Full Tilt Bouldering Plan




by Jacob Carr

Climbing training programs work. When you stick with a plan, no matter what the plan is you will gain better results than without planning anything. Programs can go from very general – “climb on Tuesdays and Thursdays” – to very specific, outlining rest periods to the second. Some of the best plans, however, are fluid and allow for flexibility because we all know how life can get in the way.  A caveat to what we have been hearing a lot of, “Will I become a better climber if I do this plan?” The short answer is maybe training programs allow you to become a better climber because you are more equipped to perform and learn climbing movements on the rock. 

Because climbing is a skill sport, my training recommendations follow what Steve Bechtel states as the 75/25 rule: 75% of your training time should be spent “practicing” climbing, and 25% is where everything else fits in. If you’re wearing climbing shoes (bouldering, capacity workouts, outdoor climbing) then it is “practice”. If you’re in street shoes or barefoot, it falls in the “training” category.

I wrote this program as an adaptation of the Full Tilt program written by Steve Bechtel. I am a boulderer at heart and love the powerful nature of climbing boulders. However, I had a hard time producing consistent results on the rock due to my lack of capacity to perform at a high level over a long period. Meaning, I could really only give 2-3 good attempts on my project because my capacity to give good hard efforts was very low. After reviewing Steve’s Full Tilt program, it interested me to write a program for myself that targeted that weakness. This is a massively important trait for a boulderer if they are going to perform at a high level. I modeled this program after “Full Tilt” in that it works within a “week” schedule and is easily manipulated or shifted to accommodate changing schedules. The biggest difference between this program and the original Full Tilt is the focus on the capacity to produce power or our “aerobic capacity.” Strength endurance and aerobic capacity are different in that strength endurance is the climber’s ability to perform a single effort. Aerobic capacity is the climber’s ability to perform multiple hard efforts and that is what this program is designed to improve. 

Not only does this program consider the weaknesses a boulderer might have, but it also addresses strength and overall fitness as a consistent focus. In my experience as a boulderer, my maintenance of strength and aerobic capacity decreased drastically. Maintaining strength, power, and aerobic fitness is key to being able to perform at a high level. If your aerobic capacity is low, it doesn’t matter how many route 4×4’s you do, you’ll only be able to tap into whatever your aerobic capacity threshold is. The greater your ability to produce energy through aerobic means the better equipped your energy system will be to deliver metabolites when you’re drawing energy anaerobically. 

Due to the nature of this program, it is hard for a climber who performs only in one or two seasons per year to attempt to try the program. There is nothing wrong with taking time off for other sports, but because of this program’s engaging and intense nature, it is not advised to undertake if your climbing capacity is not high as it can increase your risk of injury. If this does not sound like you, please refer to the Climb Strong website as we have several plans to help you train to become a better climber. 

Of course, any good program must be supported with good recovery habits, cycled climbing, and continually working on being as strong as you can be. This means:

  • We make sure to consume appropriate amounts of protein and carbohydrates during the day to provide our body with fuel to recover and perform well
  • Consume at least 8 glasses or 3-4 Nalgenes of water a day
  • We provide a sleep schedule for ourselves that ensures at the very least 7 hours of sleep 
  • Cycled climbing means we are not in project mode all the time, this ensures we take time off, climb for the joy of climbing, and provide our Central Nervous System time to recuperate
  • Becoming as strong as you can be does not mean continually pushing numbers in the weight room. It means pushing when it’s time and maintaining when the time comes