By Steve Bechtel
You either boulder or do routes, right? So what happens when you want to get ready for routes by bouldering? You end up feeling like you’re not quite training right, and you’re correct. We have several good ways of training beyond the boulder problem, but training with a repeatable workout and definable progress points is really tough in a bouldering gym. Several top-level climbers have had success with interval sets (4x4s, 2x5s, rhythm sets), but it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re doing these workouts just right.
Simply bouldering harder isn’t the answer, either. Success on most rock routes comes down to bouldering pretty well while carrying a pump and then recovering as you continue beyond the crux. So if intensity isn’t the key, volume must be, right? Wrong. ARC training, or SACC training as others call it, is too easy to prepare one for the demands of hard climbing. In the nebulous world between pure strength and pure endurance, there is another answer. If you’re training on a bouldering or system wall, you might just consider training for density. In fact, if I could choose just one type of workout to use for climbing routes, this would be the one.
Here’s the basic set-up: Pick 3-4 problems at your onsight level or just a bit above. You can choose these to simulate a specific route you’re trying or you can choose a few different styles if you’re training for onsighting/general fitness. Get some chalk on your hands, strip down to your tank top and get crackin’. You’re going to set a clock for 20 minutes, and start climbing through problems 1-4 as quickly as your muscles will allow. Rest as needed between problems, but keep track of the total number of successful sends you get.
Most climbers will be able to get 10 or more problems the first time. You’re going to want to rest about 20 minutes after the first bout, then hit another 20 minutes of density-either on the same 4 problems or 4 new ones. The big key to this workout is repeating it. You’ll see the best results if you do it 2 or 3 times per week for 3-5 weeks. By the end, you should be hitting close to 20 problems each set. Most of our athletes improve by 50-75% each time we roll through a 4 -week block.
The four problem rule is for simplicity, not because it helps you. If you’re more comfortable with more problems, plan it that way. The key, as I said above, is to do it regularly so that you can see progress between sessions.