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I've only just started bouldering, and we have been using the easiest to grades VB-V1. I find V1 are moderately challenging but the next step up, V2, I just entirely struggle with. What can I do to improve to move up a grade when I always find it vastly different in difficulty, when there is limited access to my local bouldering gym?

This question has a lot of great info, however I am limited to a gym only (no outdoor locally), so everything is predefined, and we can only get there a twice a month maximum as it's quite far away. I visit my regular gym twice a week, however, so what can I do here, or at home, as well?

  • Good link, didn't see this one as a suggestion when I started writing :) thanks - however, I've updated my question as I'm limited to gym only, so all the routes are pre-defined, as is the training equipment, and only really 2 visits a month so looking for broader than the bouldering gym info as well. If it is still considered a duplicate, happy for it to close. – Aravona Aug 8 at 15:08
  • I think @CharlieBrumbaugh is right, this really is a duplicate. The answers on the other question are not at all limited to outdoor climbing, and I think apply perfectly in your case. Should have looked before starting my answer :/ – jhch Aug 8 at 15:28
  • perhaps the question can be edited to ask more about training that can be done outside of a climbing gym as it sounds like OP has limited time for climbing gyms? – BKlassen Aug 8 at 17:00
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The specifics of this are unique to the person, but in general: Just keep going climbing.

There are (very broadly speaking) two factors which determine how hard you can climb.

  1. Technique, or how you move and position your body
  2. Strength, or how strong your body is

Going climbing will improve both of these things. You'll get comfortable in the strange positions climbing sometimes puts you in and your muscles will get used to gripping holds of a variety of shapes. Essentially, practice makes perfect, or at least better.

Now, there are ways to improve each of these things on their own (footwork drills, hangboarding, etc.) but these are a shockingly bad idea for the V0-V2 climber.

It is unlikely, as a new climber, that your muscles and tendons will respond well to targeted workouts; it is likely, as a new climber, that hangboarding will injure you. And while technique exercises won't hurt you... they're kinda boring! I suggest enjoying regular routes, and asking fellow climbers for technique advice when interested.

The advice above is pretty general, but I'm guessing you're also feeling a bit of...

The Plateau/The Jump

This is when you feel that your rate of improvement has decreased (plateau) or the change in difficulty from one level to the next is insurmountable (jump). Perhaps when you started climbing, a V0 was doable and a V1 was very hard, but you could at least attempt it. Now you feel that V1s are doable but a V2 is impossible. This is very common, and V2 won't be the first time you experience this. Here are a few tips for getting past it.

  • Climb more. Go twice a week instead of once. Stay at the gym for 3hrs instead of 2.
  • Work on the parts of harder climbs that you can do. There is often a big difference in style of climb between V0-V2, and getting used to the new type of movement will help you improve.
  • Work on individual moves at your limit. Find a few moves that look cool to you and work on them. Try them every different way you can think of. The feeling of sticking a move after trying it over and over for a week is incomparable.
  • (optional) Ask for advice. When you're working on your one hard move, talk to the local crushers and see if they have a suggestion--it's amazing how much a well placed backstep or dropknee can change how you feel on the wall, and sometimes new climbers won't recognize (or even know) how to identify the opportunities.

Above all, go out and have fun.

Edit after edit to question:

Most of my answer involves climbing more, and you say you can't get to the climbing gym more than twice a month. I hate to say it, but you're going to have a hard time improving significantly. As with most technical sports, you can't improve without actually doing it. Sure, you can do grip workouts and yoga and situps and more, but in all likelihood you'll get on your next V2 and it will feel just as hard as before.

An analogy, in reverse: I recently started going to a regular gym. I can climb pretty hard routes on tiny crimps with huge jumps. But when I go to the gym I can only do 5 or 10 pull ups--and what gets tired first? My grip.

  • Lots of good info, and interesting analogy at the end too - makes me think how I can run 10k without problems but I find doing 10k on a cross trainer stupidly harder. – Aravona Aug 9 at 8:16
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When you just get started climbing there is a lot of things you can learn to improve your technique, and not all of it needs to come from climbing.

Things you can do outside of the gym:

  • Try watching bouldering competitions and watch how the climbers move, pay close attention to how and where they place their feet and how they shift their body weight. A great place to watch these is the IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) youtube channel

  • Learn about specific climbing moves such as flagging and drop knees, there are many more advanced techniques but these two can be very useful and can be applied in many bouldering problems.

  • Get a grip training device from your local climbing store, for V0 - V2 I suspect that its more likely your body position and movement is the primary impediment to advancing grade but strengthening your grip certainly won't do any harm

Things you can do at the gym

  • Try doing footwork drills, you can find all sorts of drills online, some I've done:

    • Standing next to the wall pick a bolt hole and in one movement lift your foot and tap your toe to the bolt hole, this will train foot placement accuracy so that you have less need to re-adjust after stepping.

    • Pick an easier section of wall and traverse along the bottom of it focusing on stepping with the front of foot rather than the side, see this question for an explanation why this is preferred foot placement. Try to also focus on making all of your movements controlled such that when you step there is no sound and once you have placed your foot you do not need to adjust it. Try different types of movements in your traverse, stepping across your body in front of the other foot, stepping across your body behind your other foot, etc.

  • Try to practice twisting and rotating your body as you climb so that you are not square to the wall the entire time, instead you want to be able to turn your hip towards the wall so that you face more to the side, this brings your shoulder closer to the wall giving you further reach and can help keep pressure on your feet rather than your fingers. For example, when reaching to a hold to your left, you would want to turn your left hip towards the wall.

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    +1 for watching climbing videos, nothing like it to get you stoked and have a good sense of movement. – jhch Aug 8 at 18:26

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