• Coming Back From Injury
  • Get Trip-Fit Fast
  • Systems Wall and Symmetrical Training
  • Coaching Climbing - How To Train Juniors with Care and Caution
  • Grip Trainers - Gimmicks, or Worth the Money?
  • Hangboarding for Endurance: Not Just for Power
  • Simulation Training: How to Do a Move You Can't Do
  • Planning a Year's Climbing
  • Portable Training Rigs - How to Stay Fit on the Go
  • How to Keep Your Job and Family and Still Climb at Your Limit
  • Suspension Training for Rock Climbing
  • Eat Fat, Climb Harder - The Ketogenic Diet
  • Witness the Mental Fitness: Set Thought Aside to Improve Performance
  • Mental Training Made Simple
  • Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 2
  • Endurance Training Tips for Winter
  • Five Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 1
  • Staying Power - How to Last All Day at the Crag
  • Attack and Defend - Tips for Effective Resting
  • Change Up - Plug the Gaps In Your Strength Training This Winter
  • Training While Injured
  • The Hard Way, Easier: How to Cope with Redpoint Nerves
  • Climbing Literacy - Get Better Instantly by Reading Routes
  • The Numbers Game - How to Use Your Age to Your Advantage
  • Injury-Free Bouldering: 15 Tips to Keep You Healthy and Strong
  • Injury-Free Boarding: 14 Training Tips to Save Your Fingers
  • The Truth About Caffeine and Climbing
  • Pushing Past Your Training Plateau
  • Five Strategies to Sharpen Concentration and Climb Better
  • Five Ways to Get Better Without Training
  • Beat the Burnout: Only Ondra Should Train Like Ondra
  • Effective Gym Training Strategies (for Route Climbing)
  • Should You Add Weight or Use Smaller Holds on a Hangboard?
  • Map Out a Plan with the Radar System
  • Managing the Fear of Falling
  • Projecting 101 – 6 Tips For Sending
  • Slowing the Pump Clock - Three Strategies to Prevent the Pump
  • Training on the Go
  • How to Train for Compression
  • Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Climbing
  • How to Dyno
  • General Conditioning for Climbers
  • Transitioning from Gym to Crag
  • Staying Strong to Perform Your Best All Season
  • How to Lose Weight for Climbing
  • Building a Better Climber: Final Phase - Peaking
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 7 - Power Endurance Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 6 - Endurance II
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 5 - Strength and Power II
  • The Training Effect - Steve House and Scott Johnston
  • Training for Climbing: Injured? Train Your Core!
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 4 - Power Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 3 - Strength Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 - Low-Intensity Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 - Conditioning Phase
  • Gain Confidence by Learning Not to Fear Falling
  • Get Better When You Are Scared and Pumped
  • Never Get Pumped Again
  • Gutbusters - Core Exercises for Rock Climbing
  • Rest ... or Else
  • The Intuitive Approach to Training
  • Free Climbing Tips: Why Get Stronger When You Can Get Better?
  • Crank Like a Russian - How to Power Train for Climbing
  • How to Mentally Train
  • Boost Power With Eccentric Training
  • Tips for Better Onsighting
  • Should You Lose Weight or Get Stronger?
  • Is Protein Important?
  • Getting Strong After a Layoff
  • Does Running or Biking Improve Your Climbing?
  • Training While Hungry
  • How To Use Microcycles
  • How to Improve Slab Technique
  • How to Unlock a Crux
  • How to Use a Hangboard
  • Using a Weight Belt For Training
  • Training During Pregnancy
  • Maximizing a Small Home Wall
  • How to Stay Psyched
  • How to Prevent Bonking
  • Best Ratio of Resting to Bouldering
  • The Importance of Finger Strength
  • Regaining Confidence After a Fall
  • Overcome Anxiety and Send!
  • Maximum Training in Minimum Time
  • Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
  • Do Forearm Trainers Work?
  • Ultimate Strength
  • The Secrets of Warming Up
  • Periodized Training For the Year-round Approach
  • Resting the Perfect Amount
  • How To Recover On Route
  • Does Creatine Work?
  • Recovery Supplement Truths
  • Euro Training Secrets
  • Can Old Guys Get Stronger?
  • Training With an Injury
  • How to Beat Fear
  • How Often Should You Rest?
  • Warming Up Without Warm-Ups
  • How to Develop Sloper Strength
  • Beating the Lactic Acid Pump
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    Injury-Free Bouldering: 15 Tips to Keep You Healthy and Strong


    Dave MacLeod, healthy and strong, on the second ascent of Mystic Stylez (V15), Magic Wood, Switzerland. Photo: Lukasz Warzecka / PolishedProject. Bouldering is a high-risk activity. Performing well while avoiding injury is both an art and a science. It’s not just about warming up, but getting your tactics right and developing a feel for when to push and when to back off. Use this article as a checklist to ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to stay injury-free.

    1) Warm-up. Note the three crucial stages for any climbing warm-up. 1. Raise heart rate and body temperature. 2. Combine easy climbing with mobility exercises (focus on the arms). 3. Build up the difficulty slowly.

    2) Know your level. Never attempt sessions beyond your experience level (or, for juniors, age category). >Note for junior climbers: Always follow each progressive stage, regardless of the age you start climbing, i.e.: a junior who starts at age 14 must still gain four years experience before moving to stage 4.

    Try to reduce volume and intensity of bouldering during growth spurts. Parents and coaches should monitor growth with a growth chart.

    3) Observe protocol for falling and landing. It’s not just elbows, shoulders and finger tendons that are at risk from bouldering. Be aware of other climbers when you are committing to a hard move, learn how to effectively pre-pad the landing and arrange your spotters, and always be mindful of how and where you will land.

    4) Warm up progressively. Don’t get on hard projects too soon. Instead do several problems at each grade level. Alternate between different wall angles, and rest longer between problems as the difficulty increases (e.g.: 1 minute between V0s, 2 minutes between V1s, 3 minutes between V3s, etc). Do not allow a pump to build. Climb for at least 45 minutes before trying a hard project.

    5) Rest sufficiently between attempts. Don’t thrash away at projects. A rule of thumb is to rest 1 minute for every hand move completed. Take a 10- to 15-minute break every 30 minutes to help you to sustain productivity and avoid injury. Stretch your legs during breaks, but do not stretch your arms. Warm up again after breaks of longer than 15 minutes.

      6) Use skill before force. Use rest periods to review your sequences and consider the subtleties of the moves rather than just trying to pull harder with each attempt.

    7) Move on and switch styles. Avoid working the same project for longer than 30 minutes. Move on and try something else on a different angle and with a different style of holds.

    8) High risk holds and moves. It’s important to develop versatile strength and skill for bouldering, so you shouldn’t shy away from higher-risk moves unless you have good reason, such as a specific injury. However, an extra degree of caution is required. >Make sure you are fully warmed up, but still feeling strong and fresh. >Have a “test go” first to pre-load your tendons without trying 100 percent. >Be mindful of a foot slipping and be prepared to let go suddenly. >Be particularly wary if the move is dynamic; be as controlled as possible. >Take fewer tries with longer rests between attempts.

    Beware of: >Pockets (especially split-finger combinations, underclings, or sidepulls, which may subject the fingers to torsional forces.) Try not to let the fingers move in the hold. >Small sharp edges, especially if held with a full-crimp grip. The safest utility grip is the half-crimp (fingers at 90 degrees). >Shouldery moves (especially iron crosses). >Big dynos. >Slopers. When slapping repeatedly for the same hold, mind the wrists. >Compression heel-hooks. (Protect the hamstrinhgs. Activate them first).

    9) Emphasize quality Always train when feeling fresh and recovered. Never boulder after doing hard routes and never flail at the end of the session to the point that you can’t get up easy problems. Forget “no pain, no gain.” Stop and warm down before your form deteriorates significantly.

    10) Don’t overtrain! Beginners should train an average of 2 to 3 days a week, intermediates: 3 to 4 times, and advanced climbers up to 5 times a week. (This includes other forms of training such as routes, hangboard, campus board, etc.)

    Click to enlarge. 11) Structure your training. When climbing on two consecutive days, do more intensive training on the first day and volume-based training on the second day. E.g.: bouldering on day 1 and routes on day 2 (or hard boulder projects on day 1 and bouldering mileage on day 2). >Split your training into phases (usually 1 month in length) where you focus predominantly on strength for a month and then endurance the following month (e.g.: in strength phases, train strength 2 or 3 times a week and endurance once). >Make sure you have a light week or even a full rest week every 2 to 3 months and a 2-week break twice a year.

    12) Balance the body! Climbing works a specific and limited range of muscles, and many common injuries are caused by muscular imbalances. Finish every session by training the antagonist or opposition muscles. >Do 3 sets of 20 reps of the following exercises: Push-ups (for chest, shoulders and triceps). Reverse wrist curls or finger extensions with a rubber band (for forearm flexors). If you’re too tired after climbing, then train antagonists on rest days.

    13) Build a base! Hard bouldering can be dangerous if you don’t have a strong upper body. A supportive weight-training and core-conditioning program can help provide crucial base strength. Seek appropriate advice, but don’t overdo it—aim to build strength without excessive muscle bulk.

    14) Warm down. Finish sessions with very easy climbing followed by a quick pulse-raiser and some gentle static stretching.

    15) Lifestyle. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, stay hydrated and always eat a small protein-based snack immediately after training. Take protein supplements if you don’t have sufficient protein in your diet. Go easy on your training if work gets tough or if you are losing out on sleep.


    This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 205 (October 2012). 

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