Training for Bouldering

In short, campusing is scaling a ladder- like board without using your feet. After all, bouldering as a whole is a bunch of fancy pull ups, so it makes sense that one form of training for it is just a slightly different take on that very common exercise. The added bonus to campusing is that it is done with a very limited amount of grip- able surface, simultaneously building finger strength and upper body strength. As such, it’s not uncommon for climbing gyms to have a few different campusing boards, all with varying degrees of gripability (it’s quite possible I’m manufacturing this word. If it didn’t exist before this article, it does now.) It probably goes without saying that a climber should spend a little time on the easiest ladder before progressing to the more challenging ones.

As with any other workout program, do the following before getting started:

  • Stretch and warmup: Allot the first 20- 30 minutes of a session to focused stretching, followed by low difficulty (or at least a couple grades below your climbing ability) traversing or a couple simple problems. As you probably already know, this is to acclimate your muscles to increased blood flow and to increase elasticity.
  • It’s common for a climber to reinforce the base of his/her fingers with climbing tape before campusing, too, so now would be the time for it. Usually, two or three wraps at the base of each finger (except the thumb), about a half inch wide is sufficient. There are plenty of articles written by trained professionals on taping technique, I recommend checking out a few to see what appeals to you.
  • Start slow, as mentioned. Progress from the easier to whatever difficulty grade you can handle, just to get a feel for where you need to focus. But throughout the whole exercise, pay attention to your joints. If you experience pain (not to be confused with fatigue or simple discomfort), then STOP.
  • Once you’ve warmed up, simply ascend the board as if you were climbing a ladder. Alternating left hand, right hand, one after another. As long as you are maintaining control and performing the exercise cleanly, this should quickly become a demanding workout. Keep in mind also that 5 clean repetitions will be more rewarding (i.e. make you stronger) than 15- 20 sloppy repetitions.
  • On the descent focus on maintaining control as much as possible, refusing to let gravity make it easy.