As a climbing coach for more than two decades, the most common subject I get queried on (other than the ubiquitous injury/rehab questions) is “how to break through a performance plateau.” No doubt, there are few things more frustrating to a passionate climber than when improvement becomes imperceptible. What do you do when a winter full of hard gym training leaves you climbing outside at the same level as the previous season? What must you do to break through to the next grade when you’ve been stalled for months or years at 5.12a, V9, or whatever?
First, let me answer these questions philosophically. It’s a fact that you can’t get to the next level by doing the same things that brought you to your current level of ability—thus, if you continue on climbing and training in pretty much the same ways as you have in the past, don’t be surprised when your performance remains basically the same. Breaking plateaus and launching into a new trajectory of improvement demands a different modus operandi. You must shake things up by training smarter, forging a new level of mastery on the rock, and by raising your commitment to the sport.
Effectively blowing through a performance plateau demands a multi-faceted approach—you just can’t change up one thing or add one new exercise to your routine and expect dramatic improvement. The goal is to elevate your physical, technical, and mental abilities. Improvement in all three areas, rather than focusing on just one or two of them, will yield a synergy that soon makes today’s “impossible climbs”, possible!
Below is Step #1 for breaking the plateau–Steps #2 and #3 will be detailed in upcoming Training Center updates, so check back later this summer!
Step 1 – Train-up your true physical weaknesses.
Obviously, gaining more power, contact strength, and muscular endurance can’t hurt in your quest for the higher grades. But before you start training, answer me this: Which of these three physical attributes are you most lacking?
One of the most common workout mistakes is that of training your strengths. Yes, training is really fun when you execute familiar exercises that make you look like a real bad-ass—but this training won’t necessarily make you better. Whether it’s showing off your one-arm power, your campusing chops, or your ability to pump up through steep terrain that makes others flounder, doing what you already excel at is a training investment with little payoff. Instead you must identify your weakest link and design your training according. Here are a few training tips to get you started.
Check back next month for another plateau-breaking strategy!