9 Secrets to Improving Rock Climbing Endurance

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Do you wish you could stay on the wall longer, red pointing ever more difficult and longer routes and bouldering problems? Here are nine fantastic methods to improve your rock climbing endurance.

  • Buy a climbing book or video and relentlessly practice technique.
    Better technique results in more efficiency on the wall, which, in turn, means you last longer before getting tired.
  • Lift weights, focusing on your core, back, shoulders, and arms (girls, this means you too).
    Weight training can be done after you climb or as a stand-alone workout.
  • 4x4s: Climb/boulder 4 problems in a row, rest 5 minutes, repeat for 3 more sets.
    Select four different bouldering problems (or use the same one if you want). Climb all four in a row without rest. Then rest five minutes, and repeat three more times on new problems. You can make this workout more difficult by reducing your rest period, choosing harder or longer problems, doing more sets (i.e. 5x4s), doing more supersets (4x5s), down climbing each problem, or by wearing light weights on your ankles, wrists, or harness.
  • Do 30-50 bouldering problems, with 1-2 minutes rest between each.
    Do all the problems within 60 to 90 minutes. You can do a similar workout by climbing 15-25 top rope routes, made much more do-able if you have an auto-belay that you can monopolize.
  • Down climb every problem or route.
    This will drastically reduce the total number of problems you’ll be able to climb, so wait until the end of your day if you prefer.
  • Climb, down climb, climb, etc. until you can’t, rest 5-10 minutes, repeat
    Whether climbing or bouldering, perform each super-set with no rest in between routes or problems, except for the few seconds it take to walk over to the next problem and begin. If you’re climbing, consider finding a group of routes clumped together (in order to avoid having to tie in somewhere else), or else simply climb and re-climb the same route over and over until you can’t.
  • Traverse laps around the gym, staying on the wall for 10-30 minutes, rest, repeat
    This variation need not be technically difficult. The point is to stay on the wall for as long as possible, 10-30 minutes or more, for at least two or three sets. Find a corner or some jugs to rest on, but whatever you do, don’t come off the wall until you simply cannot stay up any longer.
  • Play Add On with a friend until exhaustion
    Add On is a really fun bouldering game to play with one or more friends. Start by bouldering three moves, then coming down. Each successive climber must repeat the entire progression identically, then adding three more. The winner is the last climber to complete all the moves without falling off. Once someone wins, rest a few minutes and play again.
  • Do any of the above variations while wearing a SCUBA weight belt/vest
    Weighted arm and ankle bands work too. Or you could simply wear lots of protection on your harness, mimicking multi-pitch trad climbing, ice climbing, big walls, and other real life climbing scenarios. Just don’t add so much weight that you can’t climb enough to truly exhaust yourself at a deep level.
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