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Good training plans for a new climber?

Original Post
Jeffrey K · · Seattle, WA · Joined 21 days ago · Points: 0

Hey everyone.

I'm a new but excited climber looking for tips on a solid training plan to accompany climbing.

After about a month and a half I'm bouldering V2s and V3s and some easy V4s. Route wise I'm at 5/10a to 5/10b. All indoor so far but eager to get outside.

Besides just climbing a LOT I've started doing a round of 4x4s to end my bouldering and route sessions and that has helped a lot with pump endurance.

It's a little overwhelming search for training plans to accompany climbing and I was hoping to get some input!

Specifically I'm looking for something I can do a few hours a week to help strengthen my climbing ability and prevent injury. I've been doing some Yoga right now but that's about it.

I have experience doing weighted exercises so I'm comfortable with intermediate weight lifting technique.

Any advice?

Abram Herman · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20

This probably isn't the answer you want, but it's the correct answer: if you've been climbing for less than a year or even two, the best training for you right now is to just climb, a lot (but not to the point of overuse injury). You are not at a level where you need to be training, and your body is not at a place yet where it can handle climbing-specific strength training without significant risk of injury. And overall, if you want to improve in your climbing, what you need more than anything right now is better technique, not more strength.

The only possible training I would recommend to you is injury prevention training, meaning working out the opposing muscle groups from those you use in climbing. e.g. pushups, forearm extensors, etc. You could do some core work, too, if you want.

For perspective, I didn't do a lick of training until I was climbing 5.13. My personal philosophy, and I'm sure some will disagree, is that strength training often becomes an excuse and a hindrance until you have super solid technique. I hear it all the time: "I just need more endurance to climb that [5.10/5.11/whatever]!" No, you need to use the strength you have more efficiently, use your arms less, use your feet more, and not rely on your strength to get you through everything. The tricky thing about progressing in climbing is that, whether it's your mental game, your technique, your footwork, or your actual strength that's holding you back, it's ALWAYS going to feel like it's your strength that's holding you back, because your arms will pump out and you'll fall off. Falling off is basically always caused by your arms getting too tired to continue; but that doesn't in any way mean the root cause is a lack of strength. Don't let yourself fall into that trap!

And especially if you've only been climbing for a month and a half, and are on V2 & V3, I can say without a doubt that you definitely shouldn't be doing any strength training at this point. It's just way too early, and you'll get way more out of training your technique at this point than training strength. And if all you do is train strength at this stage, you can be stronger than Magnus Midtbo and you're still just going to hit a wall at some point where you realize that all the strength in the world won't get you any farther if you don't have the fundamental technique required to use it effectively.

So have fun climbing, and climb a lot, and work on your weaknesses in terms of technique (not strength), and before you know it V4 will be your warmup grade! :-)

edit to add: Here's a "training plan" to work on right now, for your technique. Whatever you don't want to do, do it. "I don't want to get on that route, look at all those heinous slopers!" Get on that route. "I don't want to get on that roof, it's so steep!" Get on that roof. This is the best way to progress and become a well-rounded climber.

Graden Swett · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 80

I came here to say:
Just go climbing.
But Abram beat me to it.
He's right.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

Abram has good advice in general, for the OP. That boulder grade to route disparity (assuming gym sets proper for the grade) shows more strength isn’t needed. If you can climb v3/4 you can lead 11+ to 12-.

This is all ASSuming the gym grades properly. Below the v5 level a lot of gyms are ridiculously soft. With no mileage on rock or other gym sets to compare you don’t know where you’re at.

For the op, drop 4x4 boulders, that’s power endurance training and not what you need. If you want to do some type of training that will help you adapt physiologically and technique wise do a couple of ARC sessions a week. That will force you to learn efficiency and is a great way to hone footwork if you do it with focused intent.

Sam Deshler · · Southern California · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 13

Not trying to turn this into an echo chamber, but all of the above are correct.  Technique and efficiency should be your primary focus, not strength.  Just go climb!  :)

I recommend reading John Sherman's book "Better Bouldering (How to Climb)".  You may know him as the climber who invented the V scale.  In the book, he talks about the importance of technique and efficiency.  He's an excellent writer to and the book is easy to pick up for 10-15 minutes here and there.  

Here's the latest version:


amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

To OP - to give you some idea of "real" bouldering and route grades - it is almost consensus that V1 is a high 5.10, 5.10c/d.
There are quite a few discussions here on mpdotcom touching upon comparisons.

And yeah - just climb. If you want to do something to benefit you in the long run - start working on shoulder mobility exercises, stretching, opposing muscles, proper technique for doing pull-ups.

Jeffrey K · · Seattle, WA · Joined 21 days ago · Points: 0

Thank you Abram! Plus everyone else!

I'm definitely looking more for a plan to help with injury prevention and opposition training!

I'm very happy with progress so far and not trying to do any crazy strength training; more looking to do anything I can to stay healthy and injury free.

A lot of the stuff I read is about campus/hangboards and those are absolutely not things I will touch for a long time.  But I haven't been able to find a good guideline for opposititon/injury prevention for beginners beyond what exercises can be good. I'm trying to figure out how often/much I should be doing the exercises to optimize injury prevention but not overwork myself.

And Yes, my endurance right now is my
weakpoint on routes. I'm comfortable with the problems on higher 5.10s but my arms get pumped out and I'm not super comfortable with the rope yet. Only really started routes this last week, was only bouldering first 5 weeks.

And yes, my main bouldering gym grades really soft up to at least V4. V3s elsewhere I often can't do. V2 is about my actual bouldering grade, I think. Plus part of it is just that I have a very long reach and it seems like that alone will get me through some of these V2/V3 routes.

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 345

There's been a trickle-down effect in climbing for a while-- things like permadraws, tick marks, projecting, pinkpointing, etc. used to be largely limited to higher level climbs and folks hoping to break into advanced climbing, but are now becoming common for easier and easier climbs.  Apparently training is following a similar path.

Victor K · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 165

Yep, everybody is right. but there is one thing you can add to a climbing session. There's a handful of antagonist muscle exercises that keep you balanced. You should do these so you don't get all goofy looking.

Travis Bieber · · Spearfish, SD · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 45

What about a training plan for those who only get to climb twice a month or so?

Cory Furrow · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25

Just climb.  Work on improving technique and you're naturally get stronger.  If anything in terms of training, it wouldn't hurt to look into injury prevention exercises.  

Jeffrey K · · Seattle, WA · Joined 21 days ago · Points: 0
Victor K wrote: Yep, everybody is right. but there is one thing you can add to a climbing session. There's a handful of antagonist muscle exercises that keep you balanced. You should do these so you don't get all goofy looking.

This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

Horst can’t publish some good info, but this comment on bench pressing is absolute bull shit:

“Keep the total weight less than 50 percent of your total body weight—go much heavier and you risk adding unnecessary muscle mass”

No. If you do not go to failure lifting for many sets while also eating a significant calorie surplus you won’t put on muscle mass. 

Christian B · · West Hills, CA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 75

Look good doing it, have some style.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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