Kinds of balance:

Basic principles:

Ways to improve balance:

I’m not entirely on board with the explanation and examples here. The diagrams of base of support don’t always explain the examples (eg flagging doesn’t make sense in a 2d face-on diagram, and creating body tension does not change the base of support at all). I’ve seen diagrams elsewhere that break it down into forces on each point of contact instead, which I feel has more explanatory power (eg leaning creates rotational forces which are opposed by flagging, body tension doesn’t move the centre of gravity but it does change the distribution of forces at each contact point).

Base of support

List of different hand and foot holds and how to best use them wrt to COG.


Poor practice ingrains bad habits. Practice when well rested, on easy routes and in low-pressure environments (ie not in front of a critical audience).

Measure progress eg count number of mistakes per exercise.

Once a skill is solidly ingrained, gradually ramp up the physical and psychological stress.

Body awareness

Body awareness is typically poor. People don’t know where they are in space, how they are arranged or where they are applying tension.

List of important climbing muscles.


Turning and flagging

Inside flags are harder on high feet. Outside flags don’t push COG as close to the wall.

Drop-knee pulls COG in and down, and also allows adding opposing forces to feet.

Movement initiation and centres

Complex movements involve coordinated contractions across the body. Same movement can begin from different muscles. Useful cue is to focus on a single area and try to initiate movement from that area.


Typical best uses:

Different paths between same start and end points produce different forces. While theoretically paths of COG is what matters, in practice it’s easier to focus on path of pelvis.


Other paths to try - inward arc with inside hip (backstep), straight in (steep deadpoint), straight up (offset balance + bad holds), corkscrew (turns, drop-knees).

Learning movement

Stages of information processing:

Most of the exercises in this book are attempting to influence stimulus identification by priming attention.

Closed- vs open-loop control. Closed-loop - feedback adjusts movement. Open-loop - no feedback, usually because duration of movement is shorter than processing time.

Stages of motor learning:

You learn what you practice. If you spend most of your time climbing under pressure or at your limit, you’ll likely learn bad movement patterns. Set aside the first hour of each session for deliberate practice in a low pressure setting.

Redpoint and onsight tactics

For redpoints:

For onsights:


Endurance is governed by ATP supply:

All three sources contribute at different rates depending on the exercise profile.

Strength = maximum force produced by muscle contraction.

Power = force / time. Describes the tradeoff curve between force produced and speed of contraction.

Strength is important for static moves. Power is important for dynamic moves, especially for latching holds before weight returns.

Aerobic training

Anaerobic threshold - maximum rate of activity that the aerobic system can handle indefinitely.

Anaerobic training

Anaerobic reservoir - maximum amount of energy that the anaerobic system can supply before waste products incapacitate the muscles.

Interval training - aim to repeatedly fill and empty anaerobic reservoir - increases anaerobic reservoir and trains focus under stress. Lactic acid damages muscles, so take 1-3 days recovery between sessions and don’t repeat more than twice a week. Diminishing returns after a few weeks. Don’t continue past 6-10 weeks. (How quickly does it fade?)

Stamina training

Stamina - ability to work and recover repeatedly over the day (I’m not clear on what this governed by)

Strength training

Aside from obvious benefits, improving strength improves your ability to rest. Recovery rate is related to percentage of maximum contraction, not absolute force, so stronger climbers can rest on holds that weaker climbers would pump out on. (Not clear what the mechanism is here. Are stronger muscles more efficient? Does percentage-of-maximum-contraction affect how much the blood supply is constricted?)

Tradeoff between specificity and isolation. Fingerboards etc allow isolating individual muscles but don’t cover the variety of angles and loads encountered in actual climbing. But the variety in climbing makes it hard to get 6-12 reps of the same movement. Use both.

Muscle fibers come in different types:

Ratio is mostly genetically determined, but unless you are a complete badass you are nowhere near the point where this is the factor limiting your performance.

Two levers to push: hypertrophy and recruitment.

Hypertrophy - bigger fibers produce more force. Train by fatiguing fast twitch muscles. Aim for 6-12 reps - lower loads only fatigue slow twitch, higher loads lead to failure before most of the fast twitch fibers have had a turn.

Recruitment - more fibers recruited => more total force, fibers recruited faster => more power. Train by shocking muscles into recruiting more fibers. Aim for 1-2 reps.

Very high stress - warm up well, pay attention to nagging pains, rest fully between reps, don’t go beyond the planned time even if you feel unfatigued.

Power training

Similar to recruitment training, but:

Emotional and mental training

Subset of the material that’s covered in The Rock Warrior’s Way.

Self-assessment and goal-setting

Climbing pyramids - list numbers of redpoints at each grade in the last year. Top of the pyramid should look like 1-2-4-8. Skinny pyramids like 1-1-2-3 indicate rushing ahead without building a good base of experience. Fat pyramids like 2-7-15-many indicate either plateau (if the top climbs took more than 10 attempts) or ready to move on (if the top climbs took only a few attempts).

Compare indoor vs outdoor pyramids, bouldering vs sport pyramids, steep vs slab pyramids etc to identify weaknesses.

Gives a table of performance guidelines at each target level to identify physical weaknesses eg to climb solidly at 5.12a, aim to be able to do:

Set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to provide long-term direction and motivation. Set short-term goals for each season to drive specific training.

A good way to measure progress is to build and raise pyramids. Eg from 0-1-2-4-8 you need to climb 1-1-2-4-x to raise the peak. For outdoor climbing you can put specific classic routes in the pyramid. For indoor climbing you probably have to settle for just counting grades.

Training plans

Cross-training will probably not improve your climbing.

Periodization is the gold standard for athletes, but it’s not much fun for amateurs. Progressive training is easier to plan for and provides regular incremental improvements (which is good for motivation), but at the cost of lower peaks.

Make a list of strengths and weaknesses using the exercises and self-assessment tables. Compare these to your short-term goals eg my goal for this year is a long pumpy roof climb and I’m weak on roofs and anaerobic endurance. Concentrate training on these critical weaknesses.

Aim for 3-5 sessions per week, with no more than 2 in a row. Alternate training days (movement skills, physical training) and performance days (building pyramids).

Training day schedule:

Performance day schedule:

Record each session - what you planned, what you actually achieved, what you ate, how you felt emotionally and physically, who you climbed with. Look for patterns.

Movement and aerobic training can be done every day. Stamina and anaerobic training can be done 2-4 times per week depending on intensity.

Big list of detailed example training schedules for varying ability levels.