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A Climbing Training Guide: What Most People Won’t Tell You

Gabi Robledo, climbing Spearfish

Climbing training is an often confusing subject, mainly because there’s no one right way to go at it. From hangboarding to ARC training to bouldering, body weight workouts and pre-hab, there are dozens of different strategies to train for climbing.

While finger strength is great and power-endurance is important, I think the most powerful, overlooked aspect of climbing training is in your mind.

I’ve been rock climbing for about 6 years. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really showed an interest in training for climbing. I wanted to be able to consistently climb 5.10 since that grade allows you to climb most routes in the US. Since then, I expanded my training to climb 5.11 and currently am training to climb 5.12.

climbing training guide, Gabi Robledo, Rock Climbing Utah,

I started my journey of climbing training by first looking at physical training. I was constantly trying to get stronger and get better endurance.

While my strength certainly helped my reach my first goal to climb 5.10s, after that, no amount of training ever really helped significantly.

That’s when I started looking into mental training.

I realized a lot of aspects of climbing mindset corralled with everything I know about mindfulness and consciousness. It was then that I started creating a full mind, body, and spirit approach to climbing training, and since then I’ve been able to climb 6 grades harder than when I just addressed the body.

In this blog, I’m sharing 5 of my key strategies to train for climbing.

Components of Climbing Training

There are multiple components of training to climb better. Aside from elite and professional climbers, most climbers tend to neglect two out of 3 of these climbing components.

Those 3 things are:

Body
Mind
& Spirit

Mind, body, spirit connection is not something unheard of in the climbing community however, it’s a whole other thing to actually apply it. Let’s break down what each of these climbing training components mean.

Rock Climbing in Maple Canyon

Body

This is the most obvious and overutilized training method in climbing. Any dedicated climber can typically think of one thing they lack in physical performance. Examples include:

  • My endurance sucks
  • My footwork is bad
  • I’ll never be a powerful climber
  • My fingers are just too weak

Typically, when we talk about climbing training, they’re talking about physical training of power, endurance, and power-endurance. All of these absolutely have a place within climbing training however the truth is that’s it’s usually not your power, strength, or endurance that’s actually you holding you back.

Mind

There is absolutely a time and place for physical training but the mind plays an equal, if not greater, role in the climbing training once you’ve established base strength and endurance.

The mind may seem separate form the body but the mind controls the body. Mindset training is about optimizing the circuitry of your brain to efficiently and effectively use your body.

When you master the mind, you can conserve energy, move more intentionally, and not waste time in an anxiety response.

Spirit

Spirit is similar to mind but approaches the same ideas from a perspective of consciousness and intention.

95% of the mind’s thoughts are subconscious which means you don’t know what they are. In order to truly set ourselves up for success in climbing, we have to rewire our subconscious and train the etheric mind.

Mind, Body, Spirit Training For Climbing

Chances are if you’re reading, you’ve probably tried your ahare of physical training. But if you’re looking to reply tap into your highest potential as an athlete, here are the top 5 ways to train your mind and spirit for peak performance.

1 | Intentional Visualization

Ask any top climber from Adam Ondra and Emily Harrington and they’ll tell you visualization is a pillar of their training. The reason climbers sweat by it is is because IT WORKS.

Visualization causes something called a “mirror network effect” meaning that the practice activates the same neurons you would if you were actually physically performing what you are picturing.

Not only does this mental training method improve your technique and help you acquire new skills faster, but it also has been proven to increase strength and improve efficient isolated muscle activity.

You can easily practice visualization every day in your own time. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and imagine yourself doing specific moves or routes you’re aspiring to accomplish.

If you struggle to keep your mind focused on the visualization at hand or want to more effectively guide your imagination, download the Athlete’s Success Meditation.

Flow State for Athletes, peak performance hypnosis
You can click here to get free access to my Athlete’s Success Meditation

2 | Address Self Limiting Beliefs

Your self limiting beliefs are holding you back more than your conscious mind wants you to think.

95% of what goes on in our brain is subconscious. That means we don’t know what those thoughts are.

Why does it matter? Climbing is a physical action, right?

Climbing Climbing Guide, Gabi Robledo

Well not entirely. The physical body takes commands from the entire mind. Which means that it takes commands from the conscious and the subconscious mind.

The problem is, usually our subconscious holds a whole bunch of limiting ideas about what we can and can’t do.

Often times, this unconscious 95% is literally weighing us down on the wall.

So how do we let go of the weight of our minds?

It’s not an easy task to uncover our subconscious thoughts. It takes work and guidance which is why in Flow State Warriors, my online course, I walk people step-by-step through the process of uncovering their belief systems.

Start by noticing the thoughts that trigger you. Not just in climbing (that’s important too), but in life in general.

Catch those trigger moments and try to ask yourself why a scenario caused that reaction in you. Keep asking yourself “Why?” and journal the process (trust me on this).

Let’s say you’re trying to do a pull-up with a something 95% as heavy as you weighing you down. Sure, maybe it’s “good training” in your mind but you’re not going to want to bring that extra weight with you into your next climbing route.

The same thing is happening in our minds. Our subconscious inhibits everything in athletics form our strength to our stamina and our nerves.

Transcending the body and training this aspect of spirit within you will give you massive breakthroughs in your climbing.

3 | Manage Your Stress 

Stress management is extremely important for all sports. It’s important to distinguish that this means stress management in all areas of your life.

To be at our best climbing performance, we have to be in our flow state. Flow state, is a state of consciousness where we experience peak performance.

We naturally enter flow state at times when climbs require all of our focus, usually in riskier scenarios.

Gabi Robledo, Owens River Gorge

In flow, our minds are wired for success. Unnecessary regions turn off and essential areas ramp up.

But it requires effort on our part. Mental effort.

What do I mean by that? Well, for most of us, our brains are currently set up for set up for constant stress. Our stressful lifestyles breed a neurological addiction to stress. And when that happens, it’s makes it very difficult for us to commonly enter flow state.

So to enter flow state in climbing more easily, we have to restructure our mind’s addiction to stress. The only way to do this is to manage our stress in our everyday life.

So how do you manage stress?

There are 4 key ways you can do this. The most effective strategy is to embrace what I call the warrior mindset.

Practice non-resistance in your life and let feelings flow.

Stress is just a response. It’s our primal brain thinking everything is dangerous and life-threatening when in reality, it’s just a work deadline.

The quickest way to let go of your necessary stress is to say to yourself, “Let go.” Stress might stick around for a few minutes, but it will likely teach you how to come back to a grounding point that is calm and happy.

For 3 more ways to manage stress, click here in read how stress is manipulating your athletic performance.

4 | Breathwork

Breathwork is where you take your mind and spirit training and implement it into the physical body. When we train the mind, it trains the body and the body becomes masterful at peace and relaxation.

The body can be trained into baseline peace and relaxation which will improve your strength and endurance in climbing.

Breathwork is a vague practice and there are many differnt strategic breath work practices I guide athlete’s through in Flow State Warriors.

For starters, you aim is boost the energized and improve inner groundedness. This will prevent flightiness and fear on the wall and will prevent general fatigue.

A good practice for this is to perform 10 rounds of intense breath like so:

  • Take a sharp, full inhale through the nose
  • Exhale it all the way out the mouth
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Hold at the top of the last breath for 10-20 seconds
  • Exhale it out the mouth and hold at the bottom of the breath for 10-20 seconds
  • Repeat for 3-5 rounds

5 | Myofascial Release

Finally, no climbing training guide is complete without mention of myofascial release.

Climbing training is less about becoming stronger and more about letting go of all the things that don’t serve us.

The truth is, most of are holding too much tension in our muscles while climbing. Thing of it like ovvrgripping but with ever single muscle in the body.

Climbing in Maple Canyon, Climbing training
The closer you get to weightlessness, the easier climbing will be 🙂

Myosfacial release (or MFR for short) is the practice of release tension and toxins in the fascia, the layers of casing surrounding the muscles.

The most common MFR practice is foam rolling but to go deeper into the practice, I recommend using lacrosse balls.

Essentially, MFR is a self-massage practice which can help you let go of deep tension and soreness stored in the fascia.

Of course, it’s not all muscles that are causing excessive tension. Like I mentioned earlier, your mind can literally be weighing you down with thoughts that are causing you tension (such as, “I’m just not good enough”).

MFR is a core component that will make a massive difference in your recovery and in your climbing performance.


I hope this inspired you with some new climbing training methods you haven’t thought of before.

Consistent practice of these 5 strategies and you’ll be climb harder grades in no time.

If you want to try out the first guided meditation in Flow State Warriors, check out the Athlete’s Success Hypnosis.

Flow State for Athletes, peak performance hypnosis
You can click here to get free access to my Athlete’s Success Meditation

Again, I don’t think all climbing training is bad, but just know that addressing your self limiting beliefs is likely more powerful than a month of hang boarding (#justsaying).

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