Bouldering Tips and Gear

July 27, 2015

  • by
  • Lydia Tanner

If you like powerful and dynamic moves, heady highballs and the freedom of going ropeless, bouldering might be your cup of tea. Here are a few tips and gear picks to thrive in the gym and beyond.

Physical Preparation:

Bouldering takes serious strength, so progression requires dedicated training. 

Weights or no weights? 

Weights aren’t intrinsically good or bad—it depends on how you use them. Before you start pumping iron, know that the movements in climbing are extremely variable. Beefing up biceps leaves you looking good, yet it neglects other, equally important muscle groups. Instead, train for functional strength by doing repeats on a problem rated a grade or two easier than you usually climb. 

Slow climbing:

Climb slowly, with total control and perfect foot placements. If you can go up and down a route three times without getting sweaty, go up a grade. 

Warm Up:

Moves in bouldering can be exceptionally tweaky, shouldery and/or awkward (when you try it yourself, these non-words will make sense). A good warm-up on easy routes gets your tendons and shoulders ready to send. 

Hangboards and Therabands: 

Consider setting up a Theraband routine for your rotator cuffs along with a hangboard for finger pulleys. It’s worth the extra time and effort to confidently throw for that sloper without worrying about injury.

Mental Preparation:

While you won’t deal with big whippers that you encounter with a rope, bouldering requires a different, equally important mental skillset. 

Size it Up (or Down):

If you’re standing below a scary boulder, break the problem down into doable moves. Analyze it. Find your rests. Zero in on spots where you’ll need to focus—and breathe! Anxiety, especially if you’re close to falling, causes you to tense up and lose both focus and grip. 

Visualize the Climb:

You’ve probably seen people standing below a problem, waving their hands in the air and contorting their bodies, eyes squinted at the crux. They’re not being theatrical; they’re simply visualizing how they’ll send the project.

Use every sense. What is the weather like? Can you feel the sun on your back? What do the trees smell like? What is the texture of the rock? How does it feel to pull the crux move? This helps dissect the problem and primes your brain and body for a send. 

3 Bouldering Gear Picks:

Crashpad: Metolius Boss Hog

Metolius boss hog Metolius Boss Hog Crash Pad

With cushy open-cell foam padding sandwiched between stiffer closed-cell layers, the Boss Hog has got your back, regardless of where you bail. The Boss Hog’s padding spans the joint, so you don’t need to worry about hitting the ground. Extra material in the closure lets you bundle shoes and chalk inside without worrying about them falling out. 

Best For: Bouldering insurance

Shoes: La Sportiva Solution 

La sportiva solution001 La Sportiva Solution $158.40 - $160.96

Every problem has a solution and these shoes will help you find it. You’ll get soft Vibram rubber, an asymmetrical fit and a permanent, aggressively downturned toe. A single strap provides a quick custom fit and the reinforced heel supports your most committing heel-hooks. 

Best For: Performance-driven bouldering

Chalk: Black Diamond White Gold

Bd white gold Black Diamond White Gold Starting at: $4.51

The unsung hero of climbing equipment, chalk is part comfort blanket, part savior. If watching climbing videos turns you into a clammy mess, grab White Gold when you head to the crag. White Gold is free of weird chemicals, so it’s good on your hands and the rock as well.

Best For: Dry and healthy hands

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