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Topic - Bouldering vs system board for max gains/tedium

Kemics - on 26 Jun 2014
So im reading Eric Horst's book training for climbing. It has made me realise how little training I actually do. I go "training" at my local bouldering wall but really just wander around trying things. Some hard, some easy.

Anyway so I've just finished the chapter about sports science/specificity. My question is rather than bouldering problems which are hard. Am I better off creating simple problems between holds on a system board. It would let me make sure I'm right on my limit (much more control over variables) I could work L/R evenly and better isolate specific weaknesses. Essentially it would be like dynamic finger boarding.

Would this produce better results than bouldering generally?

The only downside I can see is that if it does work it would be painfully boring!
bluesharper - on 27 Jun 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Other potential problems with a system board:
- you need to know what your weaknesses are and be a good problem setter to reap maximum benefits
- less variety and space limitations mean less technique training

System board is somewhere between bouldering and a fingerboard.
It is probably better to supplement bouldering with system board training rather than replace it.

Another approach is to structure the bouldering sessions.
By varying the types and difficulty of problems, angle, hold size, number of moves and rest times, you can introduce strength sessions, power sessions, aerobic and anaerobic endurance sessions and train your weak points. You can choose to concentrate on crimpy, reachy, powerful or technical problems. As some problems are already set, there is less demand on your own setting skills, but you can still set your own problems like on a system board. On top of that you can add training periodization.

The answer is also dependent on the quality and quantity of problems/circuits at your bouldering wall.

Unfortunately if you do any type of highly structured training you risk boredom. You need a lot of motivation. This can come from your future goals, but it's good if you like the struggle of training itself.
Kemics - on 30 Jun 2014
In reply to bluesharper:

Awesome. Thanks for the reply, I think you're right that it'll work best as a suppliment rather than a substitute. I'm in a stamina phase so trying to draw up plans for strength phase. Thinkig of doing harder bouldering as a warm up. Then end he session with a hard 30 mins on system board really nailing specific weakness (slopers/open hand)
Siderunner - on 07 Jul 2014
If you've not read Dave Macs 9 out of 10 climbers then do so; if you have then maybe read it again. Why? Because he basically says that bouldering is the king of getting good. And tbh if I had to choose between Eric's and Dave's training advice, personally I'd go with the guy who's solo'ed a F8b.

I think at your level (mine's similar) the advantages of bouldering for technique gains, especially around using feet and momentum better, really outweigh the benefits of system boards (symmetry and repeating the same move multiple times).

Be interested to hear what the wads say - as ever!
cha1n on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Use a systems board if your technique is spot on, otherwise go boulder some hard stuff but make sure you're not picking stuff that's 'your style'.

You can vary stuff on a systems board but it's generally just crimps/pinches and can be a bit boring unless you're with some mates.
bluesharper - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Kemics:

I also recommend "9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes" by Dave MacLeod.
It is a great book to read before you start creating a structured training program and detailed plans.

By the way: Dave also soloed Darwin Dixit (F8c), but writing his book may be a greater achievement.

His book and blog are informative and a great motivational tool.
Dave's book can help you choose wisely when you create your own training plan.
Please also have a look at Dave's series of coaching articles on MCOFS website:

My current training program is largely based on Dave's ideas.
On top of that I took a lot from Neil Gresham's training year and Alex Barrows' 'Training for Sport Climbing' (I am mostly a sport climber).
I also added some dieting and weight training - both based on Martin Berkhan's ideas.


So far it works well.
RockSteady on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to Kemics:

At the beginning of the year I tried using systematic bouldering as a tool, with a bit of system board mixed in. It was basically using bouldering in a more structured and measurable way - rather than going round trying loads of stuff around my limit, I spent most of my sessions trying specific problems/moves on a board that I couldn't do. As you say, simple powerful moves on small holds.

Strength and power gains were massive (for me), much, much greater than just normal bouldering. This translated into being able to boulder a grade harder consistently.

My caveat - don't overdo it. I got carried away with the gains I was seeing and tried to push it further and further. The end result is bad shoulder impingement that's knocked those grades off and more. When I've fixed myself I'll be limiting the 'systematic bouldering' approach to a 2 month period, then moving on probably to realising the gains with a phase of normal bouldering or sport climbing.
Kemics - on 07 Jul 2014
In reply to RockSteady:

thanks that's encouraging. I think that fits with the specificity idea of training. I'm going to stick with bouldering but also add in the system board to really attack my weaknesses.

I have read 9 out of 10 climbers but I felt it was a great diagnostic tool for analyzing training methods. But didnt have much for me in the way of actual exercises to follow. It was more of a mental shift I gained.

When I first read 9 out of 10 climbers. I was a lanking crimpy slab climber who refused to climb anything steep or slopey because I would have to drop several grades. Dave described my whole mind set and climbing style in a few sentences. I remember sitting in the car reading that page (4 years ago?) and thinking "Damn, he nailed me". So I did exactly as prescribed and went and did nothing but burly bouldering and everything I was bad at. That approach gave me really good gains but i've kind of run the road to the end and I need to do something to shake it up.

I really think I just need to get stronger. My technique is not perfect but I dont think it's what holds my climbing back. I recently have made some quick redpoints of french 7a's (2 or 3 tries) and yet I cant campus a single run, perform a lock off...or even hold small holds.

The 'just go bouldering' has lead to a massive plateau for me. So i'm going to try some really structured strength training and see what happens. If it busts I'll reassess :)

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