How to pick the right problems for training

A 25-pound dumbbell is always a 25-pound dumbbell. But what if it wasn’t?

In climbing, we are not so lucky. V5 isn’t always V5.

Most training for climbing involves a lot of bouldering. Therefore, problem selection is a crux of most training plans. Grades are not reliable indicators of difficulty. Getting good at selecting the right intensity and style of problems for training is an absolutely essential core skill for improvement. This skill cannot be shortcut for you, unless you have the good fortune to work with a coach in-person.

Some advice on problem selection:

Separate performance & preparation. If you’re in preparation, you should have no qualms with trimming problems, adding moves to the beginning/end of problems, adding footholds, eliminating holds, etc. Save rules and sending for performance time. This is mostly about ego.

Match the level to the terrain. If a training activity is based off of your max grade, it should be your max grade on the terrain in question. e.g. your Moonboard max grade vs gym vs outdoor max grade, or your vertical max grade vs roof max grade.

If your goals for this training activity are specific, make your training specific. Steepness, style and number of moves should be oriented around your goals.

If your goals are not specific, select a variety of problems. Usually it’s good to keep it heavily biased towards a steep wall (40-45 degrees.)

Pay attention to upcoming training activities. Use your open climbing time to find and learn new problems. Take notes.

If you climb on a home wall, dedicate time every week to setting problems for yourself. A constant flow of new climbing challenges is really important.

Work to understand what the training activity is trying to get you to do. Understanding the adaptation is going to be more useful than just reading instructions. Sticking to the advised number of moves, amount of work/rest time and style of climbing is more important than the advised grade.

What you do off the wall is at least as important, or usually more important, than what you do on the wall. Pick problems wisely and your training will be more effective.

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