Training for Climbing: the rule of 75/25
We’ve all seen it. A beefy dude walks into a climbing gym for the first time. He’s got biceps twice the size of Alex Honold’s head and and he’s ready to slay some plastic rocks. You watch him boulder in his rental shoes and notice that the although the guy can yank his way up a juggy V2, all bets are off when he tries to do this on anything harder. You really want to tell him that campusing up routes is not a long-term strategy for becoming a well-rounded climber.
But you don’t because you’re not a jerk… on the outside at least.
So why does someone like this who is clearly exceptionally strong suck so bad at climbing? Because he has no skills.
To climb at your highest possible limit you need to be strong, but more importantly you need to be a well-practiced climber with GREAT SKILLS.
How should your training reflect this distinction? Easy. Just use the 75/25 rule.
What is the rule of 75/25?
I learned this rule from Steve Bechtel’s Logical Progression and it is pretty simple. 75% of your training should be completed with your climbing shoes on, the other 25% should be completed with your shoes off.
I love this rule because it helps with the confusion that comes with trying to determine the priority of different activities in your climbing training.
Should you strength train? Yes. Should you hangboard or use a campus board? Maybe depending on who you are and what you need. Should any of these take complete priority over time spent climbing? No.
When you are practicing you’re trying to get better, when you’re training you’re trying to build the fitness qualities that support better practice.Steve Bechtel Logical Progression pg. 7
The basis of the 75/25 rule is that climbing is a skill sport. You want to spend most of your time climbing so you can become better at the practice of climbing. Then you want to spend 25% of your time making yourself an iron-fingered, bullet-proof instrument of athleticism. The 25% piece of your time can be spent stretching, resistance training, and using various finger strength tools such as the hangboard or campus board.
What this looks like for me
My own training looks like this, on an ideal week:
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – 1 hour of integrated strength: Hangboarding, lifting, stretching.
30 minutes of ARCing on autobelays
Wednesday – 40 minutes of ARCing on autobelays
Thursday – 75 Minutes of bouldering and limit bouldering
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Power Endurance Bouldering or Routes – 90 minutes
Sunday – Rest
Time spent without climbing shoes: 60 minutes (25.5%)
Time spent with climbing shoes on: 235 minutes (74.5%)
The above example is what I am doing now, which is non-linear periodization. However, there are many programs that are linearly periodized. The Rock Prodigy Program has a full strength phase – lasting about 4 weeks and then a couple of weeks of campusing. While there is still climbing during these phases of intense hangboarding and campusing, these phase only make up about 25% of the program.
Phases of training
At the beginning of the training season (i.e. winter) I placed more of a focus on getting stronger and I violated this rule. My weekly training time probably looked more like 33:66 instead of 25:75.
However, as sport climbing season is opening up, I have added in low-end endurance, skill-focused sessions which gets me back to more of a 25:75 sort of ratio.