Advice For Boulder Climbing

Hey i’ve been reading up on this sport and it’s something i’d really like to attempt this summer but the problem is i am in no shape to do it!

I am big and strong yes, but apparently big and strong isn’t really whats required of a person - strong yes, BIG no.

Ok so I am 6’2", 255lbs, 21% bf (according to tanita). As far as strength levels (these are all raw and unbelted) goes I have a 465DL, Squat 385, OH Press 185 x3, I can do 8 dead hang pull ups and 3 dead hang finger tip pull ups…nothing fantastic there but respectable I think.

so other than the obvious of losing weight what lifts/conditioning movements are required to focus on for this sport? I have a generalidea but I’d like to hear from some experienced climbers! I am going to start concentrating on bodyweight movements and finger strength (just got Never Gymless by Ross Enamait)…any suggestions?

I was in your similar position when i first started bouldering and rock climbing three years ago. I was larger than the average climber, about 225lbs at 6’3" and 10% percent bodyfat. Not nearly as muscular as you, but still larger than the average ripped but skinny climber.

If you were to focus on anything strength wise i would work on pinch and contact strength in the hands. I found that crushing and supporting strength helped, but not that much.

But in reality you really just need to start climbing. That is where you will develop your skills and the hand strength required, it requires a lot of ab strength as well when you get to more technical stuff. You will also find that the really good climbers use there feet very well, while a male begginer will tend to try to muscle themselves up the climb.
Just get out there and climb, learn from others that are more experienced, and have a blast!

The best advice is to get out and climb and focus on your technique. Do not muscle up different problems. Force yourself to learn technique. Pick up a couple of books and talk to an experienced climber (either at the crag or gym) to begin learning technique. Back steps, drop knees, etc. will all be very valuable.

I second the comment about pinch/contact grip strength. Fingertips take a fair amount of abuse, so work on conditioning in those areas. I would say that you should start climbing and see if you need to lose weight to be able to do what you want to do. I mean, if you love lifting and growing muscle, then you need to see if/how much you are willing to lose. I’m a lighter weight guy, so it’s not as much of an issue for me.

One good lift I’ve found in the gym for finger strength is plate grip deadlifts. Use Olympic plates (facing out, or backwards), set up the bar, and then crimp your fingers around the edge of the plates. Lift. Repeat. Or hold for time. Progress slow though. You could end up doing to much and hurting yourself. Really though, just climbing is your best option.

But really, if you work on technique and climbing and learning, you might find a couple of things: first your body might automatically start adjusting your weight down (w/o additional cardio/dieting) because this is unfamiliar territory for you, and second you may not need to drop that much weight to just enjoy yourself. It depends on how strong you can get your fingers, how flexible you can be, how much technique you are able to master, and how much of a primary goal you want to make getting better at climbing vs. lifting.

And on a separate note, use your feet when you climb. It’s not like you’re doing chin-ups for 100ft. That’s how people gas out early (besides not being used to constant tension on the forearms/fingers). Set your feet, use them to reach new hand positions. Then find at least one new foot position that you can help yourself with.

And finally, don’t “rest” with bent arms. Keep your arms mostly straight and relaxed as you start looking up the routes (gym or otherwise) for new holds. Most beginners tense their backs/biceps too much and lose too much extra energy (I know I did). I’m still somewhat of a beginner anyway, in terms of expeditions :).

I feel your pain. I am 6’2" and currently clocking in around 260. When i started climbing in HS, i’m now 30, i weighed in around 175. So i have climbed at all the weights inbetween.

The biggest difference between climbing big and small is that as a big climber i had to learn to use my legs more. Leg drive is king. The guys that are talking about developing technique are dead on. The one thing that has been left out though is that you would do well to go out climbing longer routes to start with. The main reason for this is that this will let you do way more moves in a row to really learn how to climb. The trick is to start WAY EASY! If you are living to NY then the gunks, outside New Paltz, would be a grat starting point. The routes are long, easy and low angle. Make friends with people that will take you out or hire a guide for the day.

If you have a 465 DL then your general grip strength shouldn’t be a problem. As far as lifting goes, obviously don’t get any bigger, but work on your ability to deal with lactic acid. Poliquins body comp style workouts can really help with this.

One problem that you will run into is range of motion. Being bigger makes it harder to get a foot up high to a hold or get into crossover positions. Learn a way around it. Hip turn out and drop knee technique will be helpful.

Best of luck and climb safe.

I started bouldering about4 years ago and I can say with confidence that FINGER STRENGTH is pretty much the only thing that matters.

Start using a ‘campus board.’ All the elite climbers I know that don’t have ridiculous genetics got good by campusing.

Oh jeezus, what am I talking about. Finger strength is second to technique. Techinique AND finger strength is an unbeatable combo.

[quote]beebuddy wrote:
Start using a ‘campus board.’ All the elite climbers I know that don’t have ridiculous genetics got good by campusing.
This is really, really horrible advice. Quite dangerous in fact – a great way to tear a tendon.

Campus boards should not be used (if at all) until the climber has built up singificant tendon strength.

My finger strength did go up with a campus board, but I had been climbing for a few years prior.

““Campus boards should not be used (if at all) until the climber has built up singificant tendon strength.””

Nonsense, that’s climber elitist-speak. I’ve never even heard of anyone tearing a tendon.

He’ll get up there and try it once and fail, then work up to it.

Anyway, technique, which is just a certain level of comfort and familiarity with the wall, really is more important than anything. So in one sense I agree that climbing a lot is more important than training. But he asked.

You can get a pair of Metolius holds and strap them to some dumbells / barbells and use them to lift, or you can do chinups from them etc…

Reviewed at T-Nation!

The guys at Met. told me they are strong enough to take incredible weight (they also said, make sure I tell people there are no guarantees on that) … over 1,000 pounds I believe, from memory.

Really what you need is to go to a climbing gym, and give it a go. You’ll quickly work out what you need to work on.

Note that technique makes incredible difference. You are also most likely to discover your long time static stamina and strength is what will give out, you’ll get the shakes in calves, feet, forearms, and a great pump. That’s my prediction.

Tendon damage is pretty rare and if it happens, it is from sudden stresses such as falling and catching, or impact damage, or twisting (like crackwork). Much rarer in the gyms than in the wild. Sore tendons / fingers though can be common but nothing to worry too much about. But beware the sudden traumas.