving his endurance would probably let Daniele reach 8b+ fairly quickly. However, since he has a preference for bouldering, we are emphasizing his finger strength development and working on his endurance as a secondary goal.

Here's what Daniele says about the Program:

''I guess every climber that wants to improve follows - or wants to follow - a training schedule. And I bet that every climber - at least once - has searched online for the best recipe, the magic potion that transforms you into a Beast (well, at least in my naivety, I'm still a little dreamy boy who's looking for that :). So one day, thirsty for new plans and exercises, I bumped into I started to read the articles, to feed the online tools with my data to discover MY GRADE (and I stop here, because this topic is an encyclopedia apart 🙂 and, when I reached the contact details...'I know this guy!'. I met Jędrzej back in 2009 in Gent, Belgium. I was there as a visiting student at the university. He was working on his PhD. We met at the local bouldering gym (''where else'', I would add :). Besides the regular climbing sessions, we enjoyed student life as well. After that year spent together, we somehow lost contact. But 1 minute after discovering his website, I wrote him a message, and we started to exchange opinions (mainly coming from him, due to his deep knowledge of the topic - while myself just random bits of it, mainly ''stealing'' :).Then I agreed - or probably I begged him, I don't remember - to be one of the 'guinea pigs' for the validation of his methods: really excited and curious to see if this new recipe was a real elixir. Well, after a few months, I climbed my highest bouldering AND sport climbing grades! I'm still following the training (which is not the same but fine-tuned by him from time to time), and I can't wait to see what it will bring! Anyway, when we first met, I immediately had a very good impression of him, mainly his scientific and detail-oriented mindset. So, I'm not surprised to see the quality of the results: a combination of the most efficient training methods out there, synthesized into specific training plans for your personal goal. All thanks to his dedication, based on accurate studies and researches moved by passion for the topic. I hope I have found my magic cocktail (too many ''unwanted'' references to drinking in these lines..anyway, I can't wait to crack open a beer with him again :)"
Daniele (V11/8A, 5.13c/8a+)
Boulderer and Sport Climber (Belgium)

Table 1: Hangboard Training Program progress.

Beginning (05.2020)
Completed cycleStrength
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]128
Body weight [kg]67
MVC-7 (20 mm) [%BW]191%
CF [%MVC-7]34%
CF [%BW]66%
CF [kg]44
Bouldering level predictionV11 (8A)
Current bouldering levelV11 (8A)
Lead level prediction5.13c (8a+)
Current lead level5.13c (8a+)

Figure 1: Critical Force as percentage of MVC-7 – progress plots.

Figure 2: Critical Force as percentage of bodyweight – progress plots.


  1. Fred Nicole, Wikipedia. (link)
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