Bouldering Techniques

From spotting to brushing, training to techniques, Climbing magazine's bouldering articles teach you how to be a better boulderer. In these pages you'll find training and movement tips from expert boulderers, as well as illustrated how-to articles on the latest techniques.
  • HPOvergripping

    Learn This: The Over-Gripping Myth

    As you move ever higher above your last piece and further outside your comfort zone, you grip the rock for dear life, even though you know the route is well within your ability. Yet here you are, only halfway up and too pumped to continue—everything feels way harder than it should. Most climbers have experienced this unfortunate situation: When you get scared, you hold on too tight and waste precious energy. The perceived solution: Focus on relaxing your hands to stop over-gripping the rock, thus lasting longer. While this does seem to make logical sense, over-gripping is actually not a significant factor in this perceived fatigue. Studies in applied physiology, neuroscience, and sports medicine point to stress itself as the culprit for accelerated fatigue. Anxiety can trigger the release of a certain hormone that can make you feel more pumped and tired than you actually are. Here we’ve provided some tips and tricks to conquer your fears and prevent the dreaded pump.

  • Make Your Own Suspension Trainer on a Budget

    With a $199 price tag, the TRX Suspension Trainer is cheaper than most exercise equipment, but possibly outside the budget for many climbers. The system is so incredibly simple that it can be easily replicated with materials readily available to most climbers: webbing and biners. The homemade version won’t be nearly as adjustable, and the loops of webbing are not nearly as cushy as foam stirrups, but if you’re strapped for cash you won’t feel left out of the suspension training party (a pretty expensive party to attend).

  • HP10ExercisesCore

    Training: 10 Exercises for a Complete Core

    A strong core is crucial to progressing as a climber. Body tension, keeping your feet on, moving efficiently, toeing-in on overhangs—it all revolves around the core. Plus, a solid core helps prevent injury. You’ve probably heard a core-strength evangelist preach the benefits before, and you’ve probably been pointed toward endless crunches or even expensive programs like Pilates, TRX, or yoga. Get ready for a new approach: varied exercises that are specifically targeted to work multiple parts of your body at the same time—just like climbing does.

  • HPLightningRotator

    Learn This: Laws of Lightning

    In July 2014, two hikers in Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado were killed by lightning strikes in two separate incidents on back-to-back days, and collectively, about a dozen others were injured. While these fatalities occurred on hiking trails relatively close to the road, lightning is an even bigger risk for backcountry and alpine climbers who are committed to being far away from a safe place for hours at a time. As the number of these climbers grow, it’s important to realize that lightning is a very serious threat that occurs practically every day in the high country. We teamed up with meteorologist William Roeder, who works with the U.S. space program in central Florida (aka Lightning Alley), and NOLS Curriculum and Research Manager John Gookin to compile the most pertinent information and best protocol for backcountry climbers.

  • HPFrictionScience

    Learn This: Friction Science

    Friction is the magic ingredient in climbing. It’s what keeps you off the ground and makes subtle weight shifts and delicate sequences successful. Understanding the how and why will make you a better climber. In simple terms, friction is the resistance that one surface encounters when moving over another. In high school physics terms, friction is independent of the contact area, but in a climbing context, friction is proportional to the contact area (more contact equals more friction). We’ll look at three materials—rubber, skin, rock—to see how each behaves.

  • HPRestDays

    Training: Efficient Rest Days

    As much as our social media streams may suggest otherwise, most climbers are real people with real jobs, spending a fair share of time deskbound. But fear not, weekend warriors, all that time in front of a computer screen doesn’t have to go to waste: With the proper approach, working at a desk can become a highly effective form of recovery. No joke. Most of our physical gains occur during the rest phase. Muscular micro-tears, swelling, scrapes, and bruises heal quickly with the right nutrients, rest, and support. We are getting work done and paying the bills, and all the while our bodies are restructuring piece by piece. Here are a few tips on how to turn your desk into a rest oasis; they’re small changes, but add it up over several years and you’ll see a huge difference in the health of your body.

  • HPPlat

    Training: Never Plateau Again

    Climbing is addictive. One reason is that you can see massive strength gains and technique improvement from day one of your climbing career. But after a few months—or for the extremely lucky, a few years—a plateau can sneak up on you, slow your progress, and frustrate you beyond belief. During my own personal three-year-long plateau, I heard every kind of advice from doing more pull-ups to climbing every day despite the pain to even going vegetarian (not gonna happen). On a quest to find the one true way, I started to interview top climbers to see how they handled these annoying performance flatlines—both mentally and physically—and the answers I found were as diverse and interesting as the climbers themselves.

  • HPBrain

    Learn This: Mental Training for Climbers

    Years of personal climbing experience, countless climber surveys, and psychological research all point to mental strength as the most influential factor in whether a climber succeeds or not. Your body might be strong and willing, but if you don’t have an equally strong and willing mind, your body has nothing to guide it. The good news is that you can train your brain just like you train your body. We’ve developed a mental training plan that outlines the knowledge and skills you’ll need to improve your head game and thus, your overall climbing performance.

  • HPTopouts

    Learn This: Master Topouts

    With most outdoor problems, it isn’t considered finished until you’re standing on top. At that point, you’re often pumped and high off the ground, so it isn’t the ideal time to experiment with the finer points of technique. Learn how to do these maneuvers in a safe and easy environment so you can nail them on harder terrain.

  • HPMassage

    Recover Faster: How To Perform A Healing Self-Massage

    Doing a ton of what you love (climb, train, climb, climb, train, repeat) naturally makes muscles tight, sore, and knotted—especially those forearms! Without effective recovery, you can experience a drop in performance, an increase in pain, or even worse, injury. The key to quick recovery is flushing out lactic acid and metabolic waste, so you can come back the next day feeling fresh and ready to crush. These simple self-massage procedures will help you do just that.

  • HPFootworkSpot

    Training: 7 Simple Drills To Improve Footwork And Technique

    You’ve surely heard this once (if not a thousand times) before: Climbing is all about your feet. However, when a fellow climber recites that adage, it’s generally not followed with a detailed explanation about how and why your feet are important, so it can be confusing and frustrating and maybe not mean much at all in the end. So listen up, as that’s about to change.

  • The Comeback: Recovering From Climbing Injuries

    Life would be great if we bounced back quickly to 100 percent after recovery. But the reality is that once you get back on the vertical horse, you are still in recovery. Comeback climbing takes patience and acceptance of your vulnerability. It takes stepping back to the grades you began at and working your way back up.

  • Photo courtesy Boulder Rock Club

    Create-A-Crux: Strengthen Mind and Body at the Gym

    During winter, rock climbers experience a patience-testing stretch of inclement weather, making it difficult to climb outside consistently. Consequently, more climbers flock to the gym and recommit to a training regime to prepare for spring sending. Forget the treadwall, auto-belays, tedious lines for the lead wall, and campus and hangboards.

  • One-Legged-Pigeon-Pose-158

    Stretch and Strengthen

    Stretching is an often-overlooked aspect of the pre-climbing routine. The following stretches pull double duty; not only do they lengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the approach—therefore preventing injury—but they also provide more mobility and flexibility on the wall so you can climb smarter and stronger.

  • pizem-660

    Strong Circuits: Quick and Focused Workouts for Peak Performance

    As a full-time high school teacher, husband, pro climber, and father to two young boys, I don’t have a ton of time to devote to training for climbing. What matters most in a workout is getting the most bang for my buck—this means short but intense workouts that keep me strong.

  • Forearm-stretch-massage

    How to Rest for Redpoint Attempts

    You've just fallen off your project for the fifth time, and now you’re back on the ground wondering what to do next. You’re still psyched and ready to give it another go, and that forearm burn isn’t too bad. But should you rest? If so, how long? Should you keep moving or conserve energy? Hard bouldering and sport climbing don’t fatigue a body as much as running a marathon, which can take even an elite runner several days to bounce back from. But how quickly you recover and how well your body is fueled greatly affect your climbing performance.

  • How-to-Poop-in-the-Woods

    Guide to Going Number Two

    Shit happens. The average person generates just more than one pound of poop every day, according to the World Health Organization. As the number of people visiting crags grows, so do the pounds of poo left behind. This requires some strategic practices. Few things are as foul as seeing a pile of feces topped with toilet paper hiding behind a rock—plus, poor crag etiquette can endanger access and pose public health concerns.

  • Tape-Splint-Injured-Ankle

    Treat an Injured Ankle

    The potential for injury while climbing outside is frighteningly infinite, and boulderers sometimes feel the pain more than anyone, with their repetitive high-impact landings on rocky and unfriendly terrain. The most common non-finger-related injury among boulderers is a sprained or broken ankle, and while it’s not always preventable—no matter how many crashpads you stack—it is easily managed in the field.

  • Nina-Williams-Legs-Workout-660

    New workouts to refresh your gym training

    Thanks to your local climbing gym, rock climbing is a four-season, every-day-of-the-week sport. It’s always sunny in the plastic paradise, even during the dark, cold, and wet winter months. Easy and instant access should do wonders for your climbing, but there’s a fatal flaw to many climbers’ training regimen: monotony. It’s easy to fall into a blah routine or just hop on any 5.10 with the shortest line. But infusing your workout (and it is a workout) with purpose, variety, and motivation will yield big results in your strength, endurance, and power.

  • Your Goal: Boulder Harder

    Being motivated and dedicated is the key to reaching any goal. This year-long program, geared toward intermediate and advanced climbers, will show you how to get stronger and more powerful, but you have to work for it. “Trying hard” is V15-climber Ian Dory crawling across the bouldering pads to get to his next problem, being determined to succeed and refusing to stop or give up.

  • Build Navy SEAL Strength

    Navy SEALs are, in recent years, best known as the group that found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011. But in addition to being members of the Navy’s special operations force, many SEALs are also climbers, and enjoy training similar to what civilian climbers perform every day. When not practicing mountaineering and lead climbing skills outside, SEAL “lead climbers” spend time in the gym to become stronger and faster.

  • Finger-Injuries-Drawing-1

    Finger Fixes

    What climbers fear most isn’t heights, falls, or mangled toes—it’s finger injuries. And with good reason: While climbing is a full-body exercise, fingers make the most contact with the rock, thus taking more abuse than other limbs, especially from pockets.

  • Shoulder-Elbow-Stretches-158

    Prevent Elbow and Shoulder Injuries

    The repetitive motions of rock climbing and training are hard on the body, especially when done for years on end. Our sport involves lots of pulling down and in toward the body, and the required muscles become well developed at the expense of other muscle groups. Add common daily activities, such as sitting hunched over a desk or driving, and the potential for problems gets even worse.

  • Basic First Aid Skills

    Any time you have to utilize self-rescue techniques, you’ll more than likely have to deal with an injured rock climbing partner. The most useful first aid skill is assessment of injuries, a critical skill for all medical personnel as well as anyone who recreates outside, including climbers. These skills are pertinent, whether you’re at the local crag or on a remote ridge in the Himalayas. There are many effective methods to assess a climber who is injured, and below is one of these accepted techniques.

  • Climbing Dictionary

    Presenting the 50 most important (and common) climbing terms, the words you need to know in order to speak the language at the cliffs. All have been excerpted in part or in total from the Climbing Dictionary by Matt Samet, published in 2011 by The Mountaineers Books and with illustrations by Mike Tea. Check out the book, an illustrated and historical reference to more than 650 climbing terms, for the world’s most “mega” climbing slanguage.

  • Find Your Footing

    Find Your Footing

    You're 10 feet above your last bolt, over-gripping and breathing erratically, and everything feels... off. What's wrong? The tension in your body has caused you to lose your balance. But there are ways to get it back, even when you're mid-route. Boulder-based climbing trainer Justen Sjong offers five tips to instantly relieve your stress, find your balance, and send confidently.

  • Beautiful but grueling mountain

    Staying Power: Prepare for Grueling Approaches

    Do you aspire to ascend beautiful, sweeping faces like the ones in California's Sierra Nevada? Are you also put off by long, taxing approaches? You may never be as fit as Galen Rowell was, but with proper training you can build up ample strength and endurance for mountain approaches.

  • Steady Yourself

    Steady Yourself

    Along with a good pair of shoes and a positive attitude, balance is crucial for successful rock climbing. Without it, your body won’t move naturally on the rock, thus eliminating efficiency and style. We tapped into trainer and hardman Eric Hörst’s knowledge of climbing performance (How to Climb 5.12, trainingforclimbing.com), and he gave us three fun exercises to improve your balance.

  • dynamic climbing moves

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dynos

    Call them what you will—“sloppy,” “desperate,” “intimidating,” “amazing”—but dynamic moves are essential to our repertoire. The first climber to dyno? Who knows, but John Gill certainly got the ball rolling with his powerful, dynamic style in the late 1950s. Chris Sharma’s July 2007 first ascent Three Degrees of Separation (5.14d), at Céüse, France, shows that jumping for holds still thrives: The crux lunge, a full body length, took Sharma three days to stick, and the climb remains unrepeated.

  • Pulling Down While Pregnant

    Deciphering what you can and can't do on the rock when you're pregnant is no easy task. Few scientific studies even mention rock climbing and pregnant women in the same analysis. We sought general advice from Long Huynh, an ob/gyn doctor and climber practicing in Boulder County, Colorado.

  • Digit Dialing

    Any serious climber knows the value of training. And when it comes to tenuous pocket holds, it's especially important to prep the muscles and tendons that run through your fingers, hands, and forearms. Dave Wahl, a strength and conditioning coach in Denver, believes that a proper training program is crucial for developing strength.

  • Finger Yoga

    I've found that finger yoga helps keep my climber fingers from becoming painful claws after hard climbing. Of the many possible stretches and "poses," the ones described below are my after-climbing favorites.

  • Illustration by Jamie Givens

    Hangboarding 101

    Hangboard training is one of the most time-efficient ways to build hand and finger (or "contact") strength, especially if you can't train at a climbing gym. Two or three 30-minute workouts per week can deliver excellent results. All you need is a hangboard—many models are available for about $50—and a little motivation.

  • NLYoga

    Six Yoga Poses for Climbers

    My physical therapist, a triathlete, recently told me that climbing puts more intense stress on my body than any other sport does. "Your lats are overdeveloped, your shoulders pull forward, your neck is strained, your hamstrings are tight," she told me. "Just stop climbing." Of course, I won't stop climbing. So what to do? Yoga.

  • Chilling Imagery

    The sunscreen is frozen in the tube. The toothpaste, too. Your hands freeze within seconds without gloves. The thermometer reads 35 deg F. It's colds -- really cold. But can you still photograph? You bet. Here are a few tips.

  • Worth a Shot

    A digital camera can do more than capture memories of your climbs. Whether new routing in the mountains or redpointing at the crag, put your point-and-shoot to use with these tricks.

  • Thumbs Up!

    Climbing holds are like snowflakes—no two are identical—and clever use of the thumbs adds important diversity to your gripping arsenal. Here are four "thumb" techniques that could make the difference during your next tough climb.

  • Climbing Video 101

    Climbing Video 101

    Just as digital photography opened up the world of image-making to the masses, so have the many gadgets that shoot video opened up the creative possibilities for amateur filmmakers.

  • Point and Shoot Cameras

    Today's compact digital cameras are slimmer, lighter, and more durable than their predecessors—and their image quality is much better. They're also a lot more portable and a lot less expensive than full-sized digital SLRs—meaning you're more likely to carry them on your climbs—and many have features that even the pros respect, including image stabilization and continuous-shooting modes.

  • Sack Up!

    Learn This: Make Your Own Chalk Bag

    If you can use a sewing machine, in 15 minutes you can custom-make your own chalk bag for climbing for about $1, using an old pair of blue jeans or any other sturdy fabric. You'll only save a few bucks, but the stylish, personalized bag will be one of a kind.

  • HPForget

    What To Do When You Drop, Lose, Or Forget Climbing Gear

    With a little know-how, you can recover from bone-headed mistakes and keep climbing—and also impress friends with your savvy.

  • Friction Facts

    Friction climbing—holdless slab climbing—can be effortless or desperate, or both at the same time. Strength plays no role; there’s nothing to pull on. Technique and mindset are paramount.

  • Speak Up!

    Attitude affects your rock climbing, and the right attitude can be worth two letter grades or more. The solution to a performance plateau may be as simple as rephrasing the things you say—out loud or to yourself—so you apply energy toward your goal, instead of allowing your words to create doubt. Climb harder by “speaking up,” not down.

  • Avoid Finger Blowouts

    Avoid Finger Blowouts

    Taping to support finger tendons can help prevent injury, but studies show the most commonly used taping method doesn't do the job. Here's a better way. There are two main flexor tendons in each finger: one that flexes the middle phalanx, and one that flexes the fingertip.

  • Happy Feet

    It's this simple: sore feet and neglected shoes lead to poor performance. Climbing your best means paying attention to footwork before the rubber touches rock. Revive your footwork in three steps: get the right rock shoes, treat those shoes like your firstborn, and give your feet some TLC along the way.

  • Photo by Andy Mann

    The One Thing

    Becoming a world-class athlete takes more than simply being genetically gifted or having a rabid passion. It takes sophisticated introspection into how one relates to one’s sport. Rock climbing is no exception, and each top climber dives deep into his or her psyche. We started with a simple, performance-oriented question asked to some of the country’s finest rock climbers. The result was 10 surprisingly unique and genuine answers.

  • The Heel-Toe Cam

    The Heel-Toe Cam

    The basic heel-toe is your building block. To initiate, first jab a heel onto a likely hold, ideally one of at least heel width. The hold needn’t be a bucket or otherwise incut — it can be vertical, horizontal, or slanted, if there’s a feature nearby for the toe cam. Heel now seated, cam your toe in opposition — placing it under a small roof or lip, or smearing against the wall — and arch the foot upward.

  • Light, Camera, Action

    Light, Camera, Action

    You know as well as we do that nothing kills the buzz quicker than a climbing photograph that’s drab, cluttered, boring, predictable, or obviously posed. You’re not a pro climbing photographer, and probably don’t want to be, and you’d rather spend your cash on cams or gas than on expensive camera gear. Follow these simple guidelines for better climbing photography.

  • Buttshotphobia

    Buttshotphobia

    Sure, we've all had a good laugh when a friend proudly shows us the classic, horrid photo of his buddy’s derrière hanging above you. While the “butt shot” is not always the first-choice angle for climbing photography, sometimes we just don’t have a choice. Here are a few simple tricks to keep the demeaning laughter to a minimum.

  • Photo Nation

    The best thing about digital photography today is how easy it is for anyone to take good climbing photographs. Another great aspect is the virtually limitless number of images you can take. The downside to this digital revolution is that most photographs rarely make it out of the memory card. After all, what good is a picture if you can’t share it and show it off?