6 Common Training Mistakes Climbers Make

In the climbing world, there is sometimes an overemphasis on grip strength as a means to improve your climbing ability. For example, take a look around any major climbing gym and you’ll notice campus boards, hang boards, and other devices specifically designed to improve your grip strength. Admittedly, improving your grip strength is important for climbing more difficult routes; however, improving core strength is at least equally important for climbers.

Most climbers don’t have a training plan. They show up to the gym or the crag to climb until their bored or tired; while there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with that approach to climbing training, you might start to notice your improvements diminish or plateau. If you feel that your climbing is not improving, or that you’d like to vary your training and maximize your climbing potential, there are a few changes you could make to your routine. Below, we’ve listed out a few of the common mistakes individuals make in their climbing training and have made some recommendations for how you can improve your long-term climbing training.

Here are six mistakes climbers commonly make in their training programs:

Low Volume Training

On any given training day, most climbers don’t climb enough. Climbers, like all athletes, benefit by increasing their total training volume. Most climbers would make gains by increasing the overall number of routes that they send, even if it’s just “easy” routes that are not particularly challenging.
For example, runners training for a 5-mile race should still go on 10-mile “easy” training runs to increase their overall fitness. The same logic applies for mountain athletes; however, that’s not actually how most climbers train. Most climbers routinely climb close to their “redpoint,” when in reality their fitness would improve if they’d increase their training volume. If you’re a 5.11 climber, you might receive more significant benefits from climbing 20 pitches of 5.10 rather than five pitches of 5.11. Climbing close to your redpoint will quickly pump out your forearms, but not necessarily maximize your fitness.

No Cross Training

Many hardcore climbers like to climb because it’s fun (obviously), but they might avoid other activities that feel more like “typical” exercise. While we can’t necessarily blame people for avoiding other forms of physical activity – such as running, weight lifting, swimming, yoga, etc. – improving your overall fitness/health/strength with a little cross-training can do wonders for your climbing, especially if you’re interested in attempting long days of climbing in the mountains.

Zero Bouldering

Often, gung-ho rope climbers don’t like to spend a day close to the ground on boulders. For some individuals, bouldering doesn’t appear exciting, and they avoid it altogether. That being said, many climbers would benefit by spending more time training on boulders. Regularly mixing bouldering into your training routine will help develop the strength necessary to power through the crux of challenging climbs. Even if it’s only the occasional bouldering workout that gets mixed into your usual routine, bouldering can still be a great way to improve raw strength and athleticism.

Being Inconsistent

Consistency is 90% of the battle when it comes to improving your climbing ability. Many individuals don’t make it to the gym or the crag frequently, and being inconsistent is the biggest and most common training mistake made by climbers. It’s better to do a little bit of training every day than a long workout once a week. The best climbing workouts will do you little good if you’re only training once every week or two; remember, staying in shape is much easier than getting into shape. So be consistent and don’t lose the fitness you already have!

Weak Core Strength

If you’re struggling with difficult routes, especially overhanging routes, improving your core strength is a potential way to improve your climbing ability. Climbers tend to focus on their grip strength; however, difficult rock climbs demand significant amounts of core strength. If you haven’t already, try adding in core workouts to your usual training routine (at home or in the gym) and you might find your climbing strength radically improves.

Failing to Stretch

Most climbers entirely skip stretching, or they lazily partake in it on a rare occasion. Stretching is essential for long-term health and fitness; therefore, it’s essential to fight the temptation to skip stretching and get in your car after a long day of climbing. Actively stretching for 10 minutes following all of your climbing workouts will allow for a quicker recovery, and more frequent climbing outings. Further, it will reduce your risk of injury and improve your chances of being able to climb in the future.

Maximize Your Climbing Fitness

In summary, if you’re trying to maximize your climbing fitness, there are some training mistakes you’re probably making. You’re not alone. Most amateurs don’t have the time/energy/knowledge to maximize their climbing fitness. Above, we’ve done our best to highlight a few mistakes that are commonly made by amateur climbers, and we hope our recommended “corrections” will help you achieve your climbing goals. In short, most climbers will benefit by climbing more pitches (even if they’re easy pitches) and bouldering more (especially if you’re a rope climber that entirely avoids boulders!). Cross training is an integral part of improving your overall climbing fitness, and special attention needs to be paid to developing your core strength. That being said don’t skip stretching, maintaining a stretching routine is vital for your health and longevity.

Most importantly, be consistent! Training a little bit every day is always more beneficial than one or two long training days on the weekends. Keep an eye on the prize, and don’t forget that you have goals to achieve.

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