What is the optimal ratio of rest days to climbing days to train specifically for bouldering?
If you consider that mainstream training literature emphasizes the importance of a full recovery between strength workouts, and add the fact that boulderers don’t need to worry about fitting endurance training into their schedules, then a picture emerges that any training day should be followed by a rest day. But training for climbing often refuses to fit the rulebook. Imagine a sport scientist trying to tell Dave Graham or Chris Sharma that they should spend half their lives resting in order to get strong!
Most elite boulderers climb three or four days in a row and some may climb for considerably more before taking a rest day. In keeping such a pace, two things need to be considered: the first is that it takes time to be able to cope with this amount of training and the second is to vary the sessions to prevent overtraining.
It would be disastrous for beginners and intermediates to suddenly switch to the program of an elite boulderer. If you currently boulder day-on, day-off, then try increasing to two days-on, one day-off and monitor your progress. Initially, you’ll feel worked on the second day, but before long you will find that you are able to cope and that you can still be strong and productive. At this point you can consider increasing to three-on, one-off, but intitially, try making the second day an active recovery session where you climb only easy and mid-grade problems.
A popular structure for those doing a consecutive four days on is: campusing and bar exercises on the first day, followed by a bouldering day, then an active recovery day with mileage on easier problems, followed by another moderate day, then rest. Another popular structure is to do steep juggy problems on day one and then lower-angled, fingery problems the next day. A third alternative is short problems with maximum difficulty moves on day one, followed by longer problems with slightly easier moves on day two. The key is to do relatively short, high-quality sessions with regular breaks and to stop before you get to the point where you feel completely thrashed.