So you’ve caught the bouldering bug. We can’t blame you – it’s too much fun to miss. But it helps to have a few bouldering tips under your belt before you set off to conquer a rock.
Lucky for you, bouldering has gotten popular in the last several years, so there’s a lot more availability of information, routes, and equipment.
Here are ten tips to make sure your bouldering experience stays footloose and fancy-free.
1. Buy the right gear
If you’re a committed climber and boulderer, it’s a waste of money to rent equipment every time you set out on a climb. You’re better off investing in your equipment.
It will last you a while, it’s better quality than what you could rent, and it’s always ready when you are.
For new climbers, your necessaries include:
- Beginner climbing shoes
- Chalk, a brush, and a chalk bag
- A crash pad
- Finger tape
It looks like a long list, but most of it is relatively inexpensive – and remember, it’s going to last you a while.
2. Know your basic techniques
You wouldn’t ride a bike without knowing the underlying mechanics first. The same thing goes for bouldering.
If you’re already a rock climber, then some of the same basic principles apply. The critical difference with bouldering is that you’re not climbing with a rope.
For starters, always place your big toe on holds – not your instep. Most of your body weight should be supported by your feet and legs, with your arms helping you balance. You want to conserve upper body strength for more difficult moves – and to that end, always keep your hips close to the wall.
3. Make sure to warm up properly
Bouldering is a sport, same as any other. If you don’t walk away with any other bouldering tips in your head, always make sure you warm up properly.
The specifics of the warm-up depend on what you like and what works for you, but should always include:
- A pulse raiser, like jogging
- Stretching through your whole range of motion
- Simple climbing
Beginners and advanced climbers both fall into the trap of thinking they don’t need a warm-up. Pro tip: if you want not to get injured, you need one, no matter how much you hate jogging.
4. Always have a spotter
This is also known as bringing a friend.
Sport climbing always requires a friend/spotter/belayer to help you since you climb using ropes.
In bouldering, it’s just a good idea to have someone watching your back to make sure you don’t injure yourself, either in a fall or through lousy climbing technique.
Plus, if you’re a beginner, it’s a lot easier to get started if you have a friend to do it with you.
5. Make bouldering a routine
You can’t get good at something if you never practice.
The easiest way for beginners to jump in is to sign up for a climbing or bouldering class. Since you don’t have any frame of reference, in the beginning, this helps you cover the basic bouldering tips and figure out how to progress.
It also helps you keep in good bouldering shape, even if you can’t make it to a wall on a regular basis.
Plus, it keeps you accountable. If you’re paying for a class, you’re motivated to go and make the most of the program. And you’ll see the results on your next climb.
6. Understand grades
Bouldering grades, like ratings for ski hills, are numbers and number-letter combinations used to rate the relative difficulty of a bouldering problem.
If you’re a beginner, these are more useful because it will keep you from getting frustrated by harder climbs. As you become a more advanced climber, the grades aren’t as important – you’ll use your judgment above other criteria.
Generally, bouldering problems are graded by having various people climb it and assign a rating. For indoor bouldering, the person who sets the problem will climb it a few times and give it a rating, or ask other people to send it and give their opinion to get a sense for the difficulty levels for different body types.
It’s all thoroughly subjective, which is why, the longer you climb, the more other bouldering tips besides grades are useful.
7. Ease into bouldering to avoid injury
Yes, your instructor and the other gym rats climb often.
But if you’re a beginner, your body needs more time to get used to climbing and bouldering. If you’re climbing too often, it doesn’t matter how good your technique is or the quality of your warm-up.
If your body isn’t ready to climb, you’re going to get injured. Simple as that.
8. Know your sidepulls and underclings
What list of bouldering tips would be complete without sidepulls and underclings?
Even on beginner bouldering problems, there will be individual holds you can’t grip vertically.
Sidepulls, as the name implies, have the opening on the side. Underclings have the opening on the bottom.
How you climb these is different than a typical vertical hold. With sidepulls, you need to wrap your fingers around the side while leaning your hips in the opposite direction. With underclings, you need to grasp the hold underhand, bring your feet high and push up with your feet while keeping your hips close to the wall.
9. Practice silent feet
It is what it says on the tin. It is climbing without making a ruckus.
This drill forces you to pay attention to your footwork to make the minimum amount of noise possible. If you want to get better footwork, silent feet on every climb.
10. Don’t be shy about asking for beta
If you were stuck on a math problem, you’d ask for help. It’s the same thing with a bouldering problem.
Beta is the strategy you use to climb a wall. Sometimes you can be strong enough to do the climb, but your approach is off the mark, which keeps you from succeeding.
When this happens, don’t be shy. As someone else how they climb the problem. It’s as common as chalking up, and people are usually quite happy to show you.
Bouldering Tips, Supplies and More
Ready to go bouldering? Let’s make sure you’ve got everything you need.
For more bouldering tips, check out our blog for posts like this one on how to improve your climbing footwork.