Like all sports, focused training is going to be a solid way in which to improve. Unfortunately, with climbing’s rise in popularity, there are suddenly a million and one blogs and websites all spouting their own opinions on how best to train. This can all be a bit confusing so as a club we have put together some pages in which we try to either consolidate the information that is out there into something understandable or give you pointers in the right directions to some of our favourite climbers for training information.
Where to start?
Regardless of where you are in your climbing career, the best place to start is by taking a step back and assessing your own climbing ability. “What are my strengths? What are your weaknesses? Am I better at overhangs or slabs or somewhere in between? Why is that? Do I climb better in front of people or does it scare me? Am I afraid of heights?”
For most people, after a bit of self assessment you will realise that you do have weaknesses to work on (if you can’t identify them, ask a committee member or a stronger climber to watch you climb and provide a third-party perspective). Target these weaknesses. Don’t try to make your strengths even greater whilst neglecting your weaknesses. The improvements you will see from working on your strengths will be minor in comparison to those seen from working on your weaknesses. After all if you’re lacking in a certain area of climbing, there is so much potential there for you to exploit.
- If you’re a muscle head who can campus their way through strengthy routes but your feet keep slipping off. Consider working on that with footwork heavy routes such as those found on slabs.
- If you can move up slabs easily but can’t hold on to anything remotely overhung, try moving onto some vertical walls and try routes which are progressively more overhung.
Whilst in most sports, you would be expected to train at least once a week with dedicated technique drills and practice, you rarely see climbers do this. We prefer to show up and climb. Yet a lot of us expect this approach to lead to great improvements in our climbing, which when you think about it is a bit mad. Sure, the more you climb, the more you are going to improve but imagine if a footballer, netball player or any other mainstream athlete only showed up for matches or times where they expected to perform their best yet never went along to training sessions. Would you expect them to perform as well as their team mates/competition who went along to training sessions where they dedicated time to working on specific skills? No, I think its safe to say that you’d expect the rest of their team to overtake them in skill and ability. So why do we treat climbing any differently?
Once you’ve identified your weakness, work out how best to improve it (e.g if your footwork is lacking, what drills can you do to improve it?) If it is technique, then have a look out our technique page or if it is strength consider bouldering more at your limit, if its endurance consider doing some 4x4s on the autobelays… If you aren’t sure how to improve upon a weakness, come and ask a committee member for some advice, we’re more than happy to help.
Now all you need to do is actively dedicate some time to integrating this into your climbing routine. This can be as simple as setting aside 20 minutes at the start of every session to warm up on the auto-belays whilst doing footwork drills on easy routes (if footwork is your weakness).
(Quick disclaimer: I’m not trying to knock casual climbing and just coming along to climbing for fun. There is nothing wrong with that! In fact I think climbing for fun should be at the core for any climber. This discussion is specifically focusing on training for those climbers who are considering committing time with the sole intention of improving their climbing. Training can be dull and hard and isn’t for everyone but will lead to the most rapid development if done correctly.)
- It doesn’t matter if you fall off or fail. In fact you should fall off and fail when working on your weaknesses. They wouldn’t be a weakness if you can cruise up and flash every route you try. Now I’m not saying to jump on the nearest 8a you can find. Start of easy and build your way
- Don’t worry about what other people are thinking – climbing has a really great community of people who are always happy to help anyone regardless of their ability. Remember that even the best climbers in the world were once crap and falling off things left, right and centre.
- Keep things mixed up. Training can be dull and doing the exact same drill or exercise over and over will not help that. Find new ways to work on your weakness so that you’re constantly keeping your body working to improve.
- “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” – someone. Your body will learn and put to muscle memory whatever you do whether that is flawless technique or utter rubbish. If you do a tonne of incorrect technique drills that teach you the wrong thing then your body isn’t going to know that’s the wrong thing and so incorrect technique will then be incorporated into your everyday climbing. Again don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced climber or committee member to double-check you are doing it right if you are unsure.
- Dont forget to have fun!