Bouldering for Climbing Training

  • Creator
  • #44012
    Joseph Dale

    I was wondering what place (if any) bouldering plays in training for climbing. After reading a lot of the UA posts around training for climbing the focus seems to be on sport climbing in a gym or on an auto-belay, with extended sessions on the wall.

    This makes sense to me in terms of building endurance, but does bouldering play a part in building max strength and thus ultimately endurance? How should/could bouldering fit into a climbing training if I had say 4-6 hours to climb a week? Or should I just focus on auto-belay time?

    My goal is to improve my outdoor climbing ability but I can only climb outdoors on weekends.

    The other factor for me personally is limited roped wall access, but extensive access to indoor bouldering. For context, I’m currently climbing 5c (5.9).


Posted In: Climbing

  • Participant
    David Thompson on #44014

    Hi Joseph,

    You are correct that bouldering stimulates the development of max-strength, and through that, ultimately endurance. As a general rule, max-strength type efforts produce the best training effect when they are performed when the body and mind are fresh.

    A common type of max-strength/power session done on the bouldering wall is called “Limit Bouldering”. A search of this term on Google will direct you toward websites that outline how to do it. Limit bouldering is basically the process of working a 3-7 (+/-) move boulder problem that is at or above your current ability, and taking long rests in-between. I won’t go into great detail about the protocol because it can be found by a Google search. Just note that workouts of this intensity should be performed when relatively fresh, so in general, limit bouldering is best performed no more than a couple of times a week, in conjunction with other longer duration efforts that target endurance either afterward or on subsequent days of the week.

    Hope this helps.

    Dylan Addis on #46172

    I have a similar problem. My closest climbing gym has a phenomenal training setup with every hangboard/campus board you can imagine, and great options for weights and cardio equipment. It’s a phenomenal place for strength training. The climbing however consists of tons of bouldering but only 4 autobelay stations that are geared towards small children. My guess is that the hardest “route” ever set on the autobelay wall has probably been 5.6. I’ve been coming at this problem by using the autobelay with boots and an alpine pack and setting a timer for 25-30min and continuously up and down climbing on the autobelay trying to keep things really smooth, efficient, and (emphasis) easy. Alternatively, when I want to practice slightly more complex footwork or moves I up-and-down climb boulder problems that are several grades lower than my limit (I stick to problems that I can comfortably onsight both up and down without getting worked). I avoid the overhanging sections and try to stick to vertical faces. I link a bunch of easy problems together so that I feel as though I am working on endurance but never really pulling any powerful moves. Probably not the best option, but it lets me make due with what is available and convenient to my house. In my mind, if I don’t have muscle soreness the next day and I feel like I could go back and do the same workout the day after (currently doing that about 1x per week) then I consider that successful. Mind you, I’m not using this as a true muscular endurance workout at the moment – more to keep some climbing form while I’m focused on building aerobic base and general strength ramping up to a springtime trail-running objective prior to launching into specific training for an alpine rock objective in mid-summer. Personally I like up and down climbing – makes you stick with stuff that’s within your limit and downclimbing in a pack and boots is not something I used to practice before but obviously is pretty applicable to alpine climbing. Also, if I can’t climb it in boots or approach shoes, it’s not a problem I’m going to include. Interested to hear how other people are doing it.

    Jo on #63361

    I’m not an expert but I’ve been climbing regularly for 4ish years and started bouldering about 3 years ago…I’m a huge fan, I think it has helped my technique immensely in a way that I haven’t found climbing on the ropes, especially indoors.

    Sure it’s great for strength, but if you are challenging yourself bouldering will force you to break down into fine detail movements and body positions, and be more creative with how you move – this is how I think it’s been hugely beneficial to me, especially as someone who is newer to climbing and doing moderate grades.

    It will also help with your overhang technique/confidence if you do some steep boulders, which will help a ton as you progress your grades. I find I’m sometimes too pumped roped up on the wall to think much about my technique. If you practice this bouldering better technique will start to come naturally.

    I wasn’t able to do any of the boulders on my gym’s (steep) bouldering wall when I started but I persisted and am seeing huge benefits now…It won’t help your headspace with lead climbing so much, or your aerobic capacity(if that’s the right word), but it will make you move better and help with technique and strength.

    If I were you I’d go crazy autobelaying 4-6h a week and would definitely mix in at least one solid bouldering session during the week, or more depending on how intense/long they are.

    Just saw this realize this is a super late response!

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