August 31, 2021

How to Train for Bouldering? (OFF and ON Wall Training)

by Bernice

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that makes use of explosive movements and agility.

It is different from rock climbing because the height of the climb is not more than 15 feet, and it doesn’t need a rope and harness on the course.

It doesn’t need a rope and harness because it is reliant on pure and raw strength.

Though the route may be shorter than rock climbing, the obstacles are much more challenging, and it exhausts the muscles to a whole lot different level.

Before we proceed with the techniques on how to train for bouldering, let’s take a look at the difference between bouldering and rock climbing.


Table of Contents
How to Train For Bouldering
How to Train for Bouldering?

A Quick View on the Difference Between Bouldering vs. Rock Climbing

The most evident difference between bouldering and rock climbing is the height of the climb.

The route of rock climbing is longer, and it needs a lot of muscle endurance and stamina. It’s the marathon or climbing.

On the other hand, bouldering is like sprinting it needs a lot of explosive strength, speed, and agility.

It is the kind of climb that is sweet, short, and precise.

They both require proper stretching before climbing and a great deal of muscle strength; let’s examine the muscle groups used in both.

What Are the Major Muscle Groups Involved in Bouldering and Rock Climbing?

All of the techniques in rock climbing can be applied to bouldering; the only difference is training the specific muscle group to become more efficient in bouldering.

Bouldering takes a lot of skill and technique, but we can’t deny that training in any sport needs a great deal of muscle work to achieve a goal and become efficient.

The major muscle group used in rock climbing and bouldering is the upper body, including the back, biceps, chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

You use the whole of the muscle groups to hold and maneuver the body during the climb.

The second but the most essential part is the core.

It is the secondary but most important part of any climbing activity as it activates the whole body and stabilizes the movement during the climb.

Last but not least is the lower body which includes the glutes, the hamstrings, and the calves.

It is the underrated part of the climb, but it helps your body stay up towards the course, and it deals a lot stronger because it’s the one that will push your body upwards.

Also, there’s a lot of “footwork” used in any type of climb.

Though they may look the same and have the same muscle group involved, there are many ways that bouldering training is different from rock climbing.

Here’s a general overview of how to train for rock climbing and bouldering

  • Warming Your Body at the Start. You can start by doing light exercises to warm up your body. You can flex all the muscles you use for climbing in this phase. Warming up before bouldering training will give you many health and performance enhancement benefits.
  • Enhance Power of All Body Parts. Most people only focus on the strength of the core and upper body parts. We recommend you focus on lower body strength to enhance your climbing skills. 
  • Endurance Building. Some people exhaust all their muscle energy in a short time because they do not have endurance. You can train your body to build some muscle endurance. Muscle endurance will help you climb longer walls. You can continue the climb without long breaks when your muscles have endurance.
  • Balance Enhancement. Strength alone cannot make you a climbing professional. You can gain some experience in balancing your body. It will help you stay on the climbing wall and make better decisions in choosing the next boulder you pick to climb.

Training Schedule for Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Most experts recommend bouldering training at least six to eight weeks before your intensive boulder climbing event.

It will give you enough time to prepare your body for the event.

You can do climbing exercises two or three times a week to enhance muscle strength.

You can do bouldering training in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Climbing will help you build muscle strength in the upper body, hands, and fingers.

Adding a cardio workout to your routine will help you build endurance.

You can select the endurance exercise you like to avoid getting bored.

Some people are into swimming. Some want to go for a jog every day.

You can stick to the plan as long as you build muscle endurance.

You can do cardio exercise and climb on alternate days.

Doing it two to three times a day is enough to build endurance.

You will not get exhausted when you do it on alternate days of the week.

How to Prevent Injury During a Bouldering Training?

Many climbers face injuries during climbing. Injuries are usually related to the antagonist muscle issues.

If you do not train your antagonist muscles during bouldering training, there are higher chances of injury.

Elbow and shoulder muscles are prime examples of antagonist’s muscles.

When you are climbing, these muscles are pulling in the opposite direction at the same time.

It can cause muscle injury after some time.

Tendonitis is a common issue for people who are not training antagonist muscles.

You can learn to fall in a suitable position to prevent neck injury.

Falling is part of the bouldering training.

If you fall on your back or neck, mattresses will not prevent injury.

Warming up before the training session will prevent stress on your heart.

It will help you avoid cardiac issues.

How to Train for Bouldering on the Wall?

There are several ways to train for bouldering.

You can do cardio or strength training.

Experts believe the best way of bouldering training is to climb a boulder wall.

Structured exercises on the climbing wall can give you the strength and confidence to compete in professional competitions.

4-into-4 training is the best way to start.

You can select the four most common bouldering problems and climb the wall with resting for 4 minutes between sessions.

You can start with the downclimbing routes.

Random skill training is also an essential part of it.

You should never forget speed training if competing in high-end competitions.

Fatigued skill training is also crucial because it will help you climb many bouldering walls in one session. 

How to Train for Bouldering off the Wall?

Off-wall workouts are perfect for training your muscles to pull up your body.

Off-wall workouts will also help your body prepare for the on-wall training if you are a beginner.

You can start your journey with the pull-ups.

Experts believe that no other single exercise will give you as many benefits as pull-ups.

You increase the strength of the biceps, triceps, chest, and shoulder muscles with pull-ups.

You can move to the next level by doing exercise for the whole body.

You can do most of the full-body exercises in a climbing gym also.

You can focus on the core strength building and leg exercises later.

What Are the Best Exercises to Perform During a Bouldering Training?

Training for bouldering can be done at home and off the wall.

Bouldering workouts should be done not just on the wall but on the floor and just about anywhere that will supply the needed load for your muscles to progress.

Here are the bouldering workouts/exercises that will help anyone progress in the sport.

1. Pull-ups

Climbing utilizes most pulling muscles, and it involves the back and the biceps.

Pull-ups are a compound movement/exercise that utilizes all pulling muscle groups in one, including the forearm and fingers, to hold the bar and grip the rocks.

  • Hold the bar, shoulder-width apart, and do 10-15 reps x 4 sets of pull-ups with 1-minute rest in between.
  • Do negative pull-ups or inverted rows if there is not sufficient strength yet to do a pull-up.
Include Pull ups in Bouldering Workout

2. Push-ups (Proper and Staggered) 

Push-ups are the major exercise for antagonist training as it works the chest and triceps as part of the pushing muscles, and it opposes the pulling muscles, which are the back and the biceps.

  • Training the antagonist’s muscles will help balance out the strength and the movement.
  • Do 10-15 reps x 4 sets of push-ups or staggered push-ups as a variation for added agility.
  • Do a 1-minute rest in between.

3. Jumping Squats 

Bodyweight or any weighted squats work all the major muscle groups in the lower body.

Strong legs help a climber stay up on the course longer.

Bouldering requires a climber to go up the course faster and more efficiently.

Bouldering workouts should have jump squats to achieve explosive leg power.

  • Do ten reps only but with five sets as it can be a very tiring movement due to its explosiveness.
  • Do a 1-minute rest in between.
Include Jumping Squats in Bouldering Training

4. Lunges 

Lunges stimulate one-legged movements, especially since climbing naturally switches legs every time.

  • Do forward walking lunges with ten paired reps (1-left, 1-right, 2-left, 2-right, and so on) for three sets with 1-minute rest in between.

5. Burpees

Burpees are the overall exercise for explosiveness and power, plus it improves your cardio and endurance.

Burpees include doing push-ups, squats, and jump squats simultaneously, and it targets the calves too.

  • Do ten reps x 5 sets with 2-minute rest in between as it is very challenging for the muscles because it also includes cardio.
Include Burpees in Bouldering Workout

6. Hanging Leg Raise 

What better way to train your abs for climbing is that you’ll train them while you’re hanging.

Hanging leg raises challenges grip strength and activates the lower part of your abs which is essential for bouldering because the lower body needs to be carried up to the course.

  • Hanging leg raises are hard, so do ten reps x 4 sets with 1-minute rest in between.
  • Increase the reps if it becomes easier.

7. Planks

Plank is an isometric training exercise for the abs since the core needs to stabilize during the climb.

Bouldering requires explosive movements, but it also needs isometric strength, even for a shorter time.

Training to hold the muscles in the core helps with the explosiveness because the core is well prepared with its potential energy.

  • Do 1-minute planks for 3-5 sets with 1-minute rest in between.

8. Biceps Curls

Isolation movements are always on the last part but not the least.

Biceps is one of the major groups as it helps your back pull yourself up, including your forearms.

  • Grab a dumbbell and do ten reps x 3 sets of biceps curl (alternating curls or at the same time) with 1-minute rest in between followed by hammer curls.
  • If a barbell is available, do ten reps x 3 sets of reverse curls followed by a barbell biceps curl.

How to Incorporate Hangboarding in Your Bouldering Training?

Incorporating hangboard training into your route is challenging as it requires more technical skills.

Hoverboarding is not only for professional climbers.

It can give many benefits to beginners also.

Many consider it impossible because they saw a video of people hang boarding with one finger.

There is no need to do that as you can use more fingers to start your training.

It is crucial to keep your shoulder away from your ears when hand boarding as it will help you prevent injuries.

You can keep your hand open as crimping can cause injury.

You should only use half crimp if you are a beginner.

What Bouldering Gear You Will Need?

Some people think they need advanced gears to climb a boulder wall.

It is not true as you can climb the bouldering wall with only climbing shoes and liquid climbing chalk.

A crash pad is also essential for bouldering as it prevents injury.

You can start by choosing beginner-friendly bouldering shoes.

La Sportiva, Evolv, and many other companies are making climbing shoes.

You can learn about different shoe materials to pick the most suitable option for you.

Climbing shoe fitting is the most crucial aspect.

Climbers can search for the best chalk bags and crash pads in several online stores.

Your climbing gym may provide you with some of the gear you may need for your bouldering training.

How to Use Climbing Nutrition to Advance in Your Bouldering Training?

Bouldering training will give you half benefits if you do not focus on nutrition.

You can get adequate protein and vitamins to keep your body healthy for climbing.

Overeating is also disastrous for the climbers as more weight requires more strength to pull up the body.

The minimum protein intake should be more than 120 grams in one day.

This limit does not depend on the weight and height of the person.

Better nutrient intake will ensure you recover fast from intensive exercise.

Last Thoughts on How to Train for Bouldering

Bouldering is a raw sport that takes away the restrictions of harness and ropes.

It requires skill and technique but well-conditioned muscle and endurance also help a lot during the activity.

Training with rock climbing helps a lot, too, especially with cardio and stamina.

A better way is to try out and do both to make the body benefit in many ways unimaginable.

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About the author 

Bernice

Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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