A Plea to Gym Setters


Original Post
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 205

I think a climbing gym is a fantastic place to improve your physical skills at rock climbing in a time efficient manner. However, over the years the setting style and hold selection has begun to diverge significantly from accurately representing what one may encounter on the rock.

What I generally find are an abundance of slopers, pinches, gigantic half-basketballs, and showy "video game" sequences that have all the bros lining up at 6 pm. I guess I have no skin in the game of the gym business, and I fully recognize that fun = revenue, but am I wrong in assuming that many people go to the gym to get better at rock climbing? Where are all the miserable foot jibs and crimps?

I guess other than a rant, I'm hoping there can be a renewed effort to get climbing gyms more focused on representing outdoors, and less focused on re-creating the comp circuit. I've been thrilled at the addition of great supplemental training equipment (hangboards, campus boards, etc) in recent years, but I still feel like the setting and hold selection is not up to par in most gyms I visit (there are exceptions). The end.

sherb · · Loveland, Ohio & Wheat Ridg... · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 0

Hahaha .... abundance of half-basketballs!

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,765

I would agree on the need for more interesting small foot placements, but lots of finger crimps just end up hurting people. Then they can't keep training and having fun and the gym suffers. Slopers are much better overall for training and make you be more aware of subtle body positioning.Get outside if you want the outdoors experience (and don't try to make the outdoors like a gym)

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 50

My plea to gym setters: Please, more crazy fun routes! A few routes with all crimps and doubtful feet are OK, but a few routes is enough.

I don't have time to climb outdoors much, so for me gym climbing is mostly a fun way to stay in shape, not training for outdoors. More fun = more fun, even if I never do a "real" rock climb that uses the moves and skills that I learn.

Danforth · · Cody, WY · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 0

As someone working hard to open a gym, I've come to a realization. If you want to be successful, "real" rock climbers are not your primary market. I think most gyms work hard to be friendly towards climbers and their training goals but it's not where you actually make money. Climbers are too smal a population and too fickle (how many climbers will be in your gym during sendtember?) to be counted on. Instead, gyms have to cater to those young professionals, the crossfitters and the birthday parties. If you're a good gym, you'll help build your climbing community, but that's tough to do if you can't keep the lights on. That being said, there are some amazing, hardcore training gyms out there. Tennessee Bouldering Authority comes to mind. But that gym has a massive population of Very Serious Climbers (VSC) to pull from.

Stephen C · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

I agree!

For me it's hard to get a good gym workout that will actually help me improve at climbing on rock. The biggest miss (in my opinion) is lack of small fingery holds combined with bad feet. Gyms seem to have more large hand holds (half basketball or larger) these days with large and far apart feet with jump moves. Those can be somewhat effective for upper body strength training, but don't help me much with finger strength.

I know everybody is different and has their own unique training needs so maybe these comp style gym routes/problems really help some people train for rock. They don't help me. I have better luck with my home wall, hangboards, campus board, gymnastic rings, and things like that than with the typical half basketball filled boulder problems in the local gyms.

I do like the showy/comp problems. I just don't enjoy it when that's all that is in the gym.

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 205

Danforth, I completely see where you are coming from.

Here's the Great Compromise: All gyms shall cater to the fun crowd, but shall build a Moon Board :)

Danforth · · Cody, WY · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 0

I like it!

jmmlol · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

You can blame Kilter for ruining holds.

As far as setting, they should leave the party tricks to V6 and below, because the money making crowd doesn't climb above that.

Luke Bertelsen · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Feb 2005 · Points: 2,441

Any good commercial climbing facility should have an array of climbing styles and grades, including the style you're looking for, but something to keep in mind is that there is a growing and logical disconnect between indoor and outdoor climbing. Not all, dare I say most, gym climbers climb outdoors and may never climb outdoors so hoping for indoors to emulate outdoors is also not something most gyms will likely strive to cater towards.

Climbing gyms spent the last decade trying to move away from being just like outdoor climbing, which is a good thing IMO.

Brady3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 15

My complaint about gyms has always been that to make routes harder they simply make the holds smaller and farther apart, at least that's what I've noticed on the roped routes. That's why I tend to prefer bouldering in a gym, the routes are more technical.

To be clear, I'm fine with small holds (especially for feet), if there are other holds that make them more usable based off body position. Also I'm short, so once the holds get too far apart the routes become exponentially more difficult.

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 50
Brady3 wrote:My complaint about gyms has always been that to make routes harder they simply make the holds smaller and farther apart, at least that's what I've noticed on the roped routes. That's why I tend to prefer bouldering in a gym, the routes are more technical. To be clear, I'm fine with small holds (especially for feet), if there are other holds that make them more usable based off body position. Also I'm short, so once the holds get too far apart the routes become exponentially more difficult.
Sounds like the gyms you've been to have lousy route setters. Anybody can make a route harder by swapping in crimps for the jugs. Making it interesting and harder takes skill.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Training on crimps is a bad idea. Getting injured at the gym is just plain dumb. I agree with you about the feet, but this comes from the fact that creating screw-on microedges is very hard and nobody uses featured walls anymore.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Summing up:

1. Gyms are for profit
2. The product offered is market driven.
3. There may be an niche opportunity for gyms that cater to a particular style.

Stephen C · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:Training on crimps is a bad idea. Getting injured at the gym is just plain dumb. I agree with you about the feet, but this comes from the fact that creating screw-on microedges is very hard and nobody uses featured walls anymore.
Training on crimps and/or losing weight are the only ways to get better at crimping. Also, I think gyms moving away from featured walls is a good thing.
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 205
Ted Pinson wrote:Training on crimps is a bad idea. Getting injured at the gym is just plain dumb.
Training on crimps is a bad idea if you don't know your limitations and don't know how to systematically increase resistance. Jumping on something beyond your limits and cranking as hard as you can is not training. People that know how to train generally injure themselves less often.

jmmlol wrote:As far as setting, they should leave the party tricks to V6 and below, because the money making crowd doesn't climb above that.
1+
Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 0
Danforth wrote:As someone working hard to open a gym, I've come to a realization. If you want to be successful, "real" rock climbers are not your primary market. I think most gyms work hard to be friendly towards climbers and their training goals but it's not where you actually make money. Climbers are too smal a population and too fickle (how many climbers will be in your gym during sendtember?) to be counted on. Instead, gyms have to cater to those young professionals, the crossfitters and the birthday parties. If you're a good gym, you'll help build your climbing community, but that's tough to do if you can't keep the lights on. That being said, there are some amazing, hardcore training gyms out there. Tennessee Bouldering Authority comes to mind. But that gym has a massive population of Very Serious Climbers (VSC) to pull from.
climbing friend,

gym
Zacks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 5

I've been mostly climbing trad outside since i moved out west and I go to the local bouldering gym, they set a lot of modern problems with tons of volumes ect.

I LOVE THIS! i love the modern problems, i love the volumes!

this has made me a better trad climber! but no seriously, i don't expect to train cracks at the gym, (even though there is a wooden crack trainer i occasionally use) you know what akward weird stem problems exist outside, sometimes you need to do a funky mantle I even did a 6 pitch route outside that has a campus traverse (and the route only goes 10c) same route had a crazy stem crux of weird body positioning.

How is a gym supposed to set a friction slab? like a pure friction slab, its like oh once you can climb this blank wall you can always climb it I demand new routes at the gym constantly! My gym delivers with twice weekly setting. the crazy balance problem on weird holds might not look like a friction slab, but it will make me a better climber with better balance, and when i get on something completely different outside the skills will cross over.

You want to train crimps for an outdoor sufferfest route? go hang board in the basement. most gyms have a couple hang boards. have at it

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 205
Zacks wrote:You want to train crimps for an outdoor sufferfest route? go hang board in the basement. most gyms have a couple hang boards. have at it
No. I hangboard plenty, but that's not even half of the equation. My point is not as simple as add more crimps. What I'm saying is I'd like more options that fully represent the combination of hold type and movement patterns found on the rock, specifically at the harder grades. Hanging on a board, while valuable, provides nothing for movement specificity, hence my request for bad feet etc. I'm not advocating for 100% crimps here.
Chris Owen · · Big Bear Lake · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 9,663

The gym I used to go to, which shall remain unnamed, had V0s which were like ladders, and V1s which were impossible unless you could campus 1/4". Forget about V2 and up.

Crazymonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 154

I climb in gyms/my garage for the strength and to put myself in the scenarios that can be exaggerated in a way that makes them repeatable to become muscle memory with that movement. In that way the gyms are great, but yeah you gotta have a good balance of both indoor and outdoors if you are wishing to improve in the outdoor climbing world.

there are a lot of people cool with pulling plastic too for the rest of their life, to each their own, and please keep it up so that I don't have crowded areas out there haha!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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