Should you really be training for rock climbing or just climbing?

for decades, Climbers debated about how much training they should train and even, basically, whether or not to train. When I started climbing, in the ’80s, training remained in the closet: a guilty secret, as if you were cheating. Climbers even have a romantic idea that perhaps our unique and demanding activity cannot be “trained” differently. In fact, Ron Fawcett, the best British climber and world leader in the late 1970s, said, “The best training for climbing is climbing.”

The big question is whether or not the picture has changed.

You could argue that no one really “trains,” or that everyone does. Let’s define training as climbing analysis and sticking to exercises that you hope will make you climb more difficult. Emile Menin at the Riveter Hotel in Fletcher, North Carolina. (Photo: Andy Weckstrom)

Today, we see a generation of climbers obsessed with training. One click through Instagram might lead us to believe that unless we do regular benchmark tests—single-arm front arms or pull-ups on 6mm curls, anyone? – and planning our spreadsheet training, we’re behind. Coaches debate endlessly about Hangboard protocols, how to target different power systems, and attributing a wide range of performance variables into a cyclical program. However, when you go to the rock, you see a lot of good climbers (including Is that true righteous) who do not do many of these things. They’re too busy to rock, trying the hard ways!

We can of course discuss the exact definition of “training”. You could argue on the one hand that no one really “trains”, and on the other hand everyone does. As a coach for nearly three decades, I find the word “training” to reflect an attitude, not a specific practice. It’s the process of analyzing your climbing performance and sticking to the exercises or drills because you hope they will make you climb more difficult (I’m sure most people do at some point).

So, if we accept that you train, At least to some extent, the next question is How much do you train?

Most things in life work best in moderation, and that’s no healthier than training. Training gives, but also takes. I can list the endless benefits of coaching (since I’m a coach, I wish I could!). First, through training, we can diagnose and address vulnerabilities. One example of this might be a climber who always uses an open grip because he cannot hold the load in a semi-curled position. If you practice half curls on a hanging board consistently for several months, you will start to use it more when climbing, and you may feel more confident and versatile overall. Another example might be a climber who struggles with stamina but only has access to a rock wall. If he does regular rock exercises based on endurance (solving simple and medium problems in blocks), he can actually build stamina on a medium that is generally related to strength. We can stretch to enhance flexibility; We can perform supportive strength exercises to reduce the risk of injury. A well-structured plan may also help prevent burnout by rotating the workload.

Above all, we need to love instead of afraid the pressure. The goal is not to practice to make your project look easy – to beat it; They thrive when you’re feeling hard!

I could go on, but you get the picture – training helps a large number of climbers perform well. I put any or all of my climbing successes on hard and strategic training, because the physical aspects of climbing don’t come naturally to me, whereas the technical, tactical and psychological aspects do. And so we get to the heart of the debate: understanding the tipping point at which training stops working as a medicine and may become a poison.

Some climbers love to train – so much so that they forget to go climbing. They love training because they are good at it, and may not like climbing because they are struggling on rocks. Inside, and especially on the campus board, they are highly praised: “You are very strong and you will definitely climb ____ when you get out.”

Then, ha, that doesn’t happen. After hitting, these climbers, confused, return to their spreadsheets and periodic plans to see where they went wrong.

The biggest training trap ever is that if we take it too far, we lose the raw skills and instincts upon which good climbing performance is built. To climb well, we need to be creative and adaptable. Watch footage of Adam Ondra swinging red on a 9a upon sight, scurrying for microscopic expeditions as if guided by radar. Or Ashima Shirashi, flying in perfect splits on rock solid in competition. We also need to have a head to run out of the rope or push high above the pads. When Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell are above their gear on a blank granite face, their minds — not weapons — lead them forward. We also need an eye to read complex sequences. We need to be able to quickly change the game plan.

5 easy-to-follow plank exercises for stronger fingers

Above all, we need to love instead of afraid the pressure. The goal is not to practice to make your project look easy – to beat it; They thrive when you’re feeling hard! To get the job done, we need to hone our killer instinct and the ability to snatch a result when the odds are against us. Training won’t teach us any of this. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.

last year, I attended two teams meet in Europe with some of the best climbers in the world. I’ve found that many people have little appetite for complex science-based training. Some of the 9a+/b climbers I spoke to weren’t familiar with many of the latest scientific theories, and many thought it was possible to take things too far. Sure, you could say that some of these girls and guys have super genetics, but those alone are not enough to reach the top in climbing. The feeling among this crew was that training was only half the battle, and you’ll always need to make time on the rocks to fulfill your potential. You can over-analyze something to the point where you run into the shadows and lose sight of your priorities or central goal – or the joy of climbing.

Will “swelling” help you climb or gain weight?

It’s all about balance. I have come across quite a few climbers who are lost without a training plan. If you are one, I would suggest that this is an inappropriate space in terms of climbing. As a coach, I have a policy of refusing to issue a repetitive training plan to a climber right after the person completes the first plan (although many clients have begged!). Intervals should always be followed by periods of performance – or if that last term adds stress, periods when you climb just for the sake of it. Furthermore, if you only train and train and train, you really risk degraded performance and injury due to overtraining (See Master Class, No. 381).

In short, to be a really good climber (and dare I say, also to fully enjoy climbing), turn your training brain off periodically and go.


  1. 1. When planning your yearSo, consciously allocate the periods during which you will not follow a structured training program, and just go up at the right time.
  2. 2. If you struggle more with technique or your head game, Spend more time working on those aspects of performance than training. If necessary, do specific technical exercises, practice falls. Maximize your time on rock music.
  3. 3. Don’t worry about small losses or gains in physical performance. Measuring the results on a pegboard is useful as a reference, but is often of little importance in rock. If your score drops, you may end up climbing better, relying more on technique.

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