So you’ve decided you’re pretty into this whole climbing thing. You’ve made it past the basics, caught the bug, and now you’re starting to wonder: How can I actually get good at this?
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to take your indoor rock climbing to the next level. That includes:
- Technique drills
- How to train for climbing
- Intermediate climbing skills
- Your gear list
The secret to ticking harder grades isn’t always in getting stronger—often, you’ll see bigger gains by improving your technique. Try these drills regularly for better climbing efficiency and stamina.
When you make a big lateral reach with one arm, swing your opposite leg outward as a counter balance. This is called “flagging,” and it’s a crucial skill for routes with small or insufficient footholds.
Drill: Pick three routes. Try to incorporate as many flags as possible in each.
This is a crucial tool for pulling your hips into the wall to gain reach, and it’s especially beloved among shorter climbers. The trick: After latching a hold with your heel, point your toe downward as much as possible to drive the heel into the hold. Then rock up and over your heel as you pull up on the next hold.
Drill: Pick three routes. Incorporate as many heel hooks as you can in each.
Instead of climbing with your hips and shoulders square to the wall, try twisting to gain reach and keep your center of gravity over your feet: Turn your hips so that your side is closest to the wall. Try twisting your inside leg in and down into a “drop-knee” for even greater reach.
Drill: Pick three routes. Incorporate as many twists and/or drop-knees as possible into each.
Subtract holds to challenge yourself and add variety.
Drill: Complete a route that’s moderately difficult for you. Now, pick a hold to eliminate and try the route again. When you’ve sent that, eliminate a second hold, and so on.
Add moves to challenge your friends and boost endurance.
Drill: Do three moves. Then have a friend repeat those three moves, plus one more of their choosing. Take turns, adding one move each time, until the route is too long to complete.
How to Train for Climbing
When you’re new to climbing, the fastest way to get better is just to climb more. Try to get into the gym two to three days per week (be sure to take at least 24 hours of rest between hard sessions). When you’ve been doing that for a while, consider supplementing your climbing routine with two days per week in the weight room, focusing on these key areas:
Weak fingers are one of the biggest things holding intermediate climbers back. Weak fingers are also prone to injury, so a robust strengthening routine is a good way to ensure they can take the loads you need them to—provided you train with good technique and a healthy amount of caution. Use a hangboard and fingerboard; we recommend hiring an experienced climbing coach if you’re new to finger training.
Increasing your flexibility is one of the easiest ways to boost your climbing efficiency. After all, the closer you can get your hips to the wall, the more your weight will be centered over your feet rather than hanging from your arms. After you warm up and before you climb, spend a few minutes stretching. (Pigeon pose and frog pose are both favorites.)
Maybe you can’t quite get to the top of the wall yet. Maybe you burn out after 30 minutes at the gym no matter what you’re climbing. If endurance is your issue, try this ARC training program. You can also do sets of two to three sport routes or three to four boulders in a row without pause. Repeat four times, resting 10 to 15 minutes between each set.
Your core is what keeps your body close to the wall and helps you maintain control during delicate footwork and big reaches. Consider adding 20 minutes of core exercises after your climbing sessions to build strength in your abs, back, and obliques.
Nearly all climbing movement is initiated from the shoulders. Once or twice a week, spend 15 to 20 minutes on strengthening and stabilization exercises to help prevent injury to these complex joints.