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I have been climbing for 13 years now and have been competing for most of that. I have reached a plateau or at least a point where simply measuring progress with the grading system is not accurate enough. I am climbing in the V9/10 range now and am actively training on both system and campus boards. I log those workouts. My question is does anyone have any idea on ways to determine and quantify progress in this sport?

Update What I am currently thinking I may do to measure progress is to video myself while I do my training routine and climb then afterwards rate my smoothness and control on some sort of scale 1-10 for example and see how it changes from week to week. Does anybody have any better ideas or improvements?

  • If you're already doing the most difficult routes, could you maybe put on a weighted vest for some additional overload? Alternatively, maybe try to set records in how fast you can complete the routes? – Alec Apr 14 '16 at 9:54
  • Weight vest is a valid training but I don't really want to use it as a metric for training. Speed is not so relevant to the way I compete but that made me think of possibly trying to find a way to rate my technique and smoothness. – Nickolouse Apr 14 '16 at 17:48
  • What aspects are relevant when you do compete? Use those to help quantify progress. Also, are there techniques that you haven't learned yet or mastered? Technique mastery is a form of progress. – Alex L Apr 14 '16 at 20:17
  • As far as techniques left to master I do not believe there is anything else. There is always room for improvement and my current routine highlights the week points and works on them. As far as the relevant components when competing its mostly the same as a normal day of climbing other then more fast past but that doesn't seem to cause issues. The best metric for improvement I have found in my career is going up in the V grade (difficulty) i can complete in the first try but that has even hit a limit now. I Know I am making progress towards the next level I just cant find a way to measure it. – Nickolouse Apr 18 '16 at 19:57
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What you're trying to do is, unfortunately, not that easily accomplished. Boundering grades are always a little subjective (depending on the climbers strengths / weaknesses, body mechanics, proportions, etc), so you may find that you struggle on a V8 whereas you fly up a V9.

I remember reading an interesting article a while back that the best boulderers in the world were reaching a point where they were setting very high grade problems that, completely unintentionally, may be close to impossible for other people to climb. Someone like Adam Ondra has a particular technique that he's trained to work for his body type, so someone who doesn't have that exact body type, may simply be unable to complete the moves to complete the route.

Having said all that, your edit about videoing your technique is a very good idea, but I would add in one thing.

I'd create a workout log style record of the routes and record two additional values; Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Rate or Perceived Technique (RPT). Both on a scale of 1 - 10.

RPE has been fairly well explained elsewhere, but is essentially how hard the route felt (so an overhang on crimps is going to use more exertion than a slab on jugs).

RPT is something I've taken from the Gold Medal Bodies (GMB) training programs. The idea being that you can rate your technique on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how it feels (and possibly on video review); so if you're ascending an overhang, and you're an upper body dominant, gorilla style climber, letting your feet hang free and swinging from jug to jug, then you're technique is going to be pretty low. If you're moving up the same overhang, but twisting your hips into the wall to increase your reach and heel hooking / knee baring to chalk up, then obviously your technique is a lot better.

The by-necessity variation in bouldering routes means that unfortunately, there's never one metric you can measure to gauge improvement. You know where your weaknesses lay, so maybe monitor those as you train them as they should show the fastest improvement.

  • Awesome, thanks for the feedback on this. I have talked to a few other long term climbers about this and had some similar ideas come up but none really well articulated. I think when I start my next big training phase I will do a log like you have described and see how it goes. Thanks! – Nickolouse Feb 2 '17 at 2:04

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