Can you really tell your weaknesses and strengths?

So, we’ve all been getting a lot of good advise about how you should work on your weaknesses in order to become a better climber, and still maintain a bit of your strengths to not let it slip away.

If one clearly knows his weaknesses and strengths, than the above advise seems easy to implement (assuming your ego doesn’t get the best of you).

But, I’m honestly not sure if I could define my strengths and weaknesses, after 13 years of climbing. I’ve tried doing that exercise, but it all becomes blurry.
E.g, I’d like to think I’m really good with holding tension while stretched out, but there are situations when it’s not working out.
Or, I think I’m really bad at backstep moves, but I can think of several hard routes I sent using backstep where other climbers chose different beta.

My questions are:

  • Does anybody else have similar doubts?
  • How can one identify weaknesses vs strengths, in different settings and scenarios?

Wow great question! It makes me all excited because deep down, it feels like a philosophical question :slight_smile:

I guess the easy, practical answer is to compare yourself to others. Being good at holding tension while stretched out doesn’t mean you will be able to succeed on every attempt at this, it means you’ll be be better at it relative to your other skills. So if you see others (similar to you) use high feet in a similar situation, and that doesn’t work for you but the holding tension/stretching out does work - then that’s some evidence that you’re probably good at that.

But it gets so much more complicated! Like, with how many others should you compare yourself to get a baseline? Or how different can those people be (in size for instance) for this method to still be valid?

Another approach could be to use completely different movement patterns on the same boulder to see which one you prefer. For instance I’ve found by using the hip shapes exercise that I’m 10x better at turning in compared to staying square. The advantage of this method is that you’re comparing you to yourself, but it’s still complicated. Like, on how many routes do you have to do this exercise before you’re fairly certain you’re good at something? And how different can those routes be?

I guess in the end, it’s a process. By staying critical you will experiment and evaluate and thus get better at answering the question what your strengths and weaknesses are. The fact that you’re already nuanced (you’re able to say in which cases your strength is not your strength) tells me you’re already really good at this. So maybe don’t worry so much? :slight_smile:


A few things come to mind from my personal quest to work on weaknesses (in which I have struggled as well).
-Climbing with or sharing footage with friends who are excited about climbing better can lead to some great observations. I didn’t realize how damn slowly I climb until I shared some videos with friends and they pointed it out. In each instance I had told myself I was just moving like a snail on that one climb.
-Imagine you show up to Joe’s Valley (or the Red or wherever) for your first week there ever, what do you get on and what do you avoid? The things you avoid or are “less psyched about” are probably weaknesses that you could consider working on.
-Climbing with lots of different people who have their own strengths and weaknesses and, as @AmirNickname suggests, comparing yourself to them. Or perhaps instead, clue into your internal dialog. When I think to myself “Wow she is so good at crimping things” or “why aren’t my friends better at slopey traverses?” it’s a reflection of my weaknesses and strengths in addition to theirs.


philosophical question

If you have no “strengths”,is that a weakness? or is your strength actually being well rounded?


I think that the simplest way to understand strengths is to look at achievements. In my experience the hardest climbs (for me personally, not grade wise) all play to my strengths. There is a common theme to them (small holds, not steep). When talking to other climbers and observing their achievements I see that same kind of theme.

This gives me a context based on evidence of my own achievements to make a judgement of strengths. Weaknesses are just everything else haha, steep pinch climbs. That said I do tend to double down on my strengths in my training as well and not neglect my weaknesses at all but accepting my strengths don’t need to be sacrificed to improve on weaknesses.

I love this question. Nate and I discussed it a little in our episode “Is it a Weakness or is it Just Hard?”

I’m partial to the approach of paying close attention to what you avoid - even subconsciously. Not only boulders, but holds and moves. Are you constantly looking for beta to get around that shouldery move or that terrible sloper? Are you high stepping awkwardly instead of using the perfect smear?

Climbing is a game of compensation, pretty much always, so figure out where the patterns are in your compensation.

Yes, I do think that having no real specific strengths is a weakness. Also a strength. They are opposite sides of the same coin after all - you just have the coin on end, spinning. Doesn’t matter which side it lands on, there’s lots of room to grow.

But grow which way? Do you continue trying to be well rounded and never put focus on one thing?

I don’t think so.

What is the prevalent style you find yourself performing on? Or if you like to spread it out, what is the style that’s easiest to get to and spend time on. Inevitably, unless you get paid to travel and climb, a time will come when you’re spending more time in one spot because it’s convenient. More edges? More Slopers? More technical? Whatever it is, put some time there and get a strength. It’s fun to have weaknesses.


Great insight, everyone! Thanks a lot. I’ll be wrapping my head around it a bit more :smiley:

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