I've just started indoor bouldering and it's an enormous amount of fun!

But I'm really struggling to get going. I can just-just finish the easiest routes (and not even all of them) and then I'm completely drained.

The wall I'm starting on has a slight overhang (it's just not perfectly vertical), I'm not sure if that's a good thing for a beginner?

Anyway, I've never done anything active in my life, I'm very skinny, and I have zero strength or endurance. My grip goes very very quickly, but I also have a hard time pulling myself up to reach the next hold. I know I'm not supposed to be pulling myself up too much, but even just the effort to stay on the wall while I stand up is way beyond me. I'm struggling too much to really have a clear mind and look around for the next holds and where the route is taking me so I'm unable to improve my mental technique.

So, any advice on exercises I can do at home to supplement my (I guess) 3-weekly bouldering?

I'm traveling for the next 3 to 4 months and will be doing as much bouldering as possible in that time, but I won't have access to gym equipment and would like to do the exercises in my room.

For my grip: I have a rubber grip exerciser but I'm not sure if I should be crunching it repeatedly or rather just holding it for as long as possible? And how hard should I push myself? Can I do exercises and bouldering every day with good nutrition or should I have rest-days inbetween?

TL;DR: Please help a traveling bouldering newbie with next to no strength or endurance out!


3 Answers 3


I've been climbing, training for climbing, and reading books on the subject for a long time. If you are new to climbing, you need as much volume at the easiest grades possible. This is the best way to condition all of your body, as well as improve your technique.

Go to the gym, do all of the easiest problems. Repeat them over and over. This will make them easier and allow you to refine your technique. The easy gives you volume, which allows you to climb enough to improve strength without hurting yourself, and the easy also gives you the opportunity to train technique; you can't really train technique while climbing things hard for you.

For technique, the most fundamental drill is called silent feet. You focus on your feet 100%. Follow these steps for every placement:

  1. look for the options
  2. evaluate the options and choose one
  3. place your foot on the hold without making ANY sound
  4. do not adjust your foot
  5. weight the foot

Rules: any sound or readjustment is a penalty. If you take your eyes off of the hold before the foot is placed AND weighted, it's a penalty. Repeat this for 10 - 30 minutes of easy climbing; don't every stop. The basic benefits of this are:

  1. learn to focus on feet
  2. learn how to control your feet precisely

So, the obviously problem with this advise is that bouldering is NOT easy. I climb v8 and .13 at my limits. And I still don't consider bouldering at the gym easy enough for warm ups or silent feet training. So, I guess I'm suggesting you consider adding top roping easy climbs to your routine. Do some boulder problems after you put your training time in, but don't think of them as training. They are too hard. Good luck!

And if you can't find a climbing gym while travelling. Just run, do yoga, or something else for general fitness and flexibility.

BTW, the best book I've come across is "The Self Coached Climber"

  • 1
    I'd add the "hover" drill; before gripping the next hold, hover over it w/ your hand for 2-10 seconds. When combined w/ a focus on footwork, you gain isometric, whole-body strength, and it reinforces technique because you have to find as efficient a position as possible. Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 3:50
  • That's a good one Dave. I've never done it, but I'll check it out. I'm all about the technical stuff these days. I'm even considering checking out one of those "dance" climbing groups. I don't find it aestheticly appealing, but it probably improves your quality of movement a lot. Nice to see a struts2 person over on the climbing side ;)
    – chad
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 14:41
  • I don't climb much anymore, but when in CO I climbed a lot, 5.12 sport, 5.11 trad, 5.2 slab and off-width :p Now I'm lucky to get up anything at all. Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 14:51
  • I just moved to Boulder, which is -- to be on-topic -- the best single way to improve your climbing. Great place for software devs too.
    – chad
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 16:14
  • 1
    Crap, I'm older than everybody. Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 16:40

There are two answers to your question.

  1. Improving forearm strength is usually done through a combination of exercises. Grippers are good and generally you squeeze, hold for a second, and then slowly release. Repeat until you're too sore to continue. Do it again the next day. If your hotel rooms have door molding, you can practice finger tip hangs from them.

  2. Improve your technique. Staying over your feet more, using your legs more than your arms, and using locked out arms rather than bent will all improve the duration you can use your forearms.

I tried method #1 when I first started climbing and saw some modest improvements. Then I read some books on technique (Internet resources on climbing we're as plentiful then) and hung out with a guy who'd been climbing for a few years. My technique improved a touch and suddenly I was able to last a lot longer.

  • Thanks! I realize lack of technique is usually a big reason for not lasting longer on the wall. But it's kind of difficult getting a good and consistent source of info while you're on the road.And it's difficult improving your technique on the wall if you can't hang on long enough to actually think about what you're doing.
    – user1538
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:17
  • Didn't mean to post that just yet. Wanted to add, do you know of good (preferably visual) help online? I can rely on local climbers but they're not always available or willing. Thanks again!
    – user1538
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:19
  • I don't mean to diss this answer, the technique and footwork element is excellent. But the grippers are not very helpful in my opinion. The biggest knock is that they don't at all adhere to specificity principle of training. Most climbing literature these days even goes so far as to point out that training contact strength of hands on one type of holds doesn't even apply to contact strength on another type of hold. So, grippers certainly seem dubious in this light.
    – chad
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 19:49
  • 2
    I recommend against fingertip hangs on door jambs, for two reasons: 1) if you're a new climber, your tendons can't take it, and 2) they break, and when you fall, you can get pretty hurt. Once you're ready to do them, reinforce your door jamb--don't trust that it's solid. Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 3:48

Chad gave a lot of good advice - the best way to build more climbing endurance is to climb more, even if you have to do laps on the easier routes.

But you might also want to suppliment your climbing with some basic training for pullups and your abs. Technique is necessary, but "correct technique" sometimes depends on a certain threshold level of strength. If you can't do 5 or 6 pullups, or 5 or 6 hanging knee raises on a pullup bar, you might not be able to execute good technique on steep routes (like you find in the bouldering area of a gym).

I only say this because you mention that you've never done anything active in your life... I hadn't either before I started climbing. I remember trying to work overhanging routes, and having friends tell me to tighetn my core. And I couldn't, because my abs weren't strong enough.

If this seems like it applies to you, I'd recommend that you start supplimenting your climbing with pullup training, and ab training. You can find a lot of questions about pullups on this site. For abs, I'd recommend doing some combination of hanging knee raises, planks, situps, etc. If you wanted to go crazy and do something like P90x abs, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

  • 2
    Or an ab-wheel.
    – VPeric
    Commented Sep 21, 2012 at 8:35

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