Training for climbing - to be coached or not?

You recently went climbing for the first time, you loved it, and you want to continue, but you don't know how... Or, maybe you have been climbing for some time, but you haven't progressed a lot... Whatever your history, in this blog post I will give you an idea about whether or not you need a coach, or you can do it alone and plan your training.

Climbing newbie

First things first - if you recently started climbing, I would always recommend having a good coach. In my opinion, it will have a massive impact on your abilities, especially because you are new to the sport and don't know what can be beneficial or not. Here are some benefits of having a good coach when you are starting: well-structured training, concentration on all aspects of climbing (strength, technique, endurance, power endurance), balanced training, starting small, learning a lot...

How can you tell if somebody is a good coach or not? First, you can always ask around the gym, especially the people in your training session about the coach. Usually, new climbers have grouped climbing sessions, and people who really like the coach and his or her work will stay with them longer. Next, watch if the coach has time for each and every person in the training. Holding group training is tough, and if there are too many people and only one coach, it can lead you or others to be neglected. Last but not least, (climbing) experience of the coach.

Climbing vet

Okay, but what if you're not that new to climbing, should you have a coach or plan the training yourself? That depends on various things - the time you have, what are your goals, current achievements, and performance, is there an improvement in your current effort, and so on.

If you don't have the necessary time, but you need structured and well-organized training, yes, definitely find a coach. On the other hand, if you want to explore more on your own and you have time to spare, that is also great, it will help you learn a massive amount of stuff regarding exercises. The list of resources can be a bit overwhelming though. These are numerous books and materials I had a look and they were helpful on one hand or the other. Below you can find some of them.

  • Dave MacLeod's 9 out of 10 climbers, a book containing useful bits of advice on training focus, technique, and fear management.
  • Eric Hörst's Training for Climbing and Maximum Climbing, books providing a vast amount of different exercises, both on and off the wall, these were really useful when I started reading climbing training books.
  • The Rock Warrior's Way by Arno Ilgner - this book is really instruction on how to manage fear in climbing, and it is one of my favorites.
  • Steve Bechtel's Logical Progression, a book about non-linear type of training, really interesting read.
  • Blog from Lattice, useful tips and tricks, training examples, interviews, and so on. They also have a really good YouTube channel.

The Important Stuff

Some of the things to have in mind when thinking about climbing training, both when hiring a coach or choosing to create your own training plan, are:

  • Have a goal in mind. Good goal setting will do you wonders.
  • Listen to your body. If you plan to train 5 or 6 days a week, that probably won't work in the long run.
  • Stick to your plan as much as you can. Whether you created it yourself or had someone else create it for you, you need to make sure that you follow it through.
  • Measure before, during, and after the training cycle. Usually, the cycle lasts either 4, 8, 12, or 16 weeks. The best way to see if the plan is working is to test yourself every 4 weeks or so. You can test different grip positions, the number of kilos you can lift from push-ups, for example, determine on sight or maximum route grade before starting the training, and measure every four weeks if there is some improvement. Possibilities are endless.
  • Keep yourself from new exercises. When you are on a training plan, don't try to experiment with other exercises that you see others do just because they are new, and you might think they can help you. Be patient.
  • Prepare yourself for failure. Climbing is 95% failing to do something, make sure to learn as much as you can from that.

The best thing about climbing training and climbing, in general, is that it's highly individual - something may work for you, but that doesn't mean that it will work for others and vice-versa, and because of this we should be drawn to it more and more.

Thanks for sticking with me until the end of the post. Below you can add comments, I am very interested to hear different opinions on the things I have written above.