Training for bouldering on a lead wall?


Original Post
Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40

Most of my climbing outdoors is bouldering - that's what I am psyched on right now, there is plenty of good bouldering nearby and it's very time efficient. I do a tiny bit of trad, but that's more of a rest day activity for me.

However, I would like to spend at least 75% of my gym time (say 3 out of 4 weekly sessions) climbing on a lead wall. I am worried about the impact of repeated bouldering falls on my joints, especially given the recent trend of making high cruxes. Plus, I can't make sense out of the new routesetting style (*). Also, I would like to keep falling on lead so I don't regain my fear of falling.

So, how would I train for bouldering on a lead wall? So far I've been mainly using it to warm up for subsequent hang boarding, but at some point I would have to work on power. Do I try eliminates? Make up my own seqences out of holds from multuple routes? Try really hard short routes (we have a lead section that is probably just a touch taller then the bouldering wall)?

(*) it's pretty hard to believe that not a single gym in the NYC (there are a bunch) has a Moon Board, WTF?

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 83

Toproping very hard routes would work better.

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 30

If you're specifically looking to train power, there are plenty of campus exercises you can do; see .

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,495

I'd avoid leading to train for bouldering. Too many rests. 

Autobelays/top ropes if you want. Treadwall would be better. Or a gym with decent flooring. 

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
Brendan N wrote:

Toproping very hard routes would work better.

Yeah, what I did today was top-rope a bunch of short 12+ and 13- routes at the gym (we don't have anything harder). Still not as "limity" as I want it to be for a power workout, more of a PE type of work. The easiest way is obviously to make up my own problems (hard 2-3 moves really close to the ground), but unfortunately, the hold density on our walls (especially on 45 degree) is insufficient for that.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
John Wilder wrote:

I'd avoid leading to train for bouldering. Too many rests. 

Autobelays/top ropes if you want. Treadwall would be better. Or a gym with decent flooring. 

How would a threadwall help my bouldering? :) Our gym has a very reasonable padding, but the bouldering wall is probably 18 feet high and lately setters started doing stuff like obligatory dynos at the top etc. Not cool. I did a couple sessions on stuff like that and next day my knees/back were killing me.  

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
David Kerkeslager wrote:

If you're specifically looking to train power, there are plenty of campus exercises you can do

Obviously I know and have tried campusing :) However, I have found that for me limit bouldering is a better tool for training power. It's more specific, less boring and it's a full body workout. Maybe when I get to V10 I will feel differently, but for my pedestrian level (v6-v8 is what I am sending outside this year and struggling to get further) just getting on a steep wall and hucking meat between bad holds does the trick. The goal of switching to roped climbing is to save my knees and back, it's a risk management decision :(

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,495
Nivel Egres wrote:

How would a threadwall help my bouldering? :) Our gym has a very reasonable padding, but the bouldering wall is probably 18 feet high and lately setters started doing stuff like obligatory dynos at the top etc. Not cool. I did a couple sessions on stuff like that and next day my knees/back were killing me.  

Ever used a treadwall? Really really good for training power endurance if they're set right.

Oh, your walls are 18'? Dude, just climb up to 12' and drop off. You dont HAVE to finish the problem- especially if you can get the difficulty you want down low. I do this on the regular at my gym (of course, my facility 1) doesnt set high cruxes and 2) doesnt set every boulder to the top of every wall for this exact reason).

pkeds · · Redondo Beach, CA · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 5

What is your aversion to bouldering at the gym? If it is really the fear of falling off cruxes and taking diggers, make up your own problems close to the ground on existing walls or system board that are either limit bouldering moves (moves 1-3 moves that initially feel impossible for strength) or long sequences of hard moves to train power endurance. You don't need a moon board to train strength/power. Moon board problems can also and frequently have hard crux moves at the very top of the wall so im not sure how this would alleviate your fear. 

Also, try lifting weights. Check out power company climbing's blogs and podcasts.

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0
Nivel Egres wrote:

How would a threadwall help my bouldering? :) Our gym has a very reasonable padding, but the bouldering wall is probably 18 feet high and lately setters started doing stuff like obligatory dynos at the top etc. Not cool. I did a couple sessions on stuff like that and next day my knees/back were killing me.  

Maybe I'm being obvious, but there's nothing about 18 foot walls that REQUIRES you to go up 18 feet every time. I'm almost 50. I climb at a gym with high walls. When I boulder, which I do to work on really hard moves that I can't do on lead, I do it on the lower half of our walls. Like you, I don't like falling repeatedly from up high. Just find the problems you need down low and do them there. 

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yeah, I feel like this approach is backwards.  Plenty of people use bouldering to train for lead climbing, but the reverse seems inefficient unless stamina is a problem.  TR/autobelay could work to eliminate concerns about low cruxes, but you will be limited on what routes/style you can do (no extreme overhangs that would better mirror the angle of your average boulder problem).  I agree that you're better off sticking to the boulders and just not finishing problems, particularly if you're treating this as training.

Truth be told, there's a reason why most boulderers are young...

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234

Nivel, I believe you are overthinking this.

Of course you can do limit bouldering on a rope. 

Robyn Erbesfield-Rabatou calls it "bouldering in the sky."

You just need to get to the moves you want to work, by hook or by crook.

Yard on the draws, go bolt to bolt, climb an adjacent easy route, stick clip your way up, whatever to takes.

Try to pick problems high enough you dont need to worry about ground fall.

Have a draw so you can go in direct and give your belayer a break.

Know how to boink if the route is steep.

Experience will teach you when it's better to clip up for shorter falls or just take the falls while doing your training.

TR is fine for slabs/vert but not for the steep.

I think the big problem will be finding anything hard enough on routes to qualify as limit bouldering for you.

Also, while you won't hit the ground as in bouldering, multiple route falls aren't always that easy on the body either.

@John Byrnes- I don't see how the TW could possibly help Nivel improve his bouldering power

He may benefit from some metabolic training, but if I understand correctly, that wasn't his question..

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
AndrewArroz wrote:

Maybe I'm being obvious, but there's nothing about 18 foot walls that REQUIRES you to go up 18 feet every time. I'm almost 50. I climb at a gym with high walls. When I boulder, which I do to work on really hard moves that I can't do on lead, I do it on the lower half of our walls. Like you, I don't like falling repeatedly from up high. Just find the problems you need down low and do them there. 

As I said, the brand new setting style is to avoid hard moves down low and set high dynamic cruxes. My approach has been to make up my own problems but the hold density is too low for that. Sunday I was doing limit bouldering using feet chips on the 45 degree wall :) 

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,495
Nivel Egres wrote:

As I said, the brand new setting style is to avoid hard moves down low and set high dynamic cruxes. My approach has been to make up my own problems but the hold density is too low for that. Sunday I was doing limit bouldering using feet chips on the 45 degree wall :) 

Imho, you should give some open and honest feedback to the setting staff. I can't imagine what logic the head setter is using putting cruxes at the top of an 18' wall for every problem in the gym. That cannot be good for business, not to mention the health and safety of the customers. 

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
pkeds wrote:

What is your aversion to bouldering at the gym? If it is really the fear of falling off cruxes and taking diggers, make up your own problems close to the ground on existing walls or system board that are either limit bouldering moves (moves 1-3 moves that initially feel impossible for strength) or long sequences of hard moves to train power endurance. You don't need a moon board to train strength/power. Moon board problems can also and frequently have hard crux moves at the very top of the wall so im not sure how this would alleviate your fear. 

Also, try lifting weights. Check out power company climbing's blogs and podcasts.

I am just trying to limit the impact of training on my body. It comes from repetitive falls up high with new style where problems on 45 have first holds head-high. Also, the steep walls have literally 3-4 problems lately so my choices are limited. Maybe I should just switch gyms.

The reason I am so in love with MB (I have been using one before it became big, started in 2009) is the variety of problems. You literally get thousands of problems to pick and if something does not fit or feels wrong, there is plenty of options. Plus, MB is not nearly as tall as our walls and there are plenty of problems where just doing the first 2-3 moves from SDS is a project :)

Good point about the weights, I keep thinking that I should do that, but I end up climbing instead 

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0
John Wilder wrote:

Imho, you should give some open and honest feedback to the setting staff. I can't imagine what logic the head setter is using putting cruxes at the top of an 18' wall for every problem in the gym. That cannot be good for business, not to mention the health and safety of the customers. 

This ^. Or move to a new gym, I guess. Seems totally screwy that a gym would have all the hard moves 18 feet up. Particularly if you're talking about overhanging moves. Most gyms I've bouldered at have the overhanging stuff down low and then transition to more vertical stuff higher up. 

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 40
Mark E Dixon wrote:

I think the big problem will be finding anything hard enough on routes to qualify as limit bouldering for you.

Yup, even 5.13s at the gym (I don't think we have anything harder at the moment) have any real limit moves, it's all power endurance. I had a chance to think about this idea and decided that moving to a different gym might be the right answer. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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