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Climbing Competitions: How to Progress from Beginner to Intermediate

Updated: Apr 17

Open Nationals 2019 Climbing Competition at Sportrock
Open Nationals 2019 | Sportrock Alexandria, VA

Climbing competitions, both indoor and outdoor, are structured in a variety of ways. Some bouldering comps require 3 boulder problems while others may require up to 10. Some sport climbing competitions may take off more points for falling than others. And the categories for experience levels may have different names and cover different grades. Regardless of how it is labeled, most climbing competitions will have a Beginner category (roughly from V0-V2) and an Intermediate category (roughly from V3-V5). If you have competed in the Beginner category and are looking to graduate to Intermediate for your next climbing competition, we have identified four trends among Intermediate climbers that set them apart from Beginner climbers.

Climbing Volume

Sportrock Performance Institute
Sportrock Performance Institute

The biggest difference between Beginner and Intermediate climbers is how much they climb. It's a tale as old as time:

Someone is introduced to the climbing gym through a friend. They fall in love with the sport and climb as many days as they can until their skin is pink and raw and even then they continue to climb. They progress quickly at first but quickly fall off as life gets in the way. They eventually settle into a routine of climbing 1-2 days per week.

As long as you are not nursing an injury or injury-prone, one of the best things you can do to jump the gap from Beginner to Intermediate is to increase your climbing volume. This is for a couple of reasons. First, you are still developing the specialized muscle strength as well as the muscle memory for climbing. Only through repeating climbing motions will you begin to develop these things. Second, at the Beginner level, your body is not quite ready for specialized climbing training such as hangboarding or campus boarding. So the best training you can do is simply climb! If you want to progress from Beginner to Intermediate, you want to try to climb at least 3 days per week.


Abigail Humber at Sportrock Performance Institute
Abigail Humber | Sportrock Performance Institute

Eat, sleep, and breathe climbing! We have seen that most climbers that progress from Beginner to Intermediate are incredibly stoked on climbing in one way or another. Some get involved following the professional scene while others get excited about outdoor climbing. Figure out what it is about climbing that you love and dive in. Because while things outside of our control like genetics and natural body movement play a huge role in a climber's initial success on the wall, dedication and enthusiasm are what keep a climber improving over time, so watch Youtube videos, talk to people about climbing, learn about gear, check out the pro scene, or even read books about climbing!

Climb Outside

Sharon Maning Anderson on Essence (5.10c) | Cotton Club at The New River Gorge | Photo Credit: Milana Ortega
Sharon Maning Anderson on Essence (5.10c) | Cotton Club at The New River Gorge | Photo Credit: Milana Ortega

Outdoor climbing, while incredibly different from indoor climbing, is a big indicator of progressing from Beginner to Intermediate. First, it is much more difficult to tell where your feet are supposed to go when climbing outside. Footholds outside can also be more slippery and much smaller, so climbing outside is a great way to develop footwork skills. Second, you will develop confidence on the wall by climbing outside. Even if you are not all that high off the ground, climbing outside forces climbers to occupy a different mindset while climbing. You must deal with crash pad placement, spotters, different rock textures, birds, trees, wind, and a million other things. If climbing in the gym is a controlled environment, then climbing outside is an experiment! Take every opportunity you can to get outdoors to climb, especially with more experienced climbers.

Set Goals

Finally, we have found that Intermediate climbers have climbing goals while Beginner climbers do not. By this, we mean that Intermediate climbers have specific problems they want to send, exercises they want to perform, or places they want to climb while Beginner climbers tend to not think about these sorts of things. The trick here is that anyone can set climbing goals! As a Beginner climber, set yourself some specific, achievable goals. By doing so you will find that you are not only more motivated to reach them, but that you take climbing more seriously. This will set you up to progress from Beginner to Intermediate in no time.

In Conclusion

There are a million ways that climbers may progress from the Beginner to the Intermediate category between climbing competitions. We have just highlighted four trends that we have seen among Intermediate climbers over the years. Look closely at your relationship with rock climbing and see what changes you can make to progress!

If you want your climbing progression to go faster, train with us at our Performance Institute.


Have a blast at your next competition and read these 5 Tips For Friendly Competition Climbing.

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