August 30, 2023 5 min read
Your first few months of rock climbing whizzed by and every session felt like you were hitting exciting new milestones.
But now it seems like those achievements are growing further apart and you've been stuck at the same level for what feels like an eternity.
Can you relate? This is what we call a plateau, and it's something that is experienced by every single climber at least once in their climbing career.
So what can you do to get out of this rut and up your climbing game?
In this guide, we'll chat about some of the most effective ways of breaking through a plateau in climbing!
(Photo by @barasina.photo)
When trying to break through a climbing plateau, it's important to take a step back and ask yourself a few introspective questions.
What do you hope to get out of climbing? Does your definition of success associate grades? Is the motivation to grow your own or do you feel pressured to do so by watching others? Could progress be possible even if the 'numbers' never change?
Be honest with yourself and know that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions!
Once you understand your inner motivations, it's easier to focus on performance-based goals whether that be sending a V15 or climbing your first 5.Fun! on lead.
(Photo courtesy of @johnguyen and @_meggerslyy)
Many of our climber friends said their number one tip for breaking through a plateau is to mix things up.
Rock climbing is a skill-based sport where learned movements, strategies, and techniques get stored in our 'climber toolbox'. The more tools you have stored inside your climber toolbox, the more adept you will be when approaching a new or harder climb!
Incorporating more variety into your climbing routine can start at your home gym or local crag. If you find yourself spending lots of time in the overhangs, try out some slab or vertical climbing. If you're hooked on crimps, make an effort to hop on some slopers or pockets!
Every so often, take a swing by a neighboring gym or crag. Each place has its own unique style, and seeing other climbers' perspectives can be an incredibly refreshing experience.
Pro Tip: Try out these Easy Ways to Have Fun Training For Rock Climbing the next time you hit the gym.
Understand that progression through climbing grades is not a linear path. It's completely normal for climbers to jump several grades within the first year(s) before reaching a point where more strength or technique is required.
Aiming to up your max redpoint is an excellent goal, but it can limit our vision of other improvements being made along the way. Setting achievable micro-goals works wonders to help stay Stoked.
Here's an example:
John currently projects V5s on the overhang which he can send within two or three sessions of tries. He'd like to send V6 indoors this season.
Goal #1 - Send V6
Goal #2 - Climb V5 in a single session
Goal #3 - Flash or onsight three V4s
Goal #4 - Send V4 on the slab wall
Goal #5 - Improve from 3 to 5 pull-ups
Goal #6 - Make a new climber friend
For each long-term climbing goal, write down at least 4-6 short-term goals in a notebook or Good Climbs, Good Vibes journal. Continue adapting your list as you tick off your milestones.
Pro Tip: Use a send pyramid like this one from Send Edition as a visual way to track your progress.
Challenge yourself to fill in each triangle even if you complete one from the upper portion first. As you work through the pyramid, draw more triangles as necessary!
As you spend more time involved in rock climbing, you'll most likely gravitate towards a certain style — and that's totally normal!
But as fun as it is to do what you're good at, it's important to push yourself outside your comfort zone to avoid becoming too one-sided. Just think about that Moonboard crusher who tries to campus a slab...
Pro Tip:Hangboarding and strength exercises can be beneficial; however, most areas where folks tend to struggle can be worked directly on the climbing wall!
While it might sound counterintuitive, trying a new discipline can be a powerful strategy when trying to break through a climbing plateau. This approach also has a direct correlation with several tips we've mentioned above.
Endurance and resting techniques picked up from sport climbing make those last few moves on boulders feel less desperate. Head game and decision-making from trad climbing transfers over to highballs and poorly-equipped sport routes. Power from hard boulders will help you cruise through crux moves on roped climbs.
The best part? There's no need to completely ditch your favorite climbing style or try to become a pro in a different discipline.
Simply start by incorporating a few sessions a month into your normal routine and work from there. Who knows? That Type II Fun might turn into a whole new passion!
(Photo courtesy of @on_theadventure)
If you're feeling strong in training and confident in your technique, the last piece of the puzzle needed to break through a climbing plateau might be improvements to your overall sending strategy.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a climbing session and overlook little things like getting adequate rest, hydration, or nutrition.
Use a watch to take timed rests if you constantly find yourself tempted to take rapid-fire turns. Start by taking at least 3 minutes rest when trying individual moves or short boulder problems, 5 to 8 minutes for longer boulders, and roughly 20 minutes between burns on sport routes (about the time it takes your partner to climb with an extra few minutes for you to rest after belaying). These times are just a guideline, so don't be afraid to take even more rest if you feel tired!
Many climbers also struggle to eat and drink during their sessions. One approach here is to take a few sips of water each time you come off the wall and a small bite of food every 20-30 minutes. This helps keep your body hydrated and full of energy throughout your session while avoiding the sluggish feeling of eating a giant meal all at once.
(Photo courtesy of @rocknropeadventures and @halletreks)
Climbing outdoors involves an often overlooked variable that can make or break a climbing session — the weather conditions. While it's certainly possible to climb outdoors year round, be understanding and accepting that adverse conditions (e.g. extreme heat, sun, or humidity) may cause you to climb several grades under your max. A V6 climber sending a V3 in 100°F temps is still an impressive feat!
Pro Tip: Don't worry too much about conditions on your first visit to a crag. But do make a mental note of sun orientation if you fall in love with a project. Knowing when a boulder or cliff face is in the shade greatly stacks the odds in your favor for sending!
Breaking through a plateau in climbing is totally within your reach, and we hope these tips and strategies will get you on your way to taking your climbing game to the next level.
If you have questions or ideas you'd like to share about how to break through a plateau in rock climbing, leave us a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.
Psst…Our Try And Send tee is a great conversation starter!
This comfy top lets the world know you're ready to Keep Climbing even when the going gets tough. With so many styles, we know you’ll be the climber having the most fun at the crag.
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