You’ve been climbing for quite some time--you’ve gained friends from the community, completed the basic climber’s gear set, and noticed your better grip strength; but then something seems to be lacking. You have plateaued and your skills are not improving like they used to in the start.
Don’t fret. This is fairly normal to beginner climbers. This is bound to happen when you have trained for months yet you’re not exposed to higher levels of stress. Maybe there’s no climbing competition you’re getting ready for, or you’re used to climbing the same crags. In short, there is a lack of challenge to your practice which causes this plateau.
The thing with Sports Climbing is that it’s a highly specialized sport. It is the combination of good technique and a strong physical background. It goes hand in hand and training these two aspects simultaneously can be tricky. When you can’t finish a route, it may be because you lack the physical strength to do it, or you’re not using your energy efficiently by not utilizing foot techniques. Either way, it may be tricky to keep up with the whole affair.
Say you only have 2-3 hours per session, twice a week, and you want to maximize that time whenever you hit the wall. Here’s a simple guide that will make each minute of training worth it, that will train both physical and technical aspects of climbing.
15 minutes - Stretching, warm up
45 minutes - Project routes, hardest wall
60-90 minutes - Climb up and down laps on easy, moderate walls (3-5 at a time, 10 minute rest in between)
15-30 minutes - Stretching, cool down
Why start with the hardest wall?
At the start of the training, your brain is ready to gain information since it’s not yet tired. Your body, still up and fresh, is ready to store muscle memory from exploring new routes. Climbers need to expand their repertoire of techniques since each wall is different from the next. Having a vast set of knowledge can help you become a better climber, since you’ll be better equipped when faced with a new route or boulder problem.
Why end with laps?
You usually hear climbers say that they’re “pumped”. This pertains to their sore forearms, which when not trained enough, can get easily tired. To keep this from happening, you need laps (climbing up and down a wall via top rope) to gain endurance. Easy-moderate walls are great for strength training because the routes are not too hard to climb, and movements become second nature since your muscles have memorized the move sequence. With laps you are also able to maintain your blood pressure for a longer period of time (20-30 minutes) which can enhance your strength altogether.
How often should you climb?
It really depends on your situation, but training 2-3 a week is best due the the theory of supercompensation. Ideally when we experience fatigue, our body overcompensates by giving more hormones to rejuvenate our muscles. We should take advantage this supercompensation (happens after two to three days after training) to sustain a slow and steady increase in progress. See the chart below for easier understanding.
There you go, a quick easy guide on how to improve as a climber. However, if you’re looking for something more short term and you want to get better fast, you may opt for periodization, but then that’s a different story and a whole new set-up.