Starting a new sport, especially an unfamiliar one, can feel quite intimidating, so we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the barriers to entry in a six-part series on rock climbing.
Whether you are an intermediate or experienced rock climber, at some point, you may hit a plateau or find yourself psyched on a climb that is outside your current climbing grade, strength, or style. Back in the day, only the pros trained, but now, training off and on the wall is synonymous with climbing to help you get better at certain techniques and in regards to your strength.
However, we will stress that training isn’t mandatory and that climbing should be whatever you want it to be. This article will briefly cover some technical terms, styles of training, and pro tips to help guide you in your progression.
Cover Image Credit: Catarina Monteiro
Let’s get technical
Although there are similarities in the progression of bouldering and sport climbing, the mammoth list of training tips limits our ability to provide an exhaustive guide. Nevertheless, we will outline some essential points below. But first, let’s recap some fundamental concepts.
- Warm up is essential, and as you progress, this becomes more critical. Warming up helps to prevent injuries and ensures that you are ready for the challenges ahead.
- Avoid “Jack Russelling,” by taking sufficient rest between sets or climbs.
- Read the route before you hop on.
Note: You don’t need to start training right at the onset of your journey. The longer you’ve been a climber, the stronger your body naturally becomes without requiring additional training.
Learn the difference between rock climbing training terms
Strength, power, power endurance, and endurance are four terms that you’ll hear a lot in rock climbing training. It’s essential to understand the differences between these types of training and how they apply to climbing to help you become a better athlete. Different climbs require different combinations of these elements, or they may require one specific type of training. YouTube and rock climbing books are great places to learn more about them. Here is a brief outline of each training style:
- Strength Training: This can help you build more muscle. Focus on exercises such as weighted pull-ups, deadlifts, and squats.
- Power Training: Helps develop explosive movements to overcome difficult cruxes on routes. Try to include bouldering circuits, plyometric exercises and campusing on the wall.
- Power Endurance: Build stamina needed for long climbing sessions. Focus on exercises such as long routes, traversing, and sustained climbing on steep terrain.
Focussing on your rock climbing technique
Fancy Footwork: Heel hooks, toe hooks, heel-toe-cams, and toe-ing down are all techniques that involve using your feet in unique ways. These techniques can be used in various rock climbing styles and will help you climb more efficiently.
Dynamic Movements: Dynos require explosive power, speed, and coordination. Training for explosive movements, coordinated jumps, and leg strength will help level up your dynos.
Body Movements: Try using your body in more ways than just “square climbing”. Try adding in flagging, back flagging, laybacks, and twisting hip movements.
Training on the “Funny” Boards
The Tension Board, Moon Board, Spray Wall, Campus Board, and Hangboard are all popular training tools for rock climbers. Each board is designed to target specific areas of your strength and technique. These boards will feel much more difficult than regular wall climbing.
Quick rock climbing training tips
- Common misconceptions about rock climbing training include thinking that you have to train five times a week or that you need the most expensive shoes to improve. In reality, consistency is key, and training two or three times a week can significantly improve your climbing ability.
- Watching videos of other climbers can be a great source of inspiration and can help you learn new techniques.
- Have intentional sessions that focus on your strengths and weaknesses. This approach allows you to work on specific skills and areas that need improvement.
- Take care of your fingers and skin. Good skin care will ensure you don’t get skin “flappers”.
- Prehab is better than rehab. Dedicate 15-20 mins of your session to proper injury prevention exercises and a cool down.
- Climbing the new problems set by your local each week will keep you excited about climbing and motivated to improve.
- Take part in your local, friendly competitions, such the Boulder Leagues. They are ways of integrating into the climbing community and trying comp style climbs.
- Taking a lesson or two from a professional instructor. They may help identify your weak points
- Free apps like Lattice Climbing and Crimpd can help you track your progress and develop a training plan.
- Read climbing books, listen to podcasts and watch some documentaries.
Progressing from auto belay to top-roping to lead climbing
To progress in high wall climbing, you’ll need to take more advanced tests and courses by the recommended establishments listed in the article ”Indoor climbing | How to navigate your first high wall session?”. You will also need to invest in a variety of gear, which can be quite pricey. The jump between these categories can be large, and the length of time will depend on your ability to manage your headgame. Safety becomes more important with each progression, as there is more that is required of you to manage.
The tips mentioned here are also applicable to sport climbing, with a few differences. Sport climbing tends to require more endurance and power endurance, clipping technique, and rope management, as you’ll likely spend upwards of 20 minutes on the wall during one attempt.
Hitting a plateau in your climbing journey is normal, and it’s an opportunity to improve. By incorporating different types of training, you can break through your plateau and crest new heights.
I hope you’re feeling pumped to start on your climbing journey after this brief but comprehensive series on rock climbing. See you on the wall!
Disclaimer: Rock climbing or similar activities have inherent risks. This article serves as a guideline for the sport, and while it is intended for your benefit, it is not guaranteed that following these steps will prevent injury or harm. WILD AIR Sports accepts no liability for injuries sustained while using these guidelines. The hands-on support of a professional instructor is recommended for beginners.