How to Dominate at a Bouldering Competition

by Ryan Coisson - Date: 2007-01-03 - Word Count: 848 Share This!

There are tons of indoor comps all over the country. That being the case I decided to write this little article about how to succeed at indoor competitions.

If you have never been to an ABS or other bouldering competition here is what you can expect: about 30-50 sick new boulder routes, a ton of climbers, a great time, and probably an entertaining finals to watch.

How they work

Every climber gets an individual scorecard that has all the boulder problems on it. As you climb different problems you will need to have 1-2 people sign off that you did that problem on your scorecard. Most comps take your top 5 scores.

I'll break this up for you in 3 sections before, during, and after the comp.


Set a Goal: Before the comp you should set a specific and measurable goal for yourself. A good goal might be 'I am going to climb 5 V5 routes or higher not 'I am going to climb my best'. Do you see that the first one is specific and measurable and the second is not, that is important.

Intend to have fun: Climbing competitions are a chance to test your abilities, climb with some great climbers, maybe win some prizes, and have fun. Few people win prizes at comps, this should not really be your intention.

We all climb because we love it so climb in a comp to learn and have fun and if you win some prizes that is just a little bonus.

Warm up: You need to warm up before the competition. You should warm your muscles up with something like jumping jacks (50-100) and then start to loosen up your muscles and joints.

Some yoga or stretching is always a great idea. Make sure you at least focus on stretching out your hips, fingers, forearms, and shoulders, but it would be best to do a full body stretching routine.


Preview: Once the comp starts you need to walk around and look at the routes. You should go around and circle the top 5-8 routes that you would like to have on your scorecard.

Easy routes: Ok so you put your shoes on and are ready to go, now what. I suggest that you jump on 2-4 routes that are easy for you. This always help me to relax and loosen up my fingers.

Crack some beta: A great thing about being at a comp is that there are several people trying to climb the same routes as you. This is an advantage because you can watch and see what is working and what is not working on the route.

These people can help you climb a route much faster and without wasting a ton of time and energy.

Take you time: Most competitions last for 3 hours or so and you only have to complete 5 problems. This is important to recognize because a lot of climbers end up getting pumped out after about an hour or an hour and a half.

You need to rest accordingly. If you need to climb your top 5 problems that means you should be completing one problem every 35 minutes or so.

Eat and Hydrate: Staying hydrated is really important during a comp you should be drinking water and some type of sports drink like Gatorade to replace your electrolytes.

Also, you should eat light foods throughout the competition during your rest breaks. Some good things to eat are cliff bars, fruit, string cheese, or nuts. You want to eat food that is not too heavy and gives you nourishment.

Don't leave all your hard routes till the end: Like I mentioned earlier you should be getting one of your five routes about every 35 minutes or so. In theory that sounds good, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.

You don't want to get to the point where you only have an hour left and you still need to climb 4 problems. If you just can't seem to be getting your hard routes move on to something else, but don't leave them all for the end they should be spread out through the comp.


Cool down: Usually after a competition you are dead tired, but nonetheless it is always a great idea to cool down. The best way is to do some really easy boulder problems and stretch. Make sure you also drink plenty of fluids after the comp and eat something that has quality protein in it like fish, lean turkey, protein bars or shakes, etc.

Reflect: Looking back on the last 3-4 hours during your bouldering competition is important. A lot of people might think about it, but not many reflect on it.

You should start by asking yourself if you had fun, if not why? Did you achieve your goal that you set before the comp, why or why not? What could you of done differently that would have helped you achieve your goal? What was the best thing that you learned during the comp about yourself and about climbing? These are just some questions that I use. Feel free to use them.

Remember it is important to your growth to intentionally reflect on your comp experiences.

Climb strong climb safe

Related Tags: bouldering competition, rock climbing competitions, indoor climbing competitions

Ryan Coisson founder of

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