What's the ONE thing you've done to change your climbing that made the most difference?

This doesn’t have to be a physical thing, but I’m asking about what within yourself you’ve changed. For instance, The Machine Shop is one of the most significant things that allows me to continue climbing at a high (for me) level, but that doesn’t qualify here.

For me, the answer is that I switched my thinking around movement to being more thematic rather than “techniques”. Jeet Kun Do for climbers, in a manner of speaking. Not that I’ve by any means mastered it, but allowing myself to think outside of the box of technique and style, and the “rules” that so many are quick to point out, has allowed my climbing to evolve.

I’m still gathering my thoughts and language around these ideas, and I plan to do a larger project surrounding it at some point, but you can listen to the origin of the conversation on the podcast, in Episode #165: Board Meetings | The Art of Learning Climbing

This is really obvious, and sometimes when I say it to people it comes off as cocky or dumb or whatever but the big thing that’s changed my climbing in the last few years is trying.

Part of that is trying hard - it’s a flaw I have. I don’t try super hard very often - think murder face, or the switch some people call it or whatever. I don’t really have that extra gear, at least not without putting a lot of conscious effort into it.

But this also encompasses trying to get better. Walking into the gym and climbing hard is trying, for sure, but walking into the gym and climbing hard and refining things is what I’m talking about.

This has, of course, been discussed a lot, but I always feel like this is a really relevant thing, and at least once when this conversation comes up someone should say it. That’s why I started paying attention to it. Someone was just chatting with me about a move one day and I was like how do you? And they just said I try really hard and the whole lightbulb thing…. :man_shrugging:t2:


@kylemfspurgeon good answer. Part of this is definitely a close second for me. I’m really well versed at relaxing while climbing and giving extended effort. So I have that end of the effort spectrum covered.
On the other hand, not trying to relax as soon as I hit good holds - and instead continuing to move - took some practice. Giving high intensive effort took (and is taking) even more effort.

I’ve put a little time into a V10 recently that is not only a vegetable boulder for me, but is really testing my ability to modulate arousal, effort, and pace. Maybe I’ll try to make a video of it.

There have been a few different things that have helped a lot but the single best thing I’ve done for my climbing happened a few years ago.

I got a mild pulley tweak climbing in the gym in the summer which was probably my 3 one in a year. I fully stopped climbing in the gym and just started doing lock off drills on my home wall on finger buckets/mini jugs with really bad feet.

I bought the applied body tension ebook and started working on rooting again, bigger holds, bad feet. When my finger started to feel better I made the holds smaller

That fall i went into the season having only climbed 2-3 outdoor v4’s with a list of 10 or so v4’s I’d been “working on” for 3+ years…. I sent that whole list and my first 3 v5’s in about a month


I can totally see what you mean about techniques in climbing. In a lot of Japanese martial arts there are hundred of techniques. These are very specific, so the movement is very exact and will only work in a particular situation (like a specific move that only works if someone grabs your left wrist with his right hand). These techniques can then be drilled in using “kata” - a formalised sequence of moves. Practitioners will then spend hundreds of hours getting it “perfect”, as in exactly the same as in the text book.
This is very different from a lot of combat sports, such as boxing: where there really are just a handful of techniques… But these techniques aren’t specific at all. There’s dozens of ways you can deliver a jab. So really, these “techniques” should be called concepts. And it is up to the practitioner to deliver this concept in such a way that it is effective, depending on the context. Very different mindsets. And I think the concepts, or “thematic” approach as you mentioned, applies a lot more to climbing. There is no 1 perfect back flag, for instance.

For me, the #1 thing that made the biggest difference was working on my posture / engaging the right muscles. I think in the beginning I really misunderstood what people meant when they said things like don’t waste energy, because I was climbing with my shoulders and core disengaged. I was putting my hands and feet in the right place, but I wasn’t using them to their fullest potential. I’ve since realised that on top of the whole “external component” (beta), there’s also a whole “internal component” (learning to engage the right muscles). I’ve been climbing a lot harder, and haven’t gotten injured as much since. Basically, this has transferred my climbing from climbing with separate limbs that push or pull to using my whole body to get from one position to the next. And still every now and then I will discover a muscle that I didn’t know was there, but totally helps me keep a position :stuck_out_tongue:


@AmirNickname nice! I’ve worked with a lot of climbers on learning the awareness required to be able to feel when and what to engage. How to focus on it and then let it happen automatically. I know the science of it pretty well, and my own experiences - but I’d love to hear more about your process of learning it.

Posterior. Chain. Engagement.

As a climber, I have personally defaulted to using my anterior muscles ALOT! I’ve watched so many climbers do the same. Part of this seems to come from those muscles being stronger than our muscles in the back, but that is coupled with—and even exacerbated by—poor posture. I work at a computer all day. So I often sit all day. My shoulders are forward all day. My head is down all day. All of this weakens the posterior chain and continues to “strengthen” (but not really) the anterior chain and reinforce the notion that climbing requires that front side of the body. Overusing my gross muscles without oblique stabilization and posterior chain endurance made me a poor climber.

Don’t get me wrong, I tried really fucking hard and overcame a great deal. But most of that was compensation. As I’ve unwound some of that compensation; as I’ve improved my posture daily; as I’ve learned what my serratus posterior inferior and superior are and how to engage them; as I’ve allowed my lats to turn on; these have made the difference. The strength I have in my climbing continues to increase. My awareness on the wall is changing. And as I put it all together, it is gradually improving my overall form and ability to hang on longer.


Surrounding myself with a great crew. Not just better climbers (which they are) but also a crew who want to improve and are collaborative.

They say you are the average of the five people you spend most time with; and for climbing I totally agree.


My process so far has been accidental! Haha! I injured my shoulder and went to a fantastic physiotherapist. I showed him a video of me bouldering. It was my first real project; I kept falling off and didn’t understand why.
That’s when he remarked that my disengaged shoulder was the cause of me being unable to hold on in the crux. I started working on strengthening my shoulder, which helped but it wasn’t enough. I also really needed to actively engage my shoulder during the climb. A few sessions later I managed to send it. Then through time I discovered more and more muscles that somehow seem to matter, depending on the exact nature of the move.

I still have a lot to discover, but this is generally how it works:

  • I fall out of a route, or get a light injury (such as a nagging feeling in my shoulder or knee)
  • I start searching the internet to understand how that part of the body works
  • I find a new muscle or group of muscles
  • I find a way to activate them
  • Finally; before I jump on the wall, I will activate these muscles. Usually, that will be enough and I will have those muscles engaged when I reach the crux. If that’s not enough, I’ll make a mantra out of it and just continuously repeat that as I climb.

This video really helped me in the beginning: 6 Tips for Core Strength from Biokineticist, Nic Acampora - YouTube

Anyway I really like this journey! I really feel more in touch with my own body since I’ve started working on this. I notice a lot of other people aren’t interested in this whole dimension though… and if I’m honest, if it weren’t for my initial injury, I don’t think I’d be interested in this topic either! Guess in a way I was lucky :slight_smile:

Good partners are such an important element.

Having like minded people to climb and train with has been huge for me as well but it can be so hard to find.


Great use of time my man! Many people i know take X weeks rest from sport, come back in terrible form without motivation to climb and without injury solved. Its actually sick that in climbing you can get gainz while being injured and cant practice your sport to full potential.

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Recent think that i think improved my mindset, send anxiety, ego management was realization that a particular V-something is not necessarily V-something for me, it just lays on my own spectrum Warmup-> Moderate->Projects of different length, so i try my best to take it as an challenge independent on V-somethings i sent before. If it challenges me i accept it, eat my vegetables, listen to what i got to teach, if it doesnt i also accept the enjoyment of an easy send and move on, trying my best not to spray or comment that “its soft and definitely not like that other V-another there”. Along the same lines, practicing seeking challenges by training on a spray wall also helps a lot. I found it removes the urge of “getting to the finish jug from a legit starting holds without dabbing” and focuses on what i`m really after in climbing - every session getting that little bit closer to movement mastery. Ofc once in a while you need to remember how to send and value the start-to-end rules, but that is given in our community, so wont be that hard to get into it.

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This is incredible!!! I might have to steal the mantra idea—especially during warmups.

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Putting intention into every time I tie in (or get on a boulder). This has been huge for training but I see it most in outdoor performance. If I focus on learning or reinforcing specific sequences while going bolt to bolt I can improve them significantly more than if I just did another lap on top rope or tried to redpoint and fell. Then when I feel confident, it helps significantly if I go through a routine at the base, mentally prep, and go into it as a redpoint go where I’m only focused on executing.

I’m still working on this for onsighting, but my normal area is highly technical and has many solution pockets/slots that are difficult to find on an onsight.

For training being intentional with each effort has helped a lot as well. I feel like I can focus on learning something from each attempt. I can also practice that “deep breath, step on and execute/try hard” that has been so important outside. With focusing on intention I can get more out an hour or 90 minutes than I used to in 2.5 hours and then I recover better and perform better going into the weekend.

I’m definitely still working on this, but the more I do it the more natural it feels. Maybe as this level of intention becomes passive over time, I can actively bring my focus to a higher level.


This seems like a really good one, I’m pretty good about having intention when I’m climbing but I feel like I end up wasting a lot of reps/sets/workouts when I strength train since I can just go into auto pilot


Almost stupid simple, but focusing on sleep and hydration. If I sleep for 10 solid hours, 2 nights in a row, I always have incredible sessions where I leave the gym blown away by my performance. If I sleep for 5-6 hours…the opposite happens. Life gets in the way of me sleeping 10 hours a night every night, but when I can pull it off, it moves the needle by what feels like a number grade (bouldering.) Same with hydration - I drink a lot more water now than ever before, and staying consistently hydrated throughout a session keeps me feeling healthy and loose. I’ve been training consistently over the past 18 months, and what I’ve learned climbing with PCC is a whole other host of benefits that have helped my climbing a ton, but no amount of training can compensate for being poorly rested and dehydrated.


Oooooo I’m bad at both of these… Coffee I think is the culprit behind both!

I stopped focusing on generic weakness and focus only zoning in on specific weaknesses to particular climbs. To me, I was getting better before but for time constraints it no longer made sense to simply focus on things that I’m bad at for the sake of being more well rounded. I pick my goal boulders and laser in on what’s needed for them.

Specifically to get there what helped is video taping everything so I can break down what I’m doing wrong. Then as you mentioned as well it maybe shouldn’t count but having a home wall is a huge cheat code for keeping your focus on what you need to be practicing.

This mindset works for now but likely will need to be adjusted at some point but for sure had the largest impact by far.


Climbing less! This was counterintuitive and really hard to commit to, but as my life has gotten busier, the number of hours I spend just climbing/ forerunning/doing exercises just to get tired has decreased and I’m climbing better and less injured than ever before. I’m more intentional with my time in the gym, I listen to my body better and have put a TON of effort (not a ton of time, just effort) into strength training off the wall. The overall strength I have gained in the weight room has made my body feel much more durable and resilient in climbing sessions. @Kris this is what you told me at Empowered and I avoided it hard because it was scary - you were so right.


How about 3?
-Consistent short (20-40min) finger strength sessions in the AM.
-Videoing myself climbing on projects.
-Forcing myself to use my heels, used to take pride in avoiding them.