4 Power Exercises to Up Your Bouldering Game
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
In the strength and conditioning world, power is generally understood as strength x speed. In the climbing world, we understand strength to be what allows us to hang on to holds, while power is what allows us to move between holds. Although power is an important component of all climbing disciplines, it is especially important in bouldering. This is because, while bouldering, we perform a limited number of moves often at or near our limit. When we are only initiating 5-8 movements between holds, having the ability to do so optimally will allow us to send harder boulders! Regardless of skill level, it is important to incorporate some power exercises into our rock climbing training if we want to up our bouldering game. Below we have put together 2 on-the-wall and 2 off-the-wall power exercises designed to do just that!
On-the-wall Power Exercises
2-ups are a simple power exercise in which the climber performs two difficult moves in a row. That's it! When picking which moves you will perform, keep the following in mind. First, the focus of these moves should be the movement, not the holds themselves. So don't be afraid to perform this exercise on jugs as long as the movement between them is near your maximum reach and dynamic (bonus points if you have to twist, jump, or do something awkward!). 2-ups are great for symmetrical systems walls that allow you to perform the same sequence of moves on both the left and right.
Missing Limb climbing involves climbing the same boulder problem 2 times. First, you will climb the boulder problem without your left hand, then without your right hand. This exercise does several important things. First, you will be forced to move dynamically when missing one arm while climbing. You will find that you often have to prepare for each movement by bending your legs and then launching to the next hold. Be sure to absorb each movement through your entire body as you release and catch. Move with as much flow as possible. Second, you will have to come up with creative solutions when missing a limb. This helps with reading the beta of a climb. As a bonus, this exercise also forces you to rock over your knees as you move (an excellent habit for climbers) because you will not be able to stabilize as easily when you complete each move.
When training power it is important to adequately rest between sets. You may complete a 2-up and not feel tired, but if you simply hop back on for the next set, you will likely improve your ability to perform multiple difficult moves below your limit, but you will be doing little to expand your limit. You will also want to take at least 48 hours of rest between power workouts.
With this in mind, a set might look like this: Perform the Missing Limb exercise on a climb 2-3 grades below your maximum, rest for 1-2 minutes, perform a 2-up, then rest for 4-5 minutes. Perform 3-5 sets.
Off-the-wall Power Exercises
Medicine Ball Slams
Medicine ball slams are an intense plyometric exercise that involves lifting a medicine ball over your head and slamming it to the ground. Plyometrics is essentially a form of training in which the athlete combines speed and force to build muscle power. Common plyometrics exercises are burpees and jump squats. Medicine ball slams are especially good for power training for climbing because they force you to use your entire body to overcome resistance (the weight of the medicine ball) and then perform an explosive movement (slamming the medicine ball), just as we do when we climb. Be sure to use an appropriate weight and follow the resting guidelines above!
Also, check with your local trainer to receive guidance on the correct form to avoid injury when performing this exercise.
Finally, muscle-ups are an excellent off-the-wall power exercise for climbers. To perform a muscle-up, you must first perform a pull-up with a bit of speed. As the bar reaches your chest, you then flex your wrists to position your forearms above the bar. To complete the muscle-up, press up and over the bar to full extension. Muscle-ups are an advanced exercise, dynamic pull-ups may be used in replacement. Dynamic pull-ups require a specific gym layout. Find an area with two pull-up bars situated on top of one another with the top bar slightly offset above and towards you as you look at the bar. Hang from the lower bar and perform a pull-up with a bit of additional speed. Before you complete the pull-up as normal, release with both hands and use the momentum to grab the higher bar.
Try performing 2-5 dynamic pull-ups per set.
Whether you prefer training on-the-wall or off-the-wall, if you want to up your bouldering game you need to train power! Try adding one or two of these power exercises to your next training session!
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