Bouldering Training Plan

In the last year I picked up bouldering, ended up loving it, and have improved at a good rate. Even when I have a bad session, I still love the feeling. However now I'd love to progress a little more and work in some better technique and some more tailored training. To improve my climbing technique, I attended the Movement and Technique courses offered at my bouldering wall (TCA Glasgow). Those were supremely helpful: they taught me the important basics- flagging, how often having two feet on holds isn't that helpful... and so on. I really do think I have a good hold (hehe) on these basics. I have got somewhere. I can almost do a pull up. My arms are obviously stronger performance-wise and aesthetically too. I can do the harder endurance walls and my grade has jumped from V0- (the easiest offered) to V3-ish (~Font 6b+ at the top end). I used to be useless on any overhang, now overhangs are actually my favourites.  

The walls beside this are slabs.

In the last lesson of the course they also spoke about training correctly. After a certain point of development, doing every single session under the principle of try-anything fun will stop being helpful. Training has to gain some structure or I will stop improving (or stop improving as fast). There are a few skills that I know I am not as accomplished in as I should be. I've been reading the UK Climbing training guides for beginner>intermediate climbers and they've been really helpful. There are basically four main types of climb at the centre. I intend to split my training up between these types over three sessions. Firstly, the different routes teach different things and, secondly, this avoids straining the same muscle groups over and over. 


Based on a plan of 2 or 3 climbing sessions a week, one session should be Overhangs. Overhang routes literally hang towards you and therefore present a big shoulder strength challenge. They are usually defeated by lots of dynamic moves- flagging, twisting your hips into the wall, twist locks, and strong leg pushes- these routes really use the large muscle groups. They're my absolute jam. I love feeling so powerful; I love the rush of getting the strong move. Love, love, love. But I over train on overhangs. I pulled a finger (luckily not seriously) on one recently after doing every session in a week on an overhang and failing to warm up adequately before trying a route with a huge pull through. There are some overhang skills that I still need to practice- heel hooks for example are often useful on technical overhangs but I have only ever tried one route that needs them, so that's one technique I could stand to do more of!

One important (and much neglected) session should be Slab walls. These routes lean away from you, they are less than vertical. They therefore don't need haul strength in the same way and often prioritise balance and small holds. Many require a lot of hip flexibility and the willingness to 'go for it' onto tiny footholds. Many also have mantle moves- where you press ups from below the shoulder (imagine when you press up from bent elbows to sit on a countertop) and slow single leg squat ups. There are fewer slab routes at the centre but slabs also allow footwork training, which I badly need. For example you can practise choosing the ideal part of the foot for a hold- my toe vs inside edge vs outside edge vs heel. I can also practice removing hands entirely- holding tennis balls or using only one hand, or placing hands flat on the boards only. There's also the option of removing the foot holds and smearing- using the friction of the shoe on the boards and no foothold at all.

An overhanging arete.
On the same day I intend to train on Vertical walls, which vary a lot. Many seem to be a good training opportunity for the specialised holds- rounded slopers with nothing good to really grab, geometric shapes, pinches, crimps, ones you hold like a lobster (no idea what to call these but you hold them using an opposition force between arms or hands). You need to practice a lot to get good at slopers in particular and I am terrible at them, they take a lot of hand strength. Vertical walls also include the most inside corner moves- requiring you to bridge the gap in a kind of lunge. 

Lastly there are the Endurance circuits, which are exactly as they sound- much longer routes on various levels of overhang. These train endurance cardio, enduring strength, and good foot and hand work as the better that your placement is, the less you tire. Bouldering is basically sprinting so this would be the longer distance reps- the 800m-1200m of the sport. Longer circuits also teach you to use chalk on the go and to rest your arms on the go by shaking them out. I plan to have a session of just endurance climbing plus also strength exercises on this day. More on the strength exercises appropriate to climbing at a later date! 


Then of course there is the training outside bouldering. Yoga for example. Which I should be doing anyway for running. One of my climbing mates is much more flexible through the hip than I am and it is definitely of great benefit to him. I also keep intending to do some more roped climbing. As I said, bouldering is the sprint session; roped is the distance stuff. That means that it will be very good for my endurance.


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Anything you can suggest?

If you climb, how do you train for it?

10 Comments:

  1. That is so awesome that you're up to V3! I'm still flailing about on V0/very occasional V1. I like roped climbing better, so that's generally what I do more, so I get better, and I like it even more...it's a cycle. I was in Bishop, California last weekend which is a mecca of bouldering, and I had a great time. That's got me more stoked on bouldering than usual.
    Part of my problem is that so much of the outdoor bouldering in my area is more "high ball" than I'm comfortable with, and the shorter stuff is tricky over hanging problems, which aren't my strength. Get me smearing on a slab with tiny footholds, any day! The reasonable solution would be to practice on my weaknesses. I got a punch card for the climbing gym nearby for the winter, so here's to practicing!

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    1. Great comment Lynn! It sounds like you and I are on opposite trends- I love bouldering but on ropes I suddenly find my grade right down in the 5s! They definitely don't necessarily translate. I am planning on taking it outdoors in the coming year. Its nerve wracking though! More can go wrong with mats and rocks and so on.

      I hope you really enjoy filling that punch card this winter though! As I said slabs are my weaknesses so I am going to try and focus at least one session a week on those bad boys. Smearing makes me so nervous- I feel like I could just slip and keep going forever!

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  2. Firstly - I am seriously impressed with your bouldering grade! POW!
    Secondly - I don't feel there's much I can add because it reads like you have most of the important points covered already...
    It does get harder to progress when you reach a certain point, I remember when I could finally lead a certain fingery slabby 6b+ and thinking 'I'm sure I can take on the 6c next to it now' and falling time and time again at the second clip.
    Saying all this - When I do climb these day's I tend only to climb in the 5's and feel rather content!
    You may find this article interesting, It touches on 'pyramid training' which is something I used to do a lot and that helped as a route climber. I do still feel it's helpful in bouldering and even though it's similar to endurance training, it may just help! http://www.climbing.com/skill/new-workouts-to-refresh-your-gym-training/
    Enjoy!

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    1. Thanks Katie :) Really helpful. I went top roping yesterday and managed 6a+! Pretty happy with that!

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  3. I only go bouldering once a week and just do it for the heck of it and for the fun of it - no plan or strategy :| I've improved a lot though, even my finger strength is getting there, I'm finally able to do V3-V4s with teeny tiny finger holds. My favourite are problems with bigger holds but inclining walls and underhangs though, then I can just use my muscles and go for it :)

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    1. That's impressive! When did you start? I am not an underhangs fan- always feel like I will fall!

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  4. Ahhh I love all these bouldering pals! I have to say I'm with Mrs B above - I don't really TRAIN per se, just head up the wall.
    We do watch technique videos on youtube, which I've found really useful. I'm never going to be the strongest climber, but I can make myself a bit cleverer about it. I have a crush on the very appropriately named Cliff - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiMYP3fslWU

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    1. I love technique videos! And yes, Cliff is very helpful. From the back view I have to say I prefer the enigmatic 'Gaz': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY2IeYSxY4U

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  5. I'm so impressed with your training schedule. I've recently taken up climbing too and like you am loving it! My training is much less structured though - in fact I think turning up after a full night's sleep and a bit of healthy eating is going to be my key to improving in the next few weeks. In many ways bouldering is a good lifestyle influence :)
    (As you can see, this is a relatively new resolution: http://lifedoodled.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-things-we-do-for-hugs.html#.VlEF6HbhDrc )

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    1. Nice one Clare! Definitely at the start improvement will come on leaps and bounds by just turning up and tuning into the climbs! We're a year in now, so I think we need some real tuition and focused training to work on from here :-)

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