Training for Bouldering + Climbing

The sport of climbing is young and research for training behind it all even younger. As someone new to the sport, a year and a half at the time of this article, there’s a clear consensus on training research. There’s not the much. What there is a lot of is training plans and ideas.

This is take 2 of a training plan I’m following in 2017 to see if I can improve my ability to redpoint boulder problems from V4 to V6 by October. I’ve read what seems like a gazillion articles and a couple of books on the subject and as far as something that makes sense to me, I think a guy by the name of Steve Bechtel is on to something training-wise.

His premise is that the best training for climbing is well climbing. I like that. Here’s a synopsis of my training for the rest of the year based on a few of his articles on along with some of my own personal goals.

Training Days

Just two required days, Mondays and Thursdays. They’re reserved for bouldering workouts. If I get no other training in during the week, I have to get these two days in. When I’m rested, I’ll go hit the Red and climb/boulder to my hearts desire.

Optional Days

Any supplemental training will happen on Tuesdays and Fridays. They can be as simple as body weight strength training days at home, or days to do some climbing specific strength/power workouts. I feel no need to do anything special with these days. They’re more “if I have time” sort of days. I’ll spend outdoor climbing on the weekends.

Bouldering Workouts

Steve Bechtel has a great article on quantifying bouldering sessions. Having data is the true key to training well and getting better. Athletes log data for every sport and climbing is no different. Check the link above (and look at other articles on his site) for more details but these are the numbers to track and why. I’ll use a recent workout to illustrate.

Session length (60 minutes, etc)

Problems sent (or almost sent), 8 in our example below

V-Sum This is the sum of all the grades of each problem you sent or almost sent, i.e. V1-V2-V3-V3-V3-V4-V5-V4. The V-Sum for this session would be 25. To increase all day endurance, increase the v-sum in your sessions.

V-Avg V-Sum/Problems Sent. For our example it’s 3.13. To increase your power/strength increase the V-Avg.

Density V-Sum/Session Length. For our exemple it’s 0.41. To increase your power endurance, increase session density.

I also record each problem and it’s characteristics like angle, style, etc. This helps me to see what I’m working on and what I’m avoiding that I should be working on.

Warmups will be 15–20 minutes of climbing on easy problems while focusing on perfect technique. Technique is at least half the battle, if not more, and warm up time is a great time to focus on skills like footwork, flagging, movement, etc.

The Training Month

Every month is a phase and I’m following just two this year: strength/power (v-avg) and power endurance (density). I’ll work specifically on increasing one of those numbers each month. To increase v-avg I have to climb harder problems. To increase density I have to climb more problems in the same length sessions. The first 3 weeks of a month are for steadily increasing these numbers while the 4th week is a recovery week.

In April (2017) I focused on increasing density (power endurance) so in May I’ll focus on increasing v-avg (power & strength). May will be a month of having fun trying to climb harder stuff without letting other gains (tracked in v-sum, density) numbers slip too much. In June I’ll be back to focusing on power endurance, getting more of these harder climbs into the same length training sessions.