A few days ago, I tossed out a pretty harsh proposition:
I associate a lack of progress in any specific domain with stagnation. I associate stagnation with death.
These are bold words. As I talked with a bunch of people, I rightfully got some push back on the idea that not improving at climbing equals death.
I agree with that idea. At this point, we’re just looking at different reasons and perspectives about climbing, and (surprise, surprise) there are many different perspectives!
So, lets get to something that we can all agree on:
When climbing is more fun, it is more fun
OK, fine, that’s a tautology, and it doesn’t matter if you agree or not – it’s reflexively true.
What if you can have more fun and get stronger and better at climbing without even trying!
Here’s seven ways to make your next gym session all about climbing hard, getting strong, and being a better climber:
1. Climb every route twice, back-to-back.
Don’t untie from the rope when you lower off, have your belayer pull the rope through (assuming you’re leading) and head back up the wall. Minimize your time off the wall. This can be hard, because it essentially doubles the height of every climb, but you have the advantage of every move being fresh in your mind, so you can more easily commit, and use the best clipping stances.
Try this next time you hit the gym. You’ll get way more climbing in, and you’ll be a better climber for it.
2. Climb two routes back to back, a hard one and then an easier one.
Similar to the first suggestion, but this time you’re climbing two routes, and you’re getting on “easy” route when you’re tired from the first route. You’ll learn to climb while pumped, increase your endurance, and better appreciate how hard climbing is when you are tired.
3. Climb the first half of a really hard route, then “bail” halfway up the wall to an easier route.
Do you find some hard climbs to be really intimidating? Just do half of it. Climb the first half of the hard route (say, a few grades harder than anything you’ve ever sent) then at a specific part of the climb, change routes and finish on something easier. You’re still getting the benefit of doing full length climbs, but you’re not getting shut down so hard. You can obviously do the first half of an easier climb, then finish the second half of a much harder climb.
A benefit of this approach is you might see that the “really hard” climb is not as bad as you thought it was. It may just be a question of dealing with fatigue as you climb.
4. Decide on a high number of climbs you want to do in a day, and do doubles or triples until you meet that number.
Lots of people will celebrate their birthday by climbing their age in routes in the gym. This is hard, and excellent training. Next time you go to the gym, set a goal with your climbing partner and meet it. Maybe twenty routes, maybe thirty. It all depends on how hard each route is. If you do doubles and triples on each route, you move quicker and learn the climb so you climb more efficiently.
5. Have a mini-comp with your partner, or your climbing group vs. another climbing group.
If you all climb at about the same grade, assign points to each grade, and aim for the max number of points in a time frame. If you climb at different grades, adjust the point values accordingly for each person. Winner gets bragging rights.
6. Repeat hard routes.
Usually, when you send your “project”, you just move on to another one. Don’t do this! You’ve not benefitted from sending it yet! If you repeat it a few more times, you’ll dial in the movement perfectly, and soon enough, it will feel easy. Good movement and technique trumps strength every time, so please, please focus on repeating hard routes.
A warning: I often fail to send a hard route the first time I try to repeat it. It takes a few more goes to get the whole climb into my head. This is time very well spent, as long as I can suspend my ego. Make sure to not be discouraged by the same thing.
7. Time how long it takes to climb a route, and do it again 15% faster. Then again, another 15% faster.
If you get a nice jug to shake out on halfway up the wall, you can rest forever until you’re completely recovered. By forcing yourself to climb faster, you are reducing rest time and (hopefully) moving faster on the wall. Climbing quickly is a great skill to build, and you are not going to build it without practice.
Aim to reduce the time by 20-30%, but it’s more important that you get ALL of your climbing 10% faster than speed climbing one particular route.
These suggestions are all you need to have an awesome session next time you head to the gym. These all require a partner, and time, so next week I’ll cover what to do when you’re alone (or don’t even have access to a climbing gym!)
The beauty of these approaches is that they are quite a lot of fun. Not just fun, but they help you be a better rock climber.
- A Video Guide to Build Climbing-Specific Core Strength (and Never do a Sit-up Again!)
- How to climb your first 5.10 (and then 5.11!)
- Why your Belayer Might be Keeping you from Climbing Hard(er)