T Nation

Power Recruitment Before Bouldering

Hi guys, and Happy New Year to all!

After reading a few articles about how to recruit before lifting, I’ve tried to adapt this idea to my bouldering sessions, and I think it could be some sort of magic formula, given the results I’ve had so far.
I did just three session with some power recruitment before climbing, but on all three I either climbed my project, or made significant progress, like in my last session, in which I managed to stick a move that I’d been trying for nearly three years. It’s in this video:
sticking the move
Pretty happy as you can tell.

In these session my recruitment consisted of:

  • one dumbbell complex;
  • two barbell lifts repeated twice.

The complex was made of three excercises: lateral raise, bicep curl and military press, 5 movements each, performed explosively.
After some rest, the lifts were a snatch grip high pulls and a clean, both 5 movements, so 20 in total.

I’ve recently read about power recruitment with broad jumps, hence my question.
Do you think that it could be beneficial to include broad jumps in this recruitment routine?
Would you just add them or should I maybe do just one set of lifts? Or a single lift twice? I’m afraid just adding the jumps could be too much volume?
Moreover, do you think that it could be beneficial to perform two or three jumps right before the attempt on the project, that is during the climbing? Or should I just do them as recruitment before climbing and then no more?

Thank you very much for all the replies and advices.

Very nice work on the project my man. I am also a climber. I’ve used explosive movements like plyo pushups, medicine ball slams, broad jumps, and squat jumps as part of my warm-up. I would usually do Upper 6 or Limber 11 mobility drills (depending on if the day was more upper or lower-oriented), then whatever power recruitment moves for the movement patterns I trained that day (always medicine ball slams since I was always climbing or hangboarding), then get into training.

I don’t know if these movements helped me or not to be perfectly honest, but I didn’t feel like they were ever too much and I was never too tired to train my balls off. I used to do 3 sets of 3 broad jumps, although up to 5 per set is okay. My movement pattern sucked so I could only do three before total form breakdown.

While we’re talking climbing training, I just started campusing. I’m moving from 5.12 to 5.13 sport climbs and V5 to V6/7 bouldering and while my technique is there, I’m just not strong enough for some of the moves. I’m currently doing 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (sorry don’t know what that’s called) without matching for a few sets as a warm-up, then ladders, then jumps on slopers, then maximum reach/returns on the rungs again. Are there any other drills you would reccomend that you’ve found success with?

Cheers Shralpinist!
Medicine ball slams seems to be very good and they’re advocated by many - they were mentioned also in another topic about contrast training for climbing - unfortunately I still haven’t found a place where I can buy them. I will try on the internet or make one by myself. I am experimenting a bit, and after my initial post, I added two sets of broad jumps to my recruitment, still doing the 2x2x5 barbell lifts before, but avoiding the dumbbell complex. It seemed to pay. Broad jumps seem to have a higher recruitment than dumbbell complexes. That session went very well.

If you or anyone else is interested, I will keep posting updates.

As far as your question goes, I think that it’s far more complex than it could appear. My experience is that V7 boulder problems mean a level of power that should be more than enough for high .12 and low .13 routes, so it obviously comes down to the specific issues.

The first thoughts that come to my mind are these:
first of all I would split bouldering and sport climbing, assessing for each discipline what you feel are your specific weaknesses - leaving technical issues out.
So, for bouldering it usually comes down to either fingers strength, locking off, dynamic climbing.
For sport climbing, it usually comes down to either powering out or pumping out.
Core tension is for both and depends on the style of climbing: slab, gently overhanging, very overhanging.

Campusing will only get you so far as it’s so specific, but it’s an excellent tool, albeit I tend to consider it some sort of secret weapon to be used only as a last refinement, and not as a base training tool, because it’s dangerous and so on.

If you like to discuss these thoughts I’ll be more than happy to dedicate this topic to those who match resistance training with climbing, I know there are a few on here, to exchange thoughts on this matter. Given that it’s OK for the mods to have such a topic, which is not specific to the website.

Finger power is my weakness in bouldering right now. I agree that campusing shouldn’t be regular, so my plan is to incorporate campusing twice a week for three weeks, in addition to bouldering sessions twice a week (I’m only bouldering right now to focus on power and will go back to sport climbing almost exclusively in three weeks as I have a big sport trip planned in March). In your experience, is three weeks enough time to get anything out of it, or is it too much time and risking an injury?

Hi again!
First of all, I have to warn you that I’m not very good at planning/periodization. I always tend to overdo it, and in the last few years I haven’t had any big trip for which to prepare, or specific and time-depending projects. So I never had the need to peak at a certain moment, hence the lack of proper periodization.
Anyway, first of all, if you really want to improve your finger strength, nothing is better than a fingerboard. Even a couple of different wooden rungs screwed somewhere over a door frame are more than enough.
I think that the campus board targets more what’s called “contact strength”, that is the ability of latching a hold dynamically and immediately pulling on it. It also trains dynamic climbing and pulling power, but the dynamic nature of the tool makes it less precise to target finger strength.
So, if you feel a weak point in your fingers, I highly advise that you start fingerboarding.
You will reap immediate benefits just from the first sessions, because of course - as for campusing - the first response is neural adaptment. This one comes and goes very quickly, so if you want to make your gains last for longer, you should keep scheduling fingerboarding and campusing in every cycle of training.

I think that for fingerboarding and campusing three weeks with two sessions a week are a good starting point. It’s all about the volume, that I would keep very low.
Also, since from what you wrote I understand that you haven’t campused much before, I highly recommend that you avoid dropping down moves.
I would stick to campusing just upwards, leaving aside any kind of downwards movement. I don’t recommend either leaving one hand low and going up with the other one to progressive rungs.
These routines are elbows killers. Go up and jump off.
Build progressively and aim at covering the longest distance with just two moves. You can start with easy combinations like 1-2-3, 1-2-4, 1-3-4, etc.

Of course, during a serious fingerboarding or campusing cycle, you should taper your climbing accordingly. Both need fresh fibers, so I’d skip one climbing session to avoid being too tired to reap benefits. Two campusing sessions and two boudering sessions make for a heavy week. Especially if you intend to climb during the weekend.
Think long term.

I hope this helps, thanks for the replies.

Thank you. All I’m doing currently is training inside due to the weather, so I don’t believe I’m overdoing it with two bouldering sessions and two campus sessions. All in all I’ve actually cut back in total volume because I know that campusing is so stressful, and I’m keeping diet/rest/supplementation optimal. I’m already stronger with campusing…we’ll see how much of that translates to climbing in a couple weeks. Thanks for the info about not campusing down.

You’re welcome.
Let us know how you go on.
Campusing will probably change your climbing style a bit (or a lot) especially during the first few climbing sessions. You’ll have to adapt your technique and movement patterns to the new found strength and dynamic attitude, but you will reap rewards, especially on overhanging terrain.


Hi again, guys.
A little update. I have had another great bouldering session with some power recruitment before. I really, really, really think that I’ve hit a jackpot here.
I tweaked things just a little bit: I reduced the volume of the recruitment by half, and concentrated specifically on speed.
So, on my last session I did:

  • a dumbbell complex made of lateral raises, bicep curls, press, at max speed. 1x5 reps each;
  • wide grip RDL, 1x5 reps;
  • cleans, 1x5 reps;
  • max speed cleans, 1x10 reps.
    I then climbed two projects on my board, that I’d been trying for years now. In particular, I again did twice a single move that I’d never done before.

This makes me extremely happy also for another reason. Last Tuesday I went to my friend’s who’s a sport medician, and got fully tested. From body fat percentage with professional calipers to body composition analysis, etc.
Turns out that in the last year I’ve put up two kilos of lean mass. I kept my fat mass at exactly the same amount. I increased my base metabolism by almost 80 kcal, bringing it to 1900 kcal!
Also, the test showed a better composition of my muscles and a better electric conduction, this - I was told - meaning that they work better.
Next day, despite knowing that I am two kilos heavier than I used to think, I climbed two problems that had spat me off dozens of times.
This means that even in climbing - for non professionals at least - there’s a lot more than just being as light as possible. I am stronger than ever now even on rock.


Excellent work! Yeah, I think being light is massively overrated in the climbing community and only matters at the elite level. Sure, being fat is not helpful (true of almost any sport), and carrying a ton of extra muscle won’t help, but putting a bit of muscle on will probably just help you. I think most people just don’t want to train hard enough…

Personally, I tend to stay small and skinny as I get stronger, and this certainly helps. I weigh the same as I did when I started climbing (just under two years ago), but I look very different body-comp wise…