So what is training anyway?
Climbing training is a systematic, disciplined approach to improve climbing performance. I hear a lot of climbers say they are “training”, but if I probe them about the specifics, there aren’t any. They just “climb” or “boulder” every other day, or when they have time.
That is not training. Training is a pre-meditated routine that is planned intelligently with the hope of attaining some tangible goal. It should be designed deliberately to transform your body towards what ever end you have in mind, then it should draw from the body of knowledge available by using specific exercises to create the gains that are desired.
~ Mike Anderson in “The Making of a Rockprodigy”.
First have a read below for a general introduction to what is training (5-10min). 👇👇👇
Now, the top menu has 4 different sections:
Simply climbing routes will only get you so far. Unless you’re a freak of nature and you’re siblings are all chimpanzees, comes a time when you’ll need to train in order to climb harder grades.
This is because climbing random pieces of rock is not enough for your body to adapt – only specific training can push your body to a physical limit, and it’s only by reaching this limit that your body (and tolerance to pain) will change!
Although this is quite controversial, most would advise that you wait at least 2 years before starting to train specifically for climbing. Of course, this will depend on a lot of factors such as your age, level of fitness, previous experience in sports, motivation etc. So why this 2 year buffer period? It certainly has to do with how fingers adapt to holding your weight off of 10mm edges. The tendons in the fingers are under huge pressure when you start climbing, especially if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is high, and they will need a fair bit of time to adapt. Of course you can start training right away but just be extra careful with finger training!
If you are new to climbing, the fastest and most durable gains you can achieve are simply by climbing anyway. A good rule of thumb is that:
You may also want to add some none-specific training to your routine such as core, legs, aerobic training and antagonists training – especially if you are out of shape.
For most people, specific training should come into play when you have hit a plateau but still want to improve. Yet, early on, optimising how you climb (technique, variety of problems, length of session but also who you climb with, what you do before and after…) will break your first plateaus much more efficiently than any training could. You might not even need training!
If you’re young, start training with low intensity exercises (ARCing, non-weighted hangboarding, interval climbing…). As Alex Megos puts it :
“For year it was definitely important not to climb at my limit all the time. I never climbed at my limit until recently and that was maybe the reason why I could keep my high motivation.” – Alex Megos in Gimme Kraft
Finally, if you’re an adult only start to train when you are confident about your climbing technique and you are sufficiently committed to discipline.
Keep in mind that there are two types of training you can do
Both are useful, but as you become a better climber, your focus will move from the first one to the second one
There’s no point in training just to train. That’s called CrossFit. Training for climbing is hard and is a lifelong journey so you will need goals to keep your motivation high.
You need 2 kind of goals:
Setting a goal is only half of the work though. Now you need to achieve it! There a few simple rules that will help you do just this:
The biggest mistake you can do is think that you can train everything at the same time. This is a myth. You should focus on a few (2-3) areas of improvement at a time to see any result. Be specific about what you want to train and you will make very noticeable improvements. For instance:
Keep track of your progress
This will only cost you a pen and a notebook and can make a world of difference. Keeping track of what you do will not only motivate you but also help you fine-tune the type of training you need, the periodisation and so on.
Specific to climbing
Technique and balance > The ability to move, breathe and rest efficiently.
Finger strength > The ability to grab and hold in any grip position.
Endurance > The ability to remain active for a long period of time
Power > The ability to recruit maximum muscle strength in short bursts of time.
Power Endurance > The ability to sustain intense efforts without resting.
Non Specific to climbing
General fitness > A general state of good health, usually as a result of exercise and nutrition.
Time is free but it’s priceless. Depending on your life situation, getting enough time to train properly can be daunting, frustrating or not an issue at all. If you can’t seem to find enough time, you might need to reconsider the time spent in the gym (or outdoors) and find ways to be more efficient: climb more during your session, plan what you will train on instead of randomly climbing any problem, identify and focus on your weaknesses and tackle them one session at a time, train at home, cycle to work or to the gym to spend less time warming up…
It might be that you you don’t have enough time because you’re doing too many (non-professional) things: is playing video games or watching that new season of GoT really helping you getting better at climbing? And if watching TV is your thing, why not train while watching it? Getter better at something usually means giving up on other things so start making choices!
As far as work goes, we all have our challenges but just remember that the capitalism deal is to work in counterpart of having time for yourself and the means to live a decent life. If you’re not finding this balance, change job!
If you’re getting to the stage where you feel you should train, motivation is probably not a problem. But training is hard and can take a toll on your spirit. Make sure to set micro goals that you can actually achieve and acknowledge your wins, however small they may be.
Feeling down? Take some time off and do something else! Change your routine, climb we different people, go do an easy multi-pitch, climb in a area you don’t know, in a style you don’t know. Or just take a step back and go do some surfing or something. 🏄
These are the essentials:
Nice to have if you’re serious about training:
You should train on something at least twice a week to see perceivable progress in the long term.
If you’re working on muscle groups that are already tired, you’ll risk getting injury. For this reason, and unless you’re a mutant, train hard on your none climbing days. For instance, a typical training week could look like this:
Take a week off every 5-6 weeks.
Take a week off every 5-6 weeks.
Working on a project you want to send? Try starting training for it 6 weeks before your attempt (including a rest week) and make a plan that will optimize your chances of sending!