/ Looking for bouldering progression tips
Hey all! Really excited to be here. I've started climbing relatively recently (8 and a half weeks ago to be exact), primarily bouldering and I'm absolutely head-over-heels obsessed with it now.
I've been seeing really pleasing progression since I first began at my local wall; I am currently bouldering at V5-6 level but I've hit a plateau. I have successfully climbed 2 V6 routes in my local gym and several V5's at Kendal but I'm really struggling to progress beyond this.
So a bit of background, I have not had much official 'instruction' so to speak, however, I climbed independently when I was younger. I also have relatively strong legs from cycling, decent'ish arm strength from tennis and I'm a little over 6ft, so I'm not coming completely unequipped. I'm struggling with crimpy, edgy V5 and V6 problems and I'd also really like to improve my strength and power so as to be able to progress onto harder V6 and hopefully V7's.
I realise I'm expecting a lot for a short period of time and may come across as naive but any help would be very much appreciated!
I've been considering starting some fingerboard training and I've recently started to integrate limit bouldering into my weekly routine, I'm also considering doing some yoga at home on the advice of a friend.
Thanks in advance!
Just carry on going the wall and having a laugh. 8.5weeks of climbing is not exactly the usual timeframe for thinking you are platauing. And if you do genuinely enjoy it buy a bouldering pad and go outside through winter. If you can climb V6 outside after 8.5weeks you are indeed talented and probably will go far.
Also big strong legs from cycling are defo not a good thing for climbing . And starting fingerboarding so soon is probably not either. Go super easy if you do decide to try it. A finger injury put you out for a long time if you are not careful.
I was similar, didn't quite make the V6 but could naturally do V4 V5s. I started hang boarding early and got a finger injury that put me out for a few months. This was frustrating as I had caught the 'bug'. I now just do weighted pull ups and lock offs to increase power and strength. Will give it a year of general climbing before I go to working on finger strength. I also bought a mat and have been outside. I found I was climbing at lower grades and route finding was hard. I still haven't progressed to smashing loads of V6s but I am just enjoying climbing and building strength.
I blame indoor walls. I've never seen any beginner ever naturally able to consistently climb V4 let alone V6. The grades you are bouldering are simply incorrectly labeled. You are still doing well compared to most beginners but you need to be very careful when you go outdoors on real rock.
How to improve? Climb with people who really can climb V4 or harder outdoors and go easy on training (over enthusiasm on pushing limits every day and misuse of fingerboards has wrecked the fingers of many a potential talent)
Thanks for the replies Just a disclaimer, everything said in my original post is entirely in relation to indoor bouldering.
If I'm not mistaken aren't indoor routes generally considered easier than outdoor problems anyway? I haven't tried much outdoor bouldering but I'd certainly like to. I definitely feel as though my finger strength has improved, I recently completed a V4 problem that I'd been struggling with for weeks that involved a lot of finger-strength-based holds. It seems so integral to higher level climbing but your point(s) are well made, I don't want to be out with injury.
I have. A strong polish kid i met climbed underhand and top cat traverse at almcliff the first time he ever even saw an actual crag. Both are 7B+. He had been climbing indoors for a few months only. We went Kyloe a few weeks later and he did the Yorkshireman which I find way harder than the 2 grit problems he did (like most of Kyloe). Got injured bad tho and had to stop.
It depends whee you climb. I'd prefer all walls to grade at UK outdoor standards and some do try. There are alll sorts of problems with outdoor and indoor grading below f6A (this used to be equivalent to V2 but now is often V3, esp in Rockfax guides) but there is really no excuse above this. In my range, the easiest problems on colour circuits in The Depot up to red are inflated by at least two V grades cf outdoors and sometimes more.
I said consistent at the grade.
Without seeing you climb all advice will be a bit of a shot in the dark. But from what you've written you seem to correlate climbing harder mostly with improving strength and power. They are of course related to a certain extent but a lot of other climbing technique related factors also determine how hard you can climb. Especially since you've been climbing for a relatively short period it could be useful to try to focus on climbing technically well on the problems you can do instead of trying to push your grades by improvements in pure strength.
I for example found it quite useful to count the numbers of boulders you can complete in a session, and try to improve those numbers instead of solely focussing on the highest grade you can complete.
Try to improve your flash grade instead of maximum red point grade.
By shifting your focus for a while you might find the harder problems will come more naturally eventually.
Oh yes, and do try to get some outdoor bouldering done. It's the best. Enjoy your climbing!
Of course, thank you!
Haha yeah, I think that reflects my general approach to climbing, I tend to focus on muscling through problems which probably isn't the best way. I've been picking up tips from some more competent climbers at my local, watching people with honed technique work the harder problems has been really helpful so far.
The older, more experienced climbers especially have such fluid, precise technique. I'm tempted to invest in having some teaching over the Christmas period.
In terms of the flashing suggestion, the main issue with that is that our local wall only has about 20 routes total; I have to go to Kendal to get more variety which I can't do as often. I try and vary my sessions by creating my own problems to limit boulder and some sessions (especially if I am tired) I only work V4 and below.
8 1/2 weeks is no time at all. If a single hard boulder took me two months to climb then I would consider it almost a flash.
You are still very much as the stage of seeing improvement just by going to the wall and climbing. This will continue for a good couple of years, as it does with most people. The best tip I can give you is do not start training until you have a very solid foundation of strength, you will injure yourself and if you do that early it may well totally f*ck your climbing and limit your progression greatly. Don't even look at a fingerboard and if you even think of a campus board then a plague on you!
Seriously though, training specifically for finger strength with something like a hangboard is far more advanced than people tend to think, and unnecessarily advanced for many of the people who do it, who can just get stronger fingers by climbing more. Your fingers are the absolute worst, most game changing thing to injure, and take a very long time to heal. They should be treated with utmost care.
Go to the wall and climb more, focus on technique, this will hold you in better stead in the long run. Climb slabs. Fall off slabs. Exclaim "there is no way this slab is 6B, how the hell do I stand on that?!" in a frustrated tone like is traditional. If in two or three years time you are not improving anymore and have plateaued for 6 months, post this question again.
It's generally recommended that people don't fingerboard during their first year of climbing at least (Eva Lopez, who knows her stuff, says first two years).
Tendons and connective tissue are much slower to strengthen than muscle is, so you need to let them adjust to the loads of climbing before you start piling on any additional stresses. Be patient (and also be careful with those little crimpy edges in the meantime; they can bite!).
Plus if you already know you tend to muscle through things (and are apparently doing quite well with that), extra strength is not what you need right now!
Focus on technique -- there are lots of good resources for that, and I'm sure people here can give you tips -- and look for the problems you can't muscle through. Look for the problems that people who are weaker than you can climb and you can't!
Unless you're a miraculous prodigy, your technique at this point is almost certainly pretty crappy -- which should be a wonderful thing to hear, because it means you're at the start of a steep learning curve, and as soon as you start to improve it, you'll get big improvements in what you can climb without any changes in your strength/power.
And as people have said, climb outdoors as soon as you can (and the weather permits). Outdoor bouldering is full of brain food, it's going to be great for your technique, and when you go back indoors all the footholds will look gigantic.
I forgot to say, welcome to the wonderful obsessive world of climbing. Good, innit?
People are to be saying climb more - I think this means for a longer period of time, than more sessions!
Also, do not focus on doing more and more in a session yet! Great way to achieve overuse injuries.
> 8 1/2 weeks is no time at all. If a single hard boulder took me two months to climb then I would consider it almost a flash.
But you are shit ;)
> It's generally recommended that people don't fingerboard during their first year of climbing at least (Eva Lopez, who knows her stuff, says first two years).
> Tendons and connective tissue are much slower to strengthen than muscle is, so you need to let them adjust to the loads of climbing before you start piling on any additional stresses. Be patient (and also be careful with those little crimpy edges in the meantime; they can bite!).
I'm sure this has been covered before but I couldn't find it. As a beginner (6 months) I'm reaching the point where the climbs I want to try (6b-6c of which I'm completed a few 6b's), many of them have crimpy holds. I'd rather practise crimps in a controlled environment rather than half way up a wall when I'm getting pumped. Isn't a fingerboard just that? A controlled environment where you can be safe trying crimpy holds?
You don't have to heed the advice of everyone here. Some aren't as gifted as you. I've seen my friend go to climbing V7 indoors and outdoors within a year (albeit in a particular style).
Follow your own regime and keep it simple. Climb twice a week minimum and err on the side of caution with the training tools.
> Isn't a fingerboard just that? A controlled environment where you can be safe trying crimpy holds?
But it's not going to be safe if the connective tissue in your fingers and elbows just isn't strong enough to handle the additional load yet.
Just climbing is already putting a substantial and very new load on your tendons and they're going to be getting stronger as fast as they can, which is unfortunately not that fast.
> I'd rather practise crimps in a controlled environment rather than half way up a wall when I'm getting pumped.
Yes, that's a generally sound principle -- personally, I've never been injured fingerboarding; all my tweaks have come from trying to hang onto a hold on a problem just that bit too long.
However, right now advice from the training experts is pretty unanimous that in your first year you should stay away from the fingerboards.
Which doesn't mean you should spend all your time trying to crush crimps halfway up the wall when you're pumped, either.
Crimps put very extreme stresses through your finger tendons and pulleys, but they're also tempting because it's very obvious how you need to use them and to think that if you just bear down even harder you might be able to hang on ...
So watch out for them -- you don't have to avoid them, but maybe limit the number of attempts on a crimpy route or problem if your fingers start to feel a bit not-right, and use this time to diversify. Practice open-handing things when possible, learn the mystic body-position-y ways of using slopers, look for problems with pinches or anything other than crimps. It will make you a better and stronger climber in the long run.
Not sure where exactly you are based, but itisounds like you are lakes(ish) based. You should get up to Eden Rock in Carlisle, in my opinion it's one of the best bouldering walls in the country.
Also, having checked your profile -- those of us who start climbing later than our 20s often have to deal with a tendency to slower recovery and less physical resilience compared to younger people.
Doesn't mean we can't get massively stronger over time, but it does mean we have a greatly-reduced capacity to get away with stupid shit compared to someone who's been climbing for the same amount of time but is 22 (for example).
Therefore we have to try to be less stupid.
> I'm also considering doing some yoga at home on the advice of a friend.
Probably a good idea. Also keep up some general conditioning training, or as a bare minimum plenty of antagonist training (lots of info to be found here, or on the wider web). When I started as a thin, light, sporty 19 year old I was naturally strong and able to 'no feet' my way up problems for fun. I stopped all other exercise because climbing was so fun, and had shoulder/elbow problems within a year, which in one way or another have remained a recurrent problem for over 20 years. Don't ignore any niggles, don't overdo it, don't crimp too hard too soon. Do take your time to build a solid base, do just climb and enjoy it for a good couple of years..... You may be the exception to the rule, but on the whole the advice on this thread about not overdoing it sounds pretty good.
What about bouldering are you head over heels obsessed with?
Finger strength training takes a long time because the flexor muscles in the forearm are relatively small. On the basis that it takes a long time it makes sense to start as soon as possible IMO. This might be considered heresy by the UKC hive but it is an opinion that has been expressed by Dave Macleod.
My tip (this being what you asked for) is that you stop short of being totally tired at the end of your bouldering session and go to the fingerboard. You will be warmed up at this point which is important. Find an edge that is slightly less than first pad in depth (if there isnt a fingerboard find an edge on the bouldering wall you can comfortably reach from standing). Keeping your feet on the floor and your front three (fore, middle and ring) fingers flexed at 90 degrees and little finger at whatever angle it rests on the edge then gradually put pressure on the edge keeping your feet on the floor at all times. Hold it for 10 seconds at what feels like 50% effort. Then have a 2/3 minute rest. Repeat this 3 more times until you feel comfortable trying it at 100% then do 4 hangs at 100% all with 2/3 minutes rest - longer if you like.
Note always keep your feet on the floor for all of the hangs to keep it safe - dont be tempted to lift your feet off the floor it really isnt necessary. This might look and feel odd (and attract comments) but if you were also standing on a set of scales you would see the dial move downwards so it is doing something.
When doing the hangs make sure your shoulders are engaged throughout and that your front three fingers maintain correct form at the 90 degree angle. If anything feels at all odd with your fingers then stop the session. Do this twice a week for three weeks then take a break from it for a week and repeat. If you take a set of scales you can monitor progress by seeing how far you can move the dial down.
At some point you will be looking to progress to foot off hangs and changing the routine and grip combination and angles to stimulate further progress but I think the above would be an excellent way to start. If they happen to have dumbells at the centre then do some heavy finger rolls at the very end. There is some anecdotal evidence that it could provide additional hypertrophy stimulus.
Thank you so much to everyone for your responses! It's great to see that the climbing community here is so helpful and friendly
Yeah, I'd say my technique isn't too good at the moment, it's not absolutely awful but could do with a lot of work. The majority of my best sends so far have come from watching better climbers complete the routes and following their beta's. For instance my first V6 I couldn't even get off the ground on it for a couple of days until a friend showed me the start, the rest of the problem suited me quite nicely. All the technique I have currently is from watching other people. How would I go about training technique besides lessons?
I think my main frustration in the last week or so has been the slower progression. From weeks 1-8 I improved very fast and now, as I get to the harder grades, that improvement is far less noticeable and pronounced. But of course, this should be expected. Anyway, I'm still loving every moment of it!
As I say any training tips/methods of improving technique would be very much appreciated.
As to why I love bouldering, what's not to love? I love the variety in the routes, the problem-solving aspect, the complexity of the different holds. It challenges me both mentally and physically and I come away from each session with a huge grin on my face, feeling great no matter what I managed to send (or not as the case may be). You meet great people down at the wall, many of whom are easy to chat to and are willing to share their knowledge. I'd love to do some outdoor problems and roped stuff in the future, but right now I'm exactly where I want to be
sweet, it's not too far, I'll have to check it out
> Yeah, I'd say my technique isn't too good at the moment, it's not absolutely awful but could do with a lot of work. The majority of my best sends so far have come from watching better climbers complete the routes and following their beta's. For instance my first V6 I couldn't even get off the ground on it for a couple of days until a friend showed me the start, the rest of the problem suited me quite nicely. All the technique I have currently is from watching other people. How would I go about training technique besides lessons?
Sharing beta and watching others is really useful. For something more structured this is worth putting on your christmas list: http://johnkettle.com/the-book/4593950762
If you like a challenge a great way to work on your technique is "silent feet".There are plenty of articles about it on-line.
> All the technique I have currently is from watching other people.
This isn't a bad way to learn (as long as you're using other ways too). In my experience, boulderers are generally very open to being asked "Would you mind showing me how you did that move?"
Also, speaking as a weak but sneaky boulderer: I absolutely LOVE it when stronger people ask me how to do something. I am a simple soul and my ego is easily gratified.
> How would I go about training technique besides lessons?
Different things work for different people, but I got a lot out of books and films when I was starting out, notably "The Self-Coached Climber" and Neil Gresham's Masterclass DVDs. Those should give you a basis for understanding assorted movement techniques, and lots of drills and practice ideas.
Also try consciously approaching problems as an exercise in puzzle-solving. See if you can work out the beta when you haven't seen someone else do it (there are often multiple different sequences possible). See whether you can position your body and use your feet to take weight off your hands, so that a hold you're "not strong enough" to hold becomes usable, or you can reach something you thought you couldn't.
Also, of course, the internet is now saturated with good quality free films of the world's best climbers climbing things, so you can watch and learn. The more you learn about body position and so forth, the more you'll be able to understand and appreciate what someone's doing and learn more from it.
And yes, these people are all inhumanly strong, but they've also all got extraordinary movement skills from which the rest of us mere mortals can learn.
Norwegian climber Mari Augusta Salvesen has made the first female ascent of the burly Ray's Roof E7 6c at Baldstones in Staffordshire. First climbed by visiting American Ray Jardine in 1977, the horizontal offwidth crack remains a gritstone testpiece...