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5 Tips to Become a Better Rock Climber

by Abbie Mood Oct 21, 2009
You’ve climbed a few times, but you’re still looking to improve. Abbie Mood offers some tips to help you move up in the scene.

Hit the gym

Train your whole core with a variety of ab and lower back exercises – crunches, leg lifts from the ground, leg raises from a hanging bar or captain’s chair, and plank. Do some push-ups, even if you have to do wall or knee push-ups to start.

Building pull power can greatly increase the level of your climbing, so pull-ups should also be a major part of your training.

Throw some cardio into your workout regimen: it will make your heart more efficient at pumping blood, allowing you to push harder for longer periods of time. Aim to jog or bike for 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times a week.

Technique, technique, technique

While you’re working on getting stronger, practicing your technique will help you climb better.

Learning how to use drop knees, backsteps, and heel hooks can make a huge difference (You can find definitions of those moves here).

You can practice your footwork by climbing slab (a less-than-vertical rock face), playing the “silent feet” game (move your feet as quietly as possible), and watching your feet for proper placement on footholds.

Respect the rest break

I know what it feels like to be so psyched on a route that you just want to keep trying as soon as you come off, but don’t: it would be a shame to injure yourself just as you started to improve.

The general rule is to rest twice as long as you’ve been on the wall, with a minimum rest time of 2 minutes. For example, if you spend 2 minutes on a route, rest for 4 minutes before trying it again.

When you’re on a climbing trip, honor the rest day – your muscles and tendons will thank you.

Get the right shoes

You don’t need to go out and buy fancy shoes to get started, but once you become a more skilled climber, it will be helpful to have the right footwear. A good pair of shoes will allow you to place your feet on holds in such a way that you’re immediately ready to move off again.

Get climbing shoes that fit snugly and feel comfortable, usually 1-2 sizes smaller than your street shoe size. Shoes range in cost from $70 to $140 in outdoor sports shops such as R.E.I.

You can buy shoes at most climbing gyms as well, but the selection is usually limited.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California, you can get shoes at a significant discount at the Evolv factory store in Garden Grove or the Five Ten in Redlands. You can still get good deals on their sites, but you need to know your shoe size.

As real rock tends to wear out shoes more quickly than climbing walls, many of the climbers I know have a cheaper pair of shoes for the gym and a nicer pair for outside.

Read up

My last piece of advice is to take advantage of all the tips, photos, and videos available online and in print:

Momentum Video Magazine, frequently updated with videos of hard bouldering sends.

Climbing Narcissist, a one stop blog for daily updates in the climbing world. Climbing Narc goes through all the other blogs and posts daily videos, photos, and other updates.

Urban Climber magazine focuses on bouldering, and is my favorite climbing magazine in general. The magazine has giveaways, profiles, and feature articles about bouldering spots and injuries.

Climbing magazine has been around since 1970, and focuses on the climbing world, with the occasional bouldering news mention.

– Training for Climbing by Eric Horst. Written by one of climbing’s old pros, this is a very comprehensive training guide, with exercises and training plans for inexperienced and advanced climbers alike.

-The Dosage and King Lines DVD series are all about strong men and women sending moderate to hard climbs.

Community Connection

Novice climber? Matador Sports’ First Timer’s Guide to the Climbing Gym can help you get on your feet.

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