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Plateauing? Here’s Something That Can Help

Using a logbook to track your on- and off-wall training sessions leads to faster, safer progression

Training for climbing performance is becoming increasingly popular with climbers of all levels. Many climbers, however, are unfortunately missing out on a key training tool that’s likely slowing their development. This training tool couldn’t be any simpler—it’s just a notebook and a pen.

With a notebook and pen—or a cellphone, tablet, or laptop if you’re more digitally inclined—you can keep track of the specifics of your climbing workouts. For reasons you’ll see below, this training log is an invaluable resource. At its most basic, your training log should consist of two elements: a daily log and a monthly calendar.

In the daily log, write down exactly what you did and how you did it throughout your workout. Start with the date and time. For off-wall exercises, the bare minimum would include exercise name, weight or progression level, number of reps, duration, and number of sets.  It can also be a good idea to jot down reminders if you’re struggling with form (for example, “Extensors not engaged enough while in half crimp”).

For logging your on-wall training, write down the route/boulder grade, number of moves, wall angle, problem type (e.g. dynamic and crimpy), number of attempts, hold you reached, and duration. Scribble down beta for longer-term project boulders or routes. Note technique tips that you’re often forgetting (for example, “Use outside edge more”).

In the calendar log, simply track which days you trained and what you did. For example, “Monday January 23, 2023: Off-wall strength training and short-term project bouldering”.

Here are five reasons why you should be tracking your training:

1. It’s motivating

It can be very motivating to view your progression across days, weeks, and months in your training log. Seeing how many pull-ups you can do this month compared to two months ago, for example, can be the fuel you need to keep moving forward with the exercise. On the other hand, if you notice that you were stronger at a particular exercise a year ago than you are currently, this can be the motivation you need to add this exercise back into your regular routine.

2. It helps you use your time wisely

Training with a notebook and pen keeps you focused. You move from exercise to exercise with intention, wasting little time. It’s a great idea to prep your logbook before your session so that all you have to do while at the gym is write down your reps, sets, weight, time, and technique/form tips—the workout structure is already there for you.

3. It reminds you about technique and form

The log acts as constant reminder about climbing technique, exercise form, and beta. Before an exercise or climbing session, you can review your notes from the previous week to ensure you’re actively thinking about working on new techniques and correcting bad habits. Your log can also be a great resource for refreshing your memory about key beta. You can also note those tough-to-remember Kilter Board and MoonBoard problem names.

Johanna Meissner on the Tension Board. Photo by Tension Climbing.

4. It helps you carefully execute progressive overload

Getting stronger in climbing requires increasing the load to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments slowly over time. If you stagnate the load, you won’t get stronger. If you you try to ramp up the load too quickly, you will get injured. This progressive overload needs to occur within a training session and across a training cycle.

It’s delusional to think you can fine-tune this progressive overload on memory alone. Session after session, exercise after exercise, climb after climb, you are going to forget the specifics about your performance, and in performance training, it’s the specifics that matter.

Through your training log, you’ll be able to see how you’re progressing week after week—where you’re making steady gains and where you’re plateauing. Through input with a qualified trainer or climbing coach (or if you have the knowledge yourself), you can use this data to fine-tune your workouts as necessary.

5. It allows you to assess long-term trends

When it comes time to build a whole new training plan or reassess your training direction and difficulty, a training log is a great resource. You can read through your previous weeks and months and see what exactly went well and what didn’t. This data will help you design your next month’s training plan. Season to season, you can refer back to old data to see where you were and how long it took you to get to where you wanted to be.