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5 Ways to Beat a Performance Plateau | Training and Skills

By Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones

Climbing hard but not getting any better? Well, you might have hit a performance plateau. They are a common occurrence and we have some tips and tricks to help you get past your climbing plateau and reach that next climbing grade. 

Before we explain how to beat it, you may be thinking: what is a climbing plateau? Simply, it is a term often used to describe a stage in our climbing careers where we stop making improvements and can’t reach that next climbing level, no matter how hard we try.

Whether you're bouldering, sport or trad climbing, see our 5 bits of advice below to get to the grade you've so desperately been wanting to reach. 

1. Mix it up

Variety is the spice of life and when it comes to climbing, mixing it up can be the key to making progress and developing your skills. But, what do we mean by mixing it up? Well, this primarily applies to climbing discipline and climbing medium – here’s how:

Climbing discipline – Each climbing style requires its own unique set of skills and strengths. Switching it up and changing disciplines can show you where you need to improve whilst immediately forcing you to adapt and develop your skill or strength set. Switching disciplines is the best way to reach an equilibrium between your power and endurance.

Climbing medium – What we climb on can dramatically influence the way we climb, developing certain skills whilst limiting others. Changing where you climb and what you climb on is key to improving as a climber and switching the gym for real rock, experiencing different rock types or simply visiting another gym can teach you tonnes about different styles, making you a more rounded climber in the process.  

2. Take a break

A common misconception amongst climbers is that the more you climb, the better you get. Whilst climbing regularly will definitely help you progress, flogging a dead horse (the horse being your tired body) won’t. Taking a break is a great way to let your body properly recover and repair those climbing muscles, this is especially important if you have any lingering injuries or tweaks. Better still, fully recovered muscles and tendons have an increased capacity for development which should result in the maximum gains you need to beat that plateau.

3. Gear upgrade

They say a poor work(wo)man blames their tools but where climbing’s small margins are concerned, the gear we use can make all the difference. Climbing shoes are especially important and having a pair that doesn’t match your climbing level can be a primary contributor towards your plateau – a fancy new pair of climbing clogs won’t just look great, but they should give you that all important performance upgrade too. This can be a common plateau problem amongst newer climbers who are progressing faster than the abilities of their gym’s hire shoes can handle. Investing in other kit like a harness or a rope might not give you a direct performance boost, but they will open up more climbing possibilities, different disciplines and the ability to experience real rock (See #1).

4. Watch better climbers

Watching better climbers is the perfect way to learn from the best and develop your own climbing technique, whether this is via YouTube or at your local crag or gym. This can be particularly useful on your projects with more technically proficient climbers often demonstrating the skills necessary to top that next grade. Hanging around better climbers will give you an insight into the mindset required to climb at a higher level which could prove to be a turning point for those stuck on a dreaded performance plateau.

5. Focussed training

Last on the list is the most controversial – training. Training and getting stronger is the go-to for climbers stuck on a plateau, so much so that training could be considered as the ‘easy option’. As climbers we regularly use our ‘lack of power’ as the scapegoat for our climbing struggles when focussing on your technique could be a better use of your time. But, nonetheless, if you have a fancy pair of shoes, wield wonderful technique and frequently mix up your climbing then training might be the best option for you.

Training for climbing is incredibly varied and complex, knowing what to train and how to train it can be difficult to understand. We’d recommend going for a fingerboard as your primary training tool, fingerboards are the most varied training apparatus, enabling you to train multiple parts of your climbing machine, often from the comfort of your own home. If you’re already well versed in the basic forms of climbing training, then why not consider getting advice from a professional? This can come from books written by training masters like Dave Macleod or Ned Feehally or in the form of a training plan tailored to your specific needs. However you go about it, training when genuinely necessary is unrivalled when it comes to achieving climbing progression and overcoming performance plateaus.

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