Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, Part 3 (IYC 17)

Gym climbing

In this week’s Improve Your Climbing entry, let’s go back to climbing, then, drawing correlations with last week’s extremely simplistic discussion of how one might learn to play football, and then continue to improve at it after mastering the basics.

When you first start climbing, spending lots of time on the rock, in the climbing gym, or both, is absolutely essential to developing a solid general understanding of the activity. In other words, placing a high priority on developing efficient and effective technique and tactics from the start on all types of climbing terrain you’re interested in being proficient on should not be undervalued. This can be worked toward not only by climbing a lot on varied terrain but also:

• by asking for feedback and advice from more experienced rock climbers with solid technique that you admire;

• by observing how these climbers move and trying to mimic their movements;

• by hiring a trainer/coach to observe you and give you feedback and advice on how to improve your technical/tactical skills; and

• by getting a friend to video you and then watching the video to look for technical and tactical flaws,

…among other ways to work on tactics and technique (detailed much more in an earlier IYC series of entries on technique).

In other words, when you start climbing, to progress and improve, you will likely need to climb more than anything else you do for training. You need to dedicate time to developing solid tactical and technical skills on the rock, and you will also start to gain sport-specific strength, power, power endurance and endurance just by participating in climbing during this phase of your life as a climber. The majority of your training time should most likely not, at this point, be spent trying to make sport-specific strength (or other) gains by using resistance training methods or other off-the-rocks/distilled training methods, as these will not help you develop and refine the technical and tactical skills required to progress at rock climbing. In fact, too much attention to these areas too soon might actually impede your potential progression as you dump valuable training time into areas that aren’t (yet) holding you back instead of putting the time into learning the nuances of climbing.

However, all of the above does not undervalue or devalue the benefits you might see in your climbing (both at the start and later) from introducing structured training for particular areas that may need more attention (commonly called weaknesses) right from the start of your engagement with climbing, whether through more structured climbing exercises/drills or through the intelligent, individualized application of outside-of-climbing training. By recognizing and working on these areas earlier, you might experience more rapid improvement, close in on your peak potential more quickly, avoid some plateaus, and avoid having relatively minor weaknesses or imbalances grow into major hindrances later on in your life as a climber.

More on this next time…when I start with the more experienced climber and a discussion on plateaus, which will take us right back to the concept I just touched on above: the intelligence of identifying and training areas that need attention in your climbing right from the start rather than waiting until you plateau at some point in the future.

This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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