More Specific Training Can Help You Climb Off of the Plateau or Perhaps Avoid it Altogether
For those wishing to improve their climbing effectively and efficiently, the ideal amount of time spent “just climbing” vs. structured climbing training (i.e. employing drills and exercises focusing on areas that need work in a climbing context) vs. strength training outside of climbing is a matter of figuring out the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to each activity, given where you are in your life as a climber and where you are in the training year, too.
This will involve some trial and error, for sure, and what will be most effective for you really depends on your particular situation. In general, though, those interested in engaging with training for climbing beyond “just climbing” should keep in mind the following:
- Beginner climbers should spend the largest portion of their training time dedicated to “just climbing,” but ideally always with a mind to learning and improving tactical/technical skills. Getting feedback from others and observing more experienced climbers is a great way to hasten this process. Training off the rock most or all of the time will not teach you how to rock climb or make you much of a better climber without a lot of time spent on the rock, too.
- More experienced climbers/trainers should spend proportionately more time working on less-strong areas that hold them back using outside of climbing strength-training methods than the beginners should, and beginners should spend more time climbing and less time training such areas of concern – though they should definitely still give them some attention.
- The less you’ve trained a specific area that holds you back, the more potential gains you are likely to make in that area, whether it’s technical, tactical, physical (strength, power, power endurance, endurance), or mental.
- The more you’ve trained a specific area that holds you back, the fewer potential gains you are likely to make in that area, whether it’s technical, tactical, physical (strength, power, power endurance, endurance), or mental.
- If you’ve been climbing for a long time and you’ve utterly ignored an area of climbing or training, you have way more potential to improve than someone who has trained all relevant areas equally and efficiently and effectively right from the get-go.
- Neither beginning climbers/trainers nor experienced climbers/trainers should spend all their training time strength training a particular area (for example) in every workout all year long, even if it’s their weakest link. Training should be varied enough to avoid overtraining, burnout, overuse injuries and boredom.
- Both groups should spend plenty of time training by using climbing as training, but viewing almost every day as a training opportunity when you’re aware of your areas that hold you back and choosing moves, routes, angle, sequences and styles that push you is a great way to implement more focus and direction into your climbing without making it all about training, all the time.
- Don’t do any of this if it makes your climbing too serious and never fun, unless you enjoy being too serious and never having any fun. Balance training days or months with days or weeks or even months dedicated to doing whatever you want at whatever level you want. Training is a big-picture, long-term prospect, and most sports do have an off-season for refreshing and renewing psych. Climbers would do well to remember this! 100 percent peak performance all the time is impossible, no matter who you are.
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!