/ Too Wide To Boulder Effectively?

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
AdamFrancis - on 27 Jan 2019

Hi all, new here! I've been bouldering about a year throughout Suffolk and Essex and whilst I am making progress fairly rapidly on walls that don't involve a lot of twisting, I am totally stuck on those that do.

I was previously a bodybuilder (natural) and have a pretty wide frame as a result, I'm 5ft 11 and around 15 to 15st 5 on any given week, however this doesn't hold me back too badly as I still have decent strength as after years of being a meathead.

What I'm asking is, are there any wide boulderers that have overcome their girth and weight? I'm currently on a diet and barely weight training to try shrink a bit!!



Offwidth - on 27 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

What are your current achievements and future aims. I'm not far off your stats and probably have a higher % of body fat and am in my late 50s and have enjoyed climbing for 30 years (with weight creeping up during that time). I still lead the occasional E1, still flash the odd f6A outdoors and enter veterans bouldering comps indoors. I  see too many young climbers get egotistic and frustrated with improvement in grade numbers, and try too hard and jump about too much and get injured (especially bigger men) when what is a lot better is sharing a common love of the climbing experience with friends and letting improvement happen more organically. One key issue for beginners is finger tendons take a lot longer time to get strong than muscles, so it's best to relax and have fun for the first year at least.  Climbing is like running.... long term enjoyment is possible for pretty much any ability but has the advantage that improved technique can pay big dividends.

AdamFrancis - on 27 Jan 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Hi Offwidth, thankyou for taking the time to reply! In terms of climbing achievements ive peaked at around a v6 but generally v4's are my comfort 'can do most' zone. I've done a couple of competitions just as a progress check and I'm about mid way in the table but again, this varies depending on which gym I use.

Body fat wise I'm around 13-15% I think so not terrible. My finger tendons were fortunately pre-Conditioned due to weightlifting which has helped hugely. I am a very competitive soul by nature however this by no means takes the fun out of it! 

So being wide has never held you back? Do you find it harder to balance on the walls than your slender friends? I'm also deep from chest to back (Essentially a barrel), would you say your fingers would take longer to condition fully than someone lighter? For example others I climb with are 11 stone. 


Future goals and aims are to atleast come. Top 3 in local comps, I know it's a long road but I just wanted to know if anyone with a heavier build had managed it. 


Post edited at 17:02
Luke90 on 27 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

"Top 3 in local comps" is a fairly vague goal. Different comps will have wildly different sets of climbers competing.

Of all the climbing disciplines available, I think you've chosen wisely because indoor bouldering is probably the area where you'll be held back least by your proportions. To me, it doesn't sound like you're struggling too badly really. V6 is a pretty respectable grade after only a year. Bouldering isn't really my thing but I don't think I've ever climbed V6 despite climbing for nearly two decades!

Most body types will find some problems where they have an advantage and some where they have a disadvantage. As someone who's fairly far from the mean, you'll feel that more acutely than most. I don't think it's a reason to be put off, unless competition is such a big part of your motivation that you'll never be satisfied unless you can feel like you're "winning".

paul mitchell - on 27 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

John Dunne.

elliott92 - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

Get a good performance coach mate. She/he can show you where your movement inefficiencies are and show you ways to correct this. In practice you're probably going to have to move back down the grades and learn to climb with more efficient movement, repetition on easy terrain, over exaggerating twisting your hips in, moving to your outside edges, dropping knees and flagging. Let go of grades for 3 months and concentrate of moving slowly and precisely. Even when your strength will allow you to just power through a move, stop and figure out how to get your centre of gravity and weight transferral bang on. Practice this movement on slab, vertical and overhanging. V6 within a year is mega. With the right coaching and practice you could probably hit some big grades. A good tip I was given was to try and always avoid having both of the front of your knees on the wall, this pushes your hips away and takes your centre of gravity off of your feet and puts your weight onto your arms

Offwidth - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to elliott92:

Good advice but there is loads more technical expertise, training and talent (both in how the body adapts and injury resilience)  needed to get to the top 3 on any of the big indoor bouldering facilities. Hence, some form of coaching would be very wise. I'd also recommend Dave Macleods two books: Make or Break and 9 out of 10 climbers.


I don't believe the V6....some indoor grades are notoriously inflated....at my best I've climbed a few Depot easiest yellows that would struggle to make V3/f6A outdoors, even on the more generous Rockfax Peak Bouldering V grading (f6A in some guides is equivalent to V2).

The body form won't be the major issue as there are plenty of very able heavier built boulderers out there. Best of luck Adam.

Post edited at 08:12
steveriley - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

V6 is a decent grade. I've bouldered with some strong, newish people. Two bits of advice I'd offer: slow down, look at your feet. You might already be doing this. Crack on and have a ball

JayLewin - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I could be judged as being bigger than the average climber. However I have somehow made it to trad climbing, sport climbing and bouldering for 10 years so far and recently started making my living as a full time professional setter. The best advice going forward is to just have fun with the sport, see coaches get the best advice, don't worry about grades, climb outside with people who know what they're doing and see where this awesome sport of ours takes you.

cb294 - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I am your size but a bit heavier and presumably quite a bit older. I love friction slabs and cracks, especially offwidths but tend to avoid crimpy crap and overhangs, both of which unfairly discriminate against the fat and should be banned. 

Seriously, first find a weight and lifestyle you are happy with day in and day out, then adjust your style of climbing (and route selection) to what you enjoy most under these constraints. Bouldering short, powerful routes will probably be more fun than torturing yourself on some Euro limestone enduro horror.

"Width" should not prevent you from "twisting", though, that seems to be an issue of technique.


jkarran - on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I'm your size and weight. In fairness I was a stone or so lighter when climbing my best but it never crossed my mind I was too heavy or wide, just unfit (for sport) or inflexible, both can be and in my case were remedied with work. My fingers always limited my bouldering, they just wouldn't take the abuse for long enough between injuries to get good.

How hard do you want to climb? I assume we're talking indoor grades here so they should be taken with a huge pinch of salt anyway.


Graham Booth on 28 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

If your 13% body fat you must be pretty ripped...crack on 

13% at nearly 16 stone and 5 ft 11 is good if bulky muscle wise

AdamFrancis - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to elliott92:

There's a performance coach at avid in Ipswich where I mainly train, I'll have to hit him up ????. I should add that V6 was in the grade colour but may not have been an actual V6, it was mainly strength based so I was able to do it. Thankyou for your words ????????


AdamFrancis - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to Graham Booth:

Oddly enough I am, but I carry it well. I don't look like a 15 stone muscleman atall because I've got a barrel like body and chunky legs which you never see! But thanks, having abs at 15 stone came as a shock to me too ????????

AdamFrancis - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to steveriley:

Thankyou Steve! Yeah I always check my feet as if I fall off it frigging hurts ????. Not as much as the person under me gets hurt but still.. 

AdamFrancis - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to jkarran:

Oh really? My fingers are good for around 90 mins to 2hrs twice a week currently, and yeah indoor grades! Outdoor looks painful ????. I want to climb hard! I want to be the guy that everyone's like look at this joker, that then flashes the set. But on a personal level I'm a person that needs a goal in order to function daily. I have a job that's very mentally challenging and so in my. Downtime I need a focus! 

beefy_legacy on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:


jkarran - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

> I want to climb hard! I want to be the guy that everyone's like look at this joker, that then flashes the set. But on a personal level I'm a person that needs a goal in order to function daily.

Well keep at it so long as you're enjoying it. Keep setting bite sized goals that need work but that are achievable and you'll keep getting your rewards. Set a big ambitious one and it could take years of 'failure' before you get there, or don't. And do take those indoor grades with a pinch of salt


Offwidth - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

"I'm a person that needs a goal in order to function daily. I have a job that's very mentally challenging and so in my. Downtime I need a focus! "

That and grade realism... you really should improve faster than most.  The key to steer that determination  is to focus on what works whilst avoiding injury. As before, get some coaching, climb with and learn from better climbers between times, train appropriately,  and honestly assess and work weaknesses. When resting, read up on expert advice (Daves books as as good as the best but there are many others worth reading)

Going outdoors with better boulderers will help broaden technique, so don't avoid it.

Timmd on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I 2nd (3rd?) the suggestion of hiring a coach to help you.  Working on your flexibility would likely help a lot, I'm wondering if it's that which might be holding you back more than your shape?

Hire a climbing coach.

webbo - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

How on earth did anyone manage to progress before climbing coaches were invented.


overdrawnboy - on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to webbo

> How on earth did anyone manage to progress before climbing coaches were invented.

Can you get your money back if your still crap after your course?

alx on 29 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

Hi Adam, I was your weight and fat % when bouldering F8A/V10. I was my strongest when I was my heaviest, albeit this came from 15years of climbing and related training rather than body building.

In terms of width causing problems, concentrate on your flexibility, this will hopefully allow you to twist and contort your body into spaces.

mark s - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I'm taller and heavier than you. I can still boulder v5 or 6 outdoors.thats down to technique. Size is an enemy of climbing hard 

My movement struggles come from inflexabilty rather than size.

I know if I wanted to climb like I used that I need to lose 3 stone. I'm not going to as those days are over now. 

In reply to AdamFrancis:

At 13% body fat there's not much room for weight loss unless you can lose muscle which is not easy

Biggest limiting factor for you will be finger injuries and skin especially if you climb out side as indoors the holds are normally pretty friendly and less tweaky

Yes it is slightly different for bigger broader shouldered people and they tend to have a less sideways style and climb a bit more front on which if you have strong shoulders and back and I am guessing you do will not be so much of a problem. You will just learn to adapt and climb the way it works for your body.

The beauty of climbing outside is that there are so many possible ways of doing any given problem that you can make it suit you quite often

Best advice I can give is just climb loads , you don't have a lot of experience to draw on yet

Offwidth - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to thedevonshirepiemuncher:

Just climb loads won't work for the improvement he wants. An expert informed and well planned training regime and diet will lead to much faster improvements with less risk of injury (and shed muscles as well as fat). Why do you think the climbers today are easily achieving the top technical standards of the most talented climbers of  50 yeas ago? Here is the current female bouldering list as an example:


22 british women who have bouldered f8A and about 50 above f7C

In reply to Offwidth:

Yes, and all of them have a deep knowledge base due to climbing a lot and mostly years of experience too which he doesn't have yet

so yes you are right a training plan will work, it always does in any sorts but with him climbing less than a year so far volume will still be king for a while

Offwidth - on 30 Jan 2019
In reply to thedevonshirepiemuncher:

I've seen unplanned 'volume being king' for indoor boulderers at his stage commonly leading to frustration and injury... maybe you are transferring too much over from what helps improve trad (where he expressed no particular interest) and are ignoring what he said about his job and location (extensive outdoor bouldering is probably a luxury he can't afford). Getting some volume days on easier outdoor problems,  to widen technical ranges, evaluate weaknesses and build stamina,  is a certainly a good thing for him but as easy days within structured training. Font may be the best... very different from indoors and it provides some useful hard lessons in grading realism as well.

Post edited at 14:16
robin mueller - on 31 Jan 2019
In reply to AdamFrancis:

I know people who weigh 13+ stone and boulder 8B+/C. So you don't need to be a lightweight to climb hard.

Fingers take time, as others have said. Doing weights has probably helped you to some extent, but even with basic conditioning it takes most people a long time to build up the finger strength for really small holds.

If you are goal focused, how about planning an outdoor trip to somewhere like font or the peak district?  You'll soon figure out what grades and which classic problems might be within your reach if you train for them. You say outdoors looks painful, but it is possible to seek out whatever type of problem you enjoy, from big holds to small; from steep to vertical.


This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.