Whether you are new to bouldering or are trying to take your bouldering to the next level, you are probably looking to get good as fast as possible. I know when I first started bouldering I thought my fellow climbers who were sending V5 were amazing and I wanted to get on their level immediately. Well, my excitement caused me to overdo it a bit and I ended up with a couple minor overuse injuries. This begs the question, how often should you go bouldering to maximize your progress.
As a general rule, beginner and intermediate climbers should boulder 2 to 3 times a week to get the best results. Bouldering more frequently than this will not allow the muscles to recover enough and can lead to muscle fatigue and injury.
The frequency you should have a bouldering session to maximize progress really depends on your current level and how intense your sessions are. In addition to this, how you space out your bouldering sessions also plays a factor. The remainder of this article explores all of the factors that play into this and gives a few helpful tips along the way.
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How Many Times A Week You Should Go Bouldering
Unlike some other activities, climbing works muscles that we don’t typically heavily use in our everyday lives such as our forearms. As such, our bodies are not accustomed to the demands climbing places on our muscles and it takes time to adjust to these new demands.
This is especially true for beginners who are not yet able to climb hard grades yet and typically have less than 6 months of climbing experience. As climbers get into the intermediate range their bodies start to adjust to climbing’s demands a bit better and can handle a larger workload than beginners.
In fact, climbing is so new to beginners that they typically can still make relatively solid progress just bouldering one time per week. If you are a beginner and do not have a lot of time or are just curious, check out my article that details what progress you can expect climbing only once a week.
For the most part however, going just once a week will not allow you to progress as quickly as you could. To progress quicker, you will want to climb as frequently as possible without getting injured. This typically corresponds to 2 to 3 bouldering training sessions in a week.
Why You Should Not Have An Intense Bouldering Session Every Day
Strength training exercises and other physical activities (such as bouldering) break down your muscles. This prompts the need for your body to rebuild these muscles and recover from the exercise. This recovery process really depends on a large number of factors including but not limited to how much the muscles were broken down, amount of sleep, age of the climber, nutrition intake, and muscle use post exercise.
Rebuilding your muscles is actually what makes you stronger. The exercise itself is only what breaks them down to allow this process to happen. That is why recovery is so important.
On average, it will take 24 to 48 hours for your muscles to recover from a hard bouldering session. For beginners this recovery time frame can even take up to 72 hours depending on the intensity and duration of the bouldering session.
How To Organize Your Weekly Bouldering Training Program
The recovery time is what plays into how often you can go bouldering a week. By going three times a week and spacing at least one “off” day between each session, you will be allowing your body the ideal time to recover and rebuild the muscles that were torn down during the bouldering session before.
If you boulder 3 times a week but the sessions are all on consecutive days (i.e. Friday, Saturday, Sunday) then you are defeating the purpose of training “3 times per week”. You are not allowing your body the proper rest and recovery time it needs. This will limit your overall progress and could lead to injury.
Going off of this, if you are someone who really enjoys going all out every session and tries super hard on every attempt, then you may want to consider going twice a week. This is because the high intensity of your sessions will be breaking down your muscles more than a normal session and requires longer for your body to properly recover.
So in summary, you will want to plan out either 2 or 3 bouldering sessions on set days each week depending on how intense they normally are. Make sure that you are keeping at least one day between each training session to ensure your body has enough time to recover.
If you ignore your body’s need for recovery, you can suffer overuse injuries that will prevent you from a few days up to even a few months depending on their severity. This will just slow your overall progress down and make it harder for you to progress in the long run.
How Professional Boulderers Are Able To Train More Frequently
Just because you need to allow your muscles to recover does not mean you need to stop training completely. It just means that you have an opportunity to work on other aspects of your climbing without working the same muscles you did earlier. Check out how often professional climbers train and how they do it.
Optimizing your training schedule and keeping it up on “off” days will allow you to continue to make strides in your bouldering performance without having a specific “bouldering training session”.
In fact, you don’t even have to go to a climbing gym. There are even a few different exercises you can do to train for bouldering while at home.
However you decide to approach your bouldering training, I recommend to keep it fun and entertaining for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are doing things the “optimal” way if you only can stick to it for a couple weeks and then get sick of it and stop. Consistency is king when it comes to making progress so be sure to keep a schedule that you know you will stick to and have fun with.