You have officially surpassed the beginner stage (a.k.a. the gumby stage; it's alright, we've all been there), and now you'd consider yourself an intermediate climber. You likely climb in the V3-V5 range when bouldering and the 5.10-5.11d range in sport climbing. At first, climbing all the time and not focusing on too many climbing-specific workouts lead you to see fast and exponential climbing gains, but now you've hit the point where the grades don't tick off as quickly. We call this the plateau.
Don't worry. It's completely normal. Once you've made it to the intermediate level of climbing, you've mastered the basic technique and strength to climb beginner easily and some mid-range climbs. But you've also reached the point where supplementing good old climbing with workouts (on the climbing wall, of course) will become your best friend in helping you get to the next level.
Before diving into our top 3 rock climbing workouts for intermediate climbers, read through the principles we think are essential to keep in mind as you complete the exercises and embark on this next stage of your climbing journey.
Building a solid foundation is critical before advancing. All the techniques and knowledge you have acquired thus far are essential to carry forward into any climbing workout. It is always good to go back and revisit the basics now and again! Even though you will find yourself transitioning to structured workouts, instead of climbing whatever you'd like, climbing as much as possible will still be to your benefit. Professional climbers, including Sierra Blair, are big advocates for climbing as much as possible, no matter your level! Lastly, actively set an intention or goal for your climbing sessions and find a good motivator! Whether you have an intrinsic motivator or team up with a training partner.
One final tip before jumping into the three workouts is that bouldering translates easier to ropes than rope climbing does to bouldering. Thus all three exercises below are designed to be completed on boulders, but they touch on every component of a well-rounded climber: power, power endurance, and endurance.
3 Rock Climbing Workouts for Intermediate Climbers
Limit Bouldering (Power)
Limit bouldering is almost as simple as the name sounds. You'll pick five boulders for this workout at your maximum limit. To clarify, this should be harder than your onsight (or the level of difficulty you can complete on the first try) grade but a climb that you think you may be able to do if you give it your max effort and maybe a few goes.
Once you have your five boulders, you will need a stopwatch. Then begin the workout adhering to the following guidelines. For each boulder, you'll give three maximum effort attempts resting 3-5 minutes between attempts. Your rest should be long enough to feel like you have enough energy to provide maximum effort on your next go.
1,000 Moves (Endurance)
Another workout that almost explains itself in the name. This workout focuses on increasing your endurance. You'll use a spray wall, system board, or bouldering wall to complete 1,000 moves. There are no specifications on the types of holds you can use, but the more variety, the better. However, remember that you are going for 1,000 moves so be bold and throw in a solid amount of good holds.
You don't have to complete the 1,000 moves in one set. Break into as many sets as needed and, of course, scale the number of moves down if 1,000 is not attainable at your current fitness level. You can always start with 500 and increase by 50-100 moves every week.
4x4s (Power Endurance)
4x4s. You may hate us for this one after you do it once, but trust us that it will bring you excellent power endurance gains. For this workout, pick four boulder problems at your onsight grade (you may need to drop a grade for the last set or two, but try to do them all at onsight). Also, make sure you have a timer on hand. Once the timer is acquired and boulders selected, you can begin the workout.
Start with one boulder, start the timer, and climb the boulder four times in four minutes. Then rest for four minutes. Move to the next boulder and repeat. Do the same for boulders three and four as well. Drop a grade if you repeatedly fail to make it three-quarters or more of the way up any of the boulders. It should be challenging, but you want to climb most of the boulder for an effective power endurance workout. And know there's no shame in dropping a grade or two! As you get stronger, you'll be able to do them all at your onsight!
Hopefully, these three workouts provide you with a well-rounded basis to train as an intermediate climber. As always, modify as necessary to do what works for your body. However, feel free to push yourself outside your comfort zone, as that is where the real growth happens.
Let us know in the comments below which workout(s) you tried, and happy sending!