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  • Writer's pictureSportrock

How to Climb Better in a Competition

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Sportrock Hosts 2019 USA Climbing Sport and Speed Open Nationals

Whether you are climbing in a competition, at your local gym, or competing in an Olympic qualifying event, you want to perform at your best. Nothing feels worse than walking away from a competition feeling like you could have climbed better. And even though climbers can be supportive of one another, the competitive atmosphere can be incredibly intimidating and can inhibit your performance.

Climbing competitions come in a couple of different forms. Whether you're at an outdoor bouldering comp, an indoor ropes comp, at your local gym, or visiting from out of town, there are common themes that can hold you back from performing well. Some climbers preform poorly simply because they feel nervous in front of a large audience. Others may feel the pressure to send but won’t execute moves they know they should because of the fear of failure.

From shaking the nerves to being strategic about how you approach the competition, here are a couple of ways that amateurs and pros alike make sure that they climb better in competitions.

Don’t skip the warm-up

The nervous shakes are real. When you enter a competition, there will be many more people in the gym than you are used to. It can be easy to get caught up in the “hubbub” and forget to warm–up! Be sure to find a quiet corner to stretch and get your muscles warm. If you don’t warm up properly, you will find yourself flash-pumped on the first climb of the day (and if this happens, it will be your only climb of the day). Here is a simple warm-up that can be done in 10 minutes with limited space. You’ll be ready to climb before you even get on the wall!

Perform 3 sets of the exercises below, resting for 2 minutes between sets. Be sure to stretch out your upper and lower body during your rest – rest time isn’t downtime!

  1. 1 min. plank

  2. 10 push-ups

  3. 10 jump squats

Climb with a buddy

Climbing competitions are supposed to be fun! One way to avoid getting swept up by the “must-send-this” mentality is to spend the competition climbing with a friend. Preferably, this friend will climb near or above your skill level so you can help one another create a relaxed atmosphere. Instead of a competition, it’s just another gym session! Climbing with a friend can also foster friendly competition that will help you perform better. The thought “I need to send this climb so I have a good scorecard,” becomes “Molly did that move, so I have to get one move further.” Some climbers even make a game out of it! Play a game of S-E-N-D during the comp.

Like a game of H-O-R-S-E in basketball, the goal is to make your opponent gain letters and not gain letters yourself. Instead of picking shots to make, you are picking climbs. The climb can be a full send, a high point, or just one move. Each time you complete the climb, high point, or hard move you’ve chosen for your turn, the other climber has to try. If they fall, they get a letter. If they complete it, you pick another climb. First one to get S-E-N-D loses!

You’ll be amazed how quickly you forget about the competition and how much fun you’re having just climbing with a buddy.

Have a game plan

Finally, another way to climb better in a competition is to go in with a game plan. A common mistake at climbing competitions is that climbers will bounce around from climb to climb and tire themselves out too quickly. By having a game plan, you can still enjoy the atmosphere, cheer on other climbers, and climb hard without getting distracted.

If the competition is from 2-6 PM, you are competing in the intermediate category, and you need 5 climbs on your scorecard, an example of a game plan might be:

  1. 1:30-2:00 – Warm-up

  2. 2:00-3:00 – Try 3 moderate climbs at the middle and near the top of the Intermediate category. Moderate difficulty.

  3. 3:00-4:00 – Eat a snack and cheer on other climbers, no climbing

  4. 4:00-5:00 – Try 2 difficult climbs at the top of Intermediate and 2 at the bottom of the Advanced category. Hard difficulty.

  5. 5:00-6:00 – Finish-out scorecard by any means necessary! Any difficulty.

Climbing competitions are nerve-racking for everyone. The competition atmosphere is overwhelming, and the competitive spirit can sometimes get the best of you. Be sure to always warm up properly, try to climb with a friend, or go in with a game plan to climb better! What are your best tips for climbing competitions? Let us know in the comments below.


Climbing better in competition often means getting over that beginner plateau, read about How To Progress From Beginner To Intermediate.

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