Bouldering for Beginners | 22 Tips | Technique, Mistakes & Training


Bouldering beginner tips

Attention beginners – bouldering is much more than a fantastic workout for your entire body. Besides making you strong, fit, and agile, it might take you to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

The best way to start is in a Boulder- or Climbing Gym. Let’s start with 10 essential tips to improve your bouldering technique.

Boulder beginner indoor
The training is fun
Mental training climbing positiv
Bouldering is best enjoyed with like minded people.

Also you have the chance to get to know some new and interesting people

Bouldering technique
Bouldering – for a strong body
Boulder beginner outdoor
Nature & Adventure included

10 Technique Tips | Bouldering Beginners


Tip # 1:
Focus on using your legs – not your arms
.

You must internalize this point.
Beginners tend to pull themselves up by solely using the power of their arms.

Beginners see the colourful holds in front of them and start to pull and pull and pull.

This is not a sustainable way of bouldering.
Your legs are way stronger than your arms. The capacity of the legs to push the body upwards outweighs the capacity of the arms to pull the body upwards.

  • To climb efficiently focus on your footwork – learn how to use your legs right form the start. 
climbing technique legwork

Tip # 2: 
Precise foot placement – using the very tip of the climbing shoe .

Use the tip of your climbing shoe (edge of the big toe) and carefully put pressure onto the foothold. Lower your heels so as to achieve more grip and save energy (calves). 

climbing tipps technique foot work
Typical beginners mistake – not ideal!
climbing tipps technique foot work
Good footwork – using the toes

Good footwork has many advantages:

  • More grip.
    Climbing shoes are made to pull yourself towards the wall – using your toes. This ensures that the body’s center of gravity is very close to the wall (See Tip # 7)
  • More freedom to move.
    Standing on your toes allows for turning and shifting your body’s center of gravity
    . Note that it is impossible to turn if you place your foot entirely onto the foothold.
  • More reach.
    Using your tiptoes, you are able to move further.
  • Foot swap.
    In many climbing routes, it is necessary to swap your feet changing the foot that is stood on a crucial hold. Especially on smaller holds, this bouldering technique is only possible using the tip of the shoe. 

Exercise 1Silent climbing

Try and place your feet as quietly as you can.

Those just starting to boulder tend to position their feet very loudly yes almost clumsy onto the footholds. This is due to a lack of coordination and body tension.

bouldering technique footwork
No sound = good technique

Learn from the best
Watch some of the most experienced boulderers and listen closely. “A well-placed foot is silent”. By practicing this technique, you will learn how to position your feet properly and also train your core muscles and body tension.


Exercise 2 – Practise swapping your feet around

Foot swapping is a very common technique used when bouldering. Those who are able to correctly utilize this technique without losing too much strength have a solid advantage. 


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Tip # 3
Keep an eye on the foothold

Look closely to where you place your foot. Keep the foothold in focus till you are in a stable position and ready to move on.

Beginners tend to climb hastily – solely using their arms to pull themselves upwards.

In the heat of the moment, they often don’t realize that they aren’t really utilizing the footholds as much as they could (happens a lot). Make sure you pay attention to where exactly you place your foot.

climbing technique tips
Keep an eye on the foothold.

Tip No. 4
Do not hyperextend.

When your whole body is hyperextended, you find yourself in a less than ideal position to move on. The next move can only be made with great physical effort.

Climbing technique bouldering
Unable to move on
climbing technique bouldering
Ready to move on

Footwork is the key
To avoid hyperextending your limbs, good footwork is vital. By positioning your feet a little higher up, you reverse the hyperextension and ensure that you’re able to move in all directions.


Tip # 5: 
Extended arms = efficient climbing.

Climbers who waist energy on every single move will not get very far in the long run. Bent arms –unnecessarily– activate your: biceps, shoulder muscles, lats as well as large parts of your back.

climbing technique arms
Bent arms – waisting lots of energy.
climbing technique arms
Straight arms – the efficient way to climb.

Climbing with extended arms is way more efficient because it activates only those muscles which are needed. Not only does it make for a more elegant climbing technique, but it is also much more effective.

To test this theory, use a pull-up bar or a doorframe. Pull yourself up and hold the position – try first with bent, then with extended arms.


Tip # 6: 
Ensure your grip is only as tight as it needs to be

Holding on tighter than necessary is nothing but a waste of energy.

Beginners often tend to hold on way too hard – trying and squeeze the life out of the hold.

Take the time to understand exactly how much energy you need to put into gripping certain holds – you’ll improve your technique in no time.

As little as possible as much as necessary.

Tip # 7: 
Make sure your hips are close to the wall

Ensure your body’s centre of gravity is positioned as close as possible to the wall. You can do this by pulling yourself towards the wall using your feet arms and core muscles. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more effortless and effective your climbing will be.

climbing tips technique hips
Hips far from the wall – Poor climbing technique
climbing tips technique hips
Hips close to the wall – Good climbing technique

If the body’s centre of gravity is close to the wall, you can shift your weight onto your legs and relieve your arms.


Tip # 8: 
Experiment with body positioning!

Experiment a little when it comes to positioning your body on the wall. The most obvious method may not always be the easiest. Try and develop a sense of how to position your body correctly and find the path of least resistance.

climbing technique backstep
If this does not work…
climbing technique backstep
Turning your body might help (Backstep)

Turning your body sideways often makes things easier and you manage to reach seemingly unreachable holds.


Tip # 9:
Heel Hook

Hooking your heel onto a hold utilises the leg muscles, specifically the biceps femoris muscle. The heel hook is a useful technique to take weight off your arms as well as to stabilise your position.

climbing technique tips heelhook
Heel Hook
climbing technique tips toe hook
The Toe hook often works wonders.

This technique is used especially when bouldering. Some routes are climbable solely due to use of the heel hook.

Regularly practise the heel hook in order to gradually perfect the technique.


Tip # 10:
Perfect your climbing technique

I recommend climbing certain routes repeatedly, working on the perfect execution of movement and the best possible way to climb it.

Try and improve your technique with every attempt and learn to climb more efficiently.

bouldering technique tips
No Hand Rest|©Bloclife.info

You will improve your repertoire of movements and refine your technique.

The devil is in the detail
You will see that whilst bouldering at your limit, it’s the “little things” that make the difference. Be open to new ideas and movements – use every opportunity and every boulder problem to learn something new.


Become a Better Climber / Boulderer

  • Improve your Footwork
  • Improve Positioning
  • Improve overall Technique

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The 6 most common mistakes made by beginners


1.  Strength instead of technique

Strength alone will not get you very far when bouldering. It is good technique that will bring you to the top. Beginners often tend to aimlessly pull themselves up on holds and how can you blame them? They don’t (yet) know any better.

Climbing with strength as opposed to technique is one of the 6 most common mistakes made by beginners.


2. “Reading” the route correctly

Use your brain to boulder… if you don’t think about how you’re going to approach the climb ahead, you’re not going to send difficult problems.

Try to “read” the boulder problem before you even start climbing. Look for possible moves, holds and resting points.

Find the correct solution (Beta) and memorise the movements.

bouldering technique route reading
Route Reading

3. Insufficient warm-ups.

I am also guilty of this. From time to time I skip my warmups, and more recently I paid dearly for this mistake – with an injured elbow. The result: 2 weeks no climbing.

I hope I’ve learned my lesson once and for all. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake – and warm up properly.


4. Incorrect landing/falling – a rookie mistake

Here is a short video with a few tips on falling/landing correctly.


5. Being too hectic when bouldering

A new environment, the sheer excitement over learning a new sport, the unknown scenery – all these things can be a little bit overwhelming – often ending in nervousness as well as the tendency to climb hastily.

  • This happens frequently – Beginners who are stressed tend to slide off the holds due to lack of concentration.
Dangers bouldering
Try to stay calm at any time.

Start slowly
It doesn’t have to be this way…relax, breathe calmly, start slowly and with focus.

Get used to the environment as well as the gear you are using. Begin your bouldering adventure in the right frame of mind – calm and relaxed.


6. Give yourself time to recover

Bouldering is an extremely demanding sport for the whole body.

Make sure that you give yourself at least 3 minutes before you the next route.

Give your body time to recover and make the best of every attempt.

Take time between attempts.

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6 tips on tactics for beginners


1. Find rest positions

Bouldering is characterised by rather short and powerful movements. Therefore the maximum strength of the climber is very important. Opposed to climbing where the routes are way longer and power endurance plays a bigger role.

In bouldering you won’t experience the same pump (bulging forearms) as you do when climbing, however it does make a difference if you’re able to quickly shake your arms out before your final movement.

climbing technique resting position
Find a resting position.

Watch out for resting positions and try to recover.

  • Be mindful body position as well using legs and footholds to relieve your forearms.
  • Watch out for kneebar opportunities.
  • Extend your arms.
  • Ensure your body’s centre of gravity is close to the wall.
  • Use stemming if the rout offers the possibility to do so (pushing against to opposing surfaces).

2. Watch and learn

Be open-minded and learn from experienced climbers.

  • Watch how they approach bouldering problems and which movements they use.
  • Watch how they place their feet, grab the holds, rotate their bodies and shift their body’s centre of gravity.

Bouldering together is twice the fun
It isn’t unusual to outright ask someone for the right Beta. In fact a lot of climbers will be more than happy to discuss potential solutions.


3. Correct Breathing Technique

In the heat of the moment, many climbers simply “forget” to breathe and hold their breath for several seconds. The body needs oxygen to function at it’s best.

Continue to breathe deeply and steadily
Make sure you don’t hold your breath and breathe properly even under physical pressure.

Flood your body with oxygen right before entering a route.
For about 30 sec. breath deeply in and out – fill your body with as much oxygen as possible. There is no easier or quicker method to increase your performance than providing sufficient oxygen to your body.


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4. Rushing – a beginner’s mistake when bouldering

Some people arrive at the bouldering gym stressed from work and try and get through one route after another. Consciously slow yourself down by climbing the warm up routes in a calm and relaxed manner.

Move in a relaxed manner and your mind will follow.

Rushing your climb often coincides with a tendency for shallow and therefore insufficient breathing. Be mindful of taking long and deep breaths, keep your body relaxed and ensure precision and efficiency when moving up the wall.


5. Shoshin (Beginner’s Mind)

If you are just starting to discover bouldering for yourself, you probably still have what is called the “beginner’s mindset”.

Beginners learn quickly
As a beginner you have no expectations and nothing to lose. It is why you are able to be playful in your approach to bouldering. This is one reason why many beginners learn and improve their skills quite quickly.

Boulder with a sense of ease and fun
This is a mindset we tend to lose with time. The pressures we put unto ourselves begin to increase and the ease of bouldering just for fun can get lost in the process. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Work conscientiously to maintain your beginner’s mindset and climb freely and at ease.

Mental training climbing positiv
No need to prove anything – just enjoy bouldering.

Enjoy the company of like-minded people, support and motivate each other.  


6. Route Reading

Try to picture where you are going before you enter the boulder problem. If you don’t calculate your route before you start, the likelihood of falling off the wall will increase.

“Reading” a route is a skill which will improve with time and experience.

Find your own solution
Do not shy away from experimenting – take a playful approach to your solution finding. In many cases there are several ways to get to the top of a route.

These ways can however vary depending on factors such as body weight, mobility and strength. Make sure to hone your own climbing style.


Improve Bouldering Technique (fast)

bouldering technique tips
Click and learn

Gear & Clothing – Bouldering beginners

All you need for the first few days are some clothes that allow for sufficient movement. You can rent climbing shoes and chalk in every boulder gym.

What is chalk? A white magnesium-based powder to ensure dry hands and allow for better grip.

Pants
Make sure that your clothing, especially your pants are fit for purpose. They should not restrict your movements in any way. You can either use shorts or pants – whatever works best for you.

Top
Think about the movements you are going to be carrying out whilst climbing. You want to make sure your top doesn’t constantly slide up when you reach up for the next hold.

Save money on the rental fee
Once you have gained some experience and enjoy bouldering, it’s time to invest in your own gear.


What to wear Climbing / Bouldering?
As long as your movements are not restricted – pretty much everything goes. Click for further information and a couple of real-life examples of what climbers like to wear. 

What to wear bouldering climbing
Tips and Examples

Which gear do I need for bouldering?

  • Climbing shoes
  • Chalkbag / Chalk
  • Climbing pants
Bouldering Beginner tips gear
Basic Gear for Bouldering Beginners

Bouldering – Gym vs. Outdoor

What is the difference between indoor bouldering and bouldering on rock? 

You will soon realise that bouldering outdoors is much more challenging than bouldering in the gym. Alongside with the often long approaches you also need to acknowledge the many different safety-related aspects.

So called “Crashpads” are used for protection when bouldering outdoors.
These are portable mats to protect your landing. Besides those cushioned pads one or two people will “spot” the boulderer, ensuring a save landing onto the pad.

Bouldering-Beginner Outdoor
Spotter and Boulderer are in position
Bouldering Outdoor

Start Indoor
The gym is ideal for building strength and learning a solid technique. Once you have learned the basics, nothing stands in the way of your outdoor bouldering adventure.

Crashpads – a “must have” for outdoor climbing
I strongly recommend taking one or better several crashpads with in order to minimise the risk of injury. They are not heavy, super practical and you can store shoes, chalk, water and food in them.

Crashpad + Boulderbrush

Improve your bouldering – fast

If you want to improve quickly, I recommend you start to expand on your movement repertoire. Specific bouldering training can do no harm, but before you even work on finger strength exercises, you should rather invest your time in bouldering or climbing as much as possible.

Variation
Try all types and forms of climbing and try different holds, climbing styles, rock types, difficulty levels, climbing areas, gyms, overhangs, cracks, static and dynamic movements in as many different routes as possible. 

Push each other 
Those able to find a bouldering partner who is on roughly the same level (ideally a little better) can profit enormously from a bit of healthy competition. A motivated team provides the perfect foundation for mutual development and you will be able improve much faster.


Bouldering beginners – training tips

As already mentioned, especially at the beginning bouldering itself is the best training – by far. You will make fast progress without specific training by simply climbing as much as possible.

But if you must – there are 4 areas which you can train additionally to improve your bouldering performance 

1. Core
Everything concerning the torso and the body centre. From the abdominal muscles to the back muscles and the entire shoulder girdle. Ideal exercises for this are Plank Variations because they train the entire body tension.

Bouldern-core-training
Plank Variations

2. Pulling muscles
The classic pull-ups in all their variations. 


3. Antagonists
To compensate for possible imbalances (postural deformities, susceptibility to injury), it is worthwhile incorporating compensatory training into your climbing routine. More about this in my article “Compensatory training for bouldering”.

Antagonist Training Climbing Best Exercises Adjunct Compensatory Training

4. Stretching
Regular stretching is essential not only to prevent problems with posture and injuries but also to improve mobility.

The more mobile you are, the better you will climb. 
Next to strength and technique, mobility is one of the 3 most important factors in bouldering. So, get on the yoga mats, it is worth it. 


General training tips for bouldering beginners

Work on your weaknesses

We tend to look for routes that suit us.
Those who enjoy climbing on crimps (as it is one of their strengths) would do well to ensure they also climb routes using slopers or pinches. You will probably fail a lot at first (so what?) but in the long run you will acquire and improve on new skills in different areas. 


Train regularly

Training 1x per week is not enough! if you want to get better, you have to train at least 2-3x per week. No matter what you train, just make sure you do it at least 2x per week.

Our body is crying out for exercise and it’s time that your regular training becomes part of your everyday life. If you don’t have much time, I advise you to:


Train effectively

Bouldering is a sociable sport where you can get engaged into conversations pretty easy also during training. Although this is one of the many great aspects to bouldering, you should try and spend more time climbing than chatting.

Train with purpose and intent.
Ensure your breaks are as short as possible (rule of thumb is 2-5 minutes between to hard boulders and a longer 15-minute break in the middle of the session).


Warm up exercises for bouldering beginners.

1. Mobilisation

  • Moving in a circular motion. Mobilise and lubricate the joints (arms, shoulders, wrists, elbows and hips). 
  • Stretch. Short, superficial and dynamic “stretching” of muscles. The aim is not to stretch the muscles, but to stimulate blood circulation and wake up the muscles.

2. Pull-up bar
This will set your climbing muscles up for what’s to come: Try and do shoulder pull-ups and normal pull-ups with support.

3. Push-ups
Ideal for warming up. Warms up shoulders, back and elbow joints.

4. Traversing
Traverse from left to right at ground level. Use the large holds and pay attention to body tension and exact footwork. 

5. Climbing up and down
Make sure you work your way through each level of difficulty and start with the easier routes. Once you have reached the top, climb back down using the same holds you used to climb up.

This will help you to warm up, strain the muscles in a way that doesn’t overwork them (easing your muscles into the climb = the muscle is stretched and extended, speed of movement is reduced) as well as teach you to using each hold carefully.


Safety – Bouldering for beginners

According to a study by the DAV (German Alpine Club), the risk of injury is twice as high when bouldering as it is when climbing. The injuries affect 60% of the lower extremities (legs, ankle) and 30% of the upper extremities (wrist, elbow, shoulder). The remaining 10% are spread over the trunk, head and other injuries. 

Risk of injury when falling/landing

The statistics clearly show that the most common cause of injury is the landing after a jump or fall.

Especially when bouldering Outdoors where the landing is protected only with relatively thin crash pads (portable mats), the risk of injury is considerably higher.

Avoiding accidents – Bouldering

  • Spotting
    Make sure the climber lands on his/her feet. When climbing outdoors, spotting is a must.
  • Climbing down
    If possible do not jump off, but climb down once you reach the top of the route. 
  • Keep fall areas clear
    Ensure people are not sitting in the landing zone (also water bottles, bags etc).
  • Falling practice
    It is very helpful to know what to do when falling off a boulder. Its best to absorb the impact by rolling over (Gym).
  • Falling practice
    It is very helpful to know what to do when falling off a boulder. Its best to absorb the impact by rolling over (Gym).

Levels of difficulty in the Boulder Gym

Most climbing gyms have their own system to define difficulty on routes. They often mark these by colour or by number. You’ll be able to find more information on this subject when visiting your local climbing gym.

Its primary purpose is to give the boulderer a sense of what to expect when they start their climb.


2 more Tips for Beginners

What cloths should I wear for bouldering in the gym?
The best cloths for bouldering are stretchy pants which do not restrict any movement. This can be dedicated boulder pants, shorts or leggings. Any kind of sports-top or t-shirt is fine.

Are long fingernails suitable for climbing?
Long fingernails are not suitable for bouldering. Smaller holds become inaccessible for those with long fingernails and furthermore you become more susceptible to injury. Long fingernails could potentially break and lead to painful injuries, and should therefore always be cut before entering a bouldering gym.

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