Bouldering cheatsheet

This page is my personal, subjective collection of bouldering related information.

Basic technique

Climb with stretched arms. Your legs are stronger than your arms so they're way more efficient to generate power with.

To get your body in a position where upwards movement can be built from your legs, use your core to create body tension and rotate into the desired position.

Balance

To stay balanced on the wall, you usually want to aim for 2 opposite points of contact. E.g. right hand + left foot.

When climbing a route try to move from one stable position to the next.

This video is probably the best example. Notice how she re-adjusts her feet after moving to a new hold to establish a stable position.

This article does a great job at explaining what happens if you don't do this, which is called barn-door'ing.

Twistlock

To make reaching far away holds with stretched arms possible, we turn our hip into the wall as we move. Which side depends on which hand you're reaching with. Right hand = right hip, left hand = left hip.

A common mistake is to pull yourself into the twistlock position, hold it and then reach upwards to the hold. You actually want to move into the twistlock and reach up in one fluid motion, without stopping in between.

Footwork

Precise footwork is important and often neglected. Here's some basic pointers.

Flagging

To prevent swinging to the side and to keep your center of gravity above the hold you're standing on, you can stretch the leg that isn't supporting you outwards and press it against the wall.

Don't forget to actively press with the foot you're flagging.

Once you get the hang of flagging, you can also do back flag or inside flag to make up for not having 2 opposite points of contact.

Which side you flag to, and with which leg, depends entirely on your body position and the position of the available footholds.

Route reading

This is an essential skill. Being able to determine the moves and their sequence are key to climbing a boulder.

Hold direction

The basis of route reading is determining hold direction. To use a hold as efficiently as possible, you have to load your weight perpendicular to the edge that you're going to grab.

Most holds have an obvious way you should be holding them, which tells you a lot about how your body should be positioned once you reach that part of the problem.

Good video on directional loading

Visualizing the sequence

A more advanced version includes visualizing the entire sequence to a problem in your head. Doing this takes practice; doing just the hands is a good starting point.

When working out a sequence, don't stop once you figure out the first couple of holds. The end is usually the hardest because by then you're already exhausted so definitely take the extra time to map everything out, all the way to the top.

Measure yourself in holes by standing next to the wall. Now you have an idea of your reach when trying to visualize yourself climbing a route.

Dynamic moves

Keep hands on the holds as long as possible. Power comes from the legs. Keep toes on as long as possible. Move in one fluid motion, establishing kinetic energy all the way from your toes up through your body. Move arms sideways after letting go of the starting hand holds. If you land the move, release back to stretched arms in a slow, controlled way.

Warm-up

Start with basic cardio to get your heart rate up. Either bike/run to the gym or do a combination of the following to get warm once you get there.

Once you feel warm, loosen up by doing some dynamic stretches:

Finally, start with a first set of easy routes. Climb 3-5 very easy routes both up and down.

These easy routes are a great time to focus on technique. Some solid exercises to do are: ninja climbing, no-hands on easy slabs, nose 2 hold, hover, shoulder touch, ..

Here's a great warm-up video and great warm-up video #2.

Climbing exercices

All of the following exercises should be done on practice climbs. These are usually 2 levels under your max level but can be even lower. Start easy and go up a level if they're too easy.

Off-the-wall exercices

These exercices can be done either at the end of a climbing session or on days when you can't get to the gym.

Each list is 1 set. You can do both, mix or just pick one. Aim for 3 to 5 sets depending on level. 1 minute rest between each exercice.

Core

Workout video

Strength

All numbers can be increased. Variations can be used to increase difficulty (narrow pull-ups, diamond/ninja push-ups, rings for rows, etc..), but quality > quantity.

Stretching

Stretching is mandatory. It prevents injuries, increases flexibility and prevents the muscles from shortening. A climber should stretch after every session.

try to hit at least these:

Pick your favourites from this chart

Rest days

A wise man once said:

Never climb 2 days in a row during your first year of climbing

When you start to climb you need to give your tendons and muscles enough time to adjust to the stress climbing puts on them. If you do cheat on this rule, listen to your body.

I personally follow something like this:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Climb Rest Climb Rest Rest Climb Rest

A rest day can be either full on rest or doing some light cardio (walk/bike), light exercises and/or stretching.

Skin care

Use a pumice stone or 100-150 grit sandpaper to sand down the calluses that form on your hands to prevent flappers.

Wash off chalk right after a session and apply a lotion.

Keep nails at a decent, short length.

Tape isn't necessary for beginners.