• 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
  • Video Spotlight
    Mt. Saint Elias - A Sea to Summit Expedition
    Mt. Saint Elias - A Sea to Summit Expedition
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    Transitioning from Gym to Crag


    Barbara Zangerl takes her gym training to the crag on this early season attempt of the trad pitch Prinzip Hoffnung (5.14a), Bürser Platte, Austria. Zangerl redpointed the route in March for its third ascent. Photo by Beat Kammerlander. No matter how many hours you put in at the gym, the first few early-season outdoor excursions can be frustrating. Why is it that you can tolerate a pump while running laps indoors, yet it overwhelms you as soon as you have to hold on to place gear or hang draws? Often it feels like you’re back to square one.

    While some climbers appear to make a seamless transition from plastic to stone, for most of us there is a gulf of difference between these two contrasting vertical media. Of course, there’s no substitute for experience, but nonetheless a few key tips can minimize those early-season problems.


    1. Pace Training: Slow Down

    We all tend to sprint up gym routes at three times the speed we climb on rock. Outdoors the holds are nearly always harder to see and the sequences trickier to read, so for your last few sessions at the gym, force yourself to climb slowly. Pause for three or four seconds for each hand and foot move to simulate the rhythm of a typical sport onsight.

    Alternatively, if you are preparing for trad, count for five or six seconds per move and then, every fourth or fifth move, pause for a minute regardless of the size of the holds. This exercise will improve your ability to shake out in awkward positions and remind you how it feels to fiddle in wires when you’re pumped out of your mind.

    For sport onsighting, stay on the wall for eight to 12 minutes and for trad stay on for up to 15 to 20. Climb up and down if necessary (using an easier route for the down climb), or lower off quickly, pull the rope and continue leading upward. If you can’t find a patient belayer, then perform this exercise on a bouldering wall by following circuits or climbing around at random, provided the territory isn’t too tough and you’re not hogging the space.


    2. Pointer Training: Make it Awkward

    Whether we care to admit it, when training, most of us gravitate toward sessions that we find comfortable—both physically and mentally.

    Rock is rarely so generous, especially when it comes to onsighting. Even if you are familiar with the rock type, you never know what’s coming next and the route may dish out an uncomfortable surprise.

    To break out of the common trap of climbing in your comfort zone, add a rock-specific onsighting element to your endurance sessions—but you’ll need a motivated and like-minded training partner. Take turns using a stick to point each other around randomly made-up sequences on the bouldering wall. The idea is to maximize the element of awkwardness, for example by suddenly going quiet and leaving your partner stranded in an awkward position, desperately awaiting instruction.

    Give the person hard moves and sustained sections, interspersed with awkward resting positions, and aim to be as unpredictable and sadistic as possible. After all, your friend will soon be returning the favor! However, don’t overcook it to the point that your partner keeps falling. The longer you keep the climber on the wall, the more pain you will force him to endure. It’s no surprise that few climbers do this type of training, as it is arguably the hardest that exists for climbing. However, to prepare you for early-season rock, there is nothing to match it. Use the training guidelines given below.


    3. Boulder on Rock: The Technique Element

    Sharpen your skills in a bouldering environment first, rather than attempting to find your groove in the middle of a gnarly runout. If you don’t have access to real boulders, boulder at the base of the crag before jumping on routes. This practice will hone your technique for that rock type and give you a psychological advantage.

    The first thing you’ll notice when you touch rock is that the handholds are less positive and more complicated to grip than plastic, so it pays to look more carefully and check alternatives before pulling on. Next, of course, is that the footholds are smaller and more subtle, so try slowing your footwork down a little to maximize precision.

    A common mistake is to go for the bigger footholds rather than the best positioned ones, so only step high or wide as a last resort and generally try to make small steps. Additionally, the body positions may be subtly different than in the gym and require a refined degree of balance.

    Make a conscious effort to direct your hips all the way over the highest foot after stepping up. Concentrate on grassroots techniques such as smearing and feeling your way up features. Scan and consider using every part of the rock rather than climbing from hold to hold as you do at the gym.

    Even the most experienced climbers will find the need to revisit these techniques before they can expect their rock grade to align with their gym grade after a winter inside. And, of course, do an easy warm up route (or two) as well, in order to get that all-important warm-up pump. Beware the classic trap of warming up on something too easy through fear of over-cooking it.


    4. The Mental Link

    Ultimately, your inability to stay relaxed and focused is the main limiting factor for your early-season forays onto rock. Unfamiliarity breeds anxiety, so prepare to feel less confident about trusting your protection and making long runouts. Don’t fight the feeling. Build up gradually with a few easier ticks and perhaps a few practice falls either indoors or on a safe route at the crag. The flip side is that you shouldn’t hold yourself back for too long. Take a couple of weeks or even a month to build up through the grades and reach your previous level. And don’t forget the holistic element to your training. The crag is not a gym, so take a moment to breathe the air and scope the view before you head out. You’ll connect with the rock much better if you’re in tune with your surroundings.


    This article was published in Rock and Ice 219 (July 2014)


    Neil Gresham is one of Britain's best-known all-rounders. He made the second ascent of Equilibrium (5.13d X) in the Peak District and the first ascent of Olympiad (5.13d) in Pembroke (Britain's hardest deep water solo). Gresham has put up routes in Brazil, Mongolia, Cuba, Iceland, Norway, Greece, Vietnam, and has been a pioneer of training and coaching methods for 20 years.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: