Everyone loves easily digestible tidbits on how to improve their climbing. You know what’s even better? Easily digestible tidbits from the best in the world! If you’re looking for a few golden nuggets of beta to get better, why not go straight to the source? Below are six tips from six of the greatest names in the sport, arranged in the order of how you might apply them during a session. There are links listed after the pointers to better explain each one and help you implement them. Enjoy!
Do a proper warm up.
Taking the time to warm your muscles up before climbing will not only work to prevent injury but will also help you perform better and make the most of your time at the gym. Angy takes about 90 minutes to complete her warm up, and while that’s probably unrealistic for most of us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t scale that down a little to fit in with our schedules. The link below provides an outline for Angy’s warm up routine.
Train with an equally strong partner, one who favors a different style.
I can certainly vouch for this one first hand, there’s something about working a problem with a friend that makes you push yourself harder than you would if you were to go at it alone. That training partner will bring different technique elements to the table and you will be able to help each other improve, both mentally and physically. The link below is a short video of Ondra further explaining his thinking on this.
If you’re looking to link up with a training partner, the “Coastal Climbing Community” Facebook page is a great place to start, additionally there is a bulletin board in the yoga area where you will find pre made slips that allow you to post your contact info, climbing ability, and when you’re available to climb.
Take deep breaths, ask yourself “next time, what do I do differently?”
This is actually a combination of two pieces of advice Ashima has given over the years that I feel complement each other well. She mentions the power of taking deep breaths, and closing her eyes for ten seconds in order to let her senses rest, it’s a method she uses to regain the feeling of being in control. It’s easy to get frustrated to the point of tunnel vision, which inevitably results in more frustration. Taking a few seconds to reset your mind could go a long way in turning a session around. Additionally, Ashima mentions the idea of asking yourself how you might change something the next time you approach the problem, as one of the primary themes of her new children’s book, How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of A Rock Climbing Champion. Below are the links to provide more insight.
It should also be noted that it took considerable more searching online to find advice from Ashima than any other pro on this list, she appears to be quite modest and if you ask me that’s some fantastic advice in itself.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Eventually every climber gets to a point of plateau in their ability, and simply trying to reach the top over and over again won’t necessarily get them past this plateau. That’s where Honnold recommends taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses in order to figure out a game plan to move forward. Work those moves that you might be subconsciously (or consciously) avoiding because you’re not great at. (Plot twist: you’re not great at them BECAUSE you’ve been avoiding them.) The following is a link further explaining this idea, and more climbing tips from Honnold.
Sharma is notorious for his long held belief that “just climbing” is more than enough for a successful training regimen, and when you look at his absurdly long list of climbing accomplishments, it’s pretty hard to argue. So when he finally changes his tune at the age of 35 and tries a training program, then mentions that he’d be willing to keep some of these practices after the program was over, it seems smart to listen to what those practices are. Sharma found benefit in the circuits that his trainer, Paxti Usobaiga, was having him do. Climbing specific circuits such as four by fours, used to analyze movement, and more conditioning centered circuits to improve overall fitness, were two parts of Sharma’s program that we could all benefit from. Below are the links for the full interview with Chris Sharma, and another filled with different circuits and how to do them.
Foam Rolling and Actual Rest.
Taking care of your body after your workout will allow you to fully recover and give you the chance to give your all at the next session. It’s a mental component as well, if you go to the gym with a nagging shoulder pain, chances are you won’t have the same confidence you would without it. Sasha DiGiulian goes to great lengths to take care of her body post-climb, all of the methods she utilizes are listed in the link below. Some of these aren’t readily available or might cost more than we’re willing to spend, however there is a foam roller right there at Coastal, and we are more than capable of listening to our bodies and knowing when we should take an extra day off instead of pushing it. While this might not sound like the “coolest” approach to getting better, it will allow for a more sustainable climbing practice. Remember, you’re definitely not getting any better taking months off for a torn rotator cuff. Be smart, rest when you need to. If you’re unfamiliar with a foam rolled, I’ve attached a link to a comprehensive article from REI on the topic.
There you have it, six tips from six of the world’s best climbers. But remember, to get to the level that these individuals have, or to simply improve from where you are now, there’s no replacement for hard work and consistency. For these tips to actually work, you can’t just read them and think about them, you have to actually implement them, and not stop using them after a week. Keep showing up, keep training hard, and keep listening to these people who are clearly doing something right.