The fastest route to improving at rock climbing involves creating a soundly designed rock climbing training program. While this might sound simple, it can present a challenge for even the smartest and most seasoned rock climber. The best climbing training program will include knowledge of and consequent focus on training the climber’s weaknesses, with climbing exercises specifically designed to do just that. It will also include plenty of rest.
Training Climbing Strengths Instead of Climbing Weaknesses
Ignoring or avoiding training climbing weaknesses in favor of improving climbing strengths is probably the number-one reason why most experienced rock climbers don’t get better at climbing, faster. People are seemingly naturally drawn to what they’re good at, and once they’ve established proficiency at a particular sub-discipline of rock climbing—be it long moves on steep rock, small moves on crimps, consistently pumpy moves, or something else—they tend to gravitate toward that area of relative excellence.
Additional common areas of climbing weakness that hold climbers back from performing at peak levels involve difficulties with the mental aspects of rock climbing (including negative thinking, fear of falling, and the inability to see a project through to the end), and difficulties in mastering the subtleties of efficient lead climbing, including rapid gear placements and/or clipping the rope quickly into the gear without fumbling, among others.
Those wishing to get better at rock climbing should take the time now to catalog their various climbing weaknesses. A climbing partner can help with this since people often find it difficult to recognize all of their potential areas of improvement in rock climbing. Identifying climbing weaknesses is the first step toward turning them into climbing strengths. This happens through the original implementation of an appropriate climbing training program aimed at improving the climber’s overall climbing ability.
While at first, this might prove difficult for the climber’s ego to take, seeing as he or she will likely be unable to perform at his or her established level on more familiar ground (i.e., the vertical crimping expert attempts to transition to ultra-steep power endurance climbing or the confident 5.11 toprope climber discovers that they can currently only lead 5.8), it is the fastest way to see improvements in rock climbing.
Again, be careful not to fall prey to the tendency to spend less time on the climbing exercises and at the climbing areas that address the climbing weaknesses, and more time at the climbing areas/exercises that make the climber feel and look stronger and better. In the end, the climber will enjoy greater improvements in their areas of climbing strength as well as weakness by working the weaknesses more.
Favoring Quantity Instead of Quality in Climbing Exercises
As in many other sports, it’s crucial that the rock climber focus on performing each climbing exercise properly and fully, maximizing the gains from each rep and each set. Performing climbing movements and exercises sloppily or halfway will yield lesser results. Aim to start and finish each exercise to its fullest extent, as assigned or described, to see the greatest gains, whether it’s weight training, climbing moves, pull-ups, or another sort of climbing exercise.
Not Enough Resting or Climbing Rest Days
In addition to identifying and focusing climbing training efforts on working climbing weaknesses, along with performing all climbing exercises properly, not resting properly while on a climbing route, during climbing training sessions, and after rock climbing training is a huge issue for many, if not most, rock climbers.
One of the easiest ways to witness how rock climbers tend to not rest enough while rock climbing is to observe climbers during a three-hour, redpoint-format bouldering competition. Many climbers simply cannot seem to stop themselves from flinging themselves repeatedly at a problem with little-to-no rest in between attempts. They thereby hasten their own failure (on that or future problems) by not allowing the body enough time to recuperate for peak power performance.
Perhaps worse is the tendency rock climbers have to overtrain and not take advantage of rest days. A true rest day involves no exercise whatsoever. Going for a run or a bike ride does not equal a rest day, since legs are used in climbing, too. Climbers should schedule at least one, if not two, full days of rest every week to promote full recovery and top climbing performance.
Use Smart Training Tactics to Get Better at Rock Climbing
To improve at rock climbing quickly, rock climbers should implement a climbing training program focused mainly on addressing their particular climbing weaknesses. Every climbing exercise used in this program should be executed fully, with a focus on quality over quantity. Rock climbers should aim to incorporate enough resting into their rock climbing training in order to maximize their potential gains and get better at rock climbing more quickly than before.