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Boulder 4×4’s Get Fitter and Stronger for Climbing

So I’ve got a confession to make… a dirty secret that I can’t keep any longer! I know this may shock a lot of people, but…

I don’t really climb, I boulder…

There, I said it! Even though the site is called Climbing meta, I’m all about the bouldering. I’m sorry, please forgive me.

Actually, those that know me won’t be surprised at all, but I am working on fixing this bias with the help of some power endurance training, in the form of boulder 4×4’s.

In fact, even though I’m calling them boulder 4×4’s here, you can just as easily implement these as route climbing 4×4’s (it might be a little harder to use the interval timer I’ve made for this routine though).

Why I focus on bouldering for climbing training

If you are a route climber I hope you hang around because I’ve still got a bunch of climbing specific training that will help any climber with their sport.  Actually, I’m hoping to do more route climbing in the future, so should have a lot more of this content coming soon.

The main reason I focus on bouldering in our Climbing meta routines is because they are easier to implement from a training perspective. Most people can get to a boulder wall pretty readily and you don’t need anyone else to belay for you to carry out the exercise.

Boulder 4×4’s are actually extremely useful for both route climbing and bouldering as they help to develop your power endurance. The net result of this training means you will increase your overall climbing fitness, be better able to climb through a pump and send longer routes or boulder problems (particularly on those long weekend trips or climbing competitions).

boulder 4x4 intervals

How to do boulder 4×4’s

There are a few variations to 4×4’s depending on who you talk to and what you read. I like this variation below for 2 reasons:

  • The timer simulates the qualifying round of a boulder competition with intervals of 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off.
  • Repeating the same problem 4 times in a row provides you with a chance to train climbing efficiency at the same time.

To kick things off, get yourself nice and warm and choose 4 boulder problems that you could flash when fresh (start at least 4 grades below your max boulder level).   

  1. Start the 4×4 timer (which you can access at the end of this post) and jump on the first of your 4 boulder problems.
  2. Attempt the problem 4 times. Climb smart and try to spread your attempts over the 5 minutes, but make sure you finish attempt 4 before 5 minutes is up. If you fall at any point, immediately get back on the problem at the point you fell and try to finish it. If you fall again, count that as an attempt.
  3. For each attempt, try to find ways to climb as efficiently and precisely as possible. See if you can refine your technique for each attempt and remain conscious of your movement.
  4. When the timer goes, rest for the full 5 minutes, take a drink of water and prepare yourself for the next problem.

REPEAT this process for all 4 problems, the full session should last 40 minutes (plus warm up).

Extra tips for boulder 4×4’s

If you get the chance, it is a really good idea to film yourself doing the 4×4’s. This will help you identify inefficiencies in your climbing, particularly as you fatigue through the session.

If you can’t complete each problem successfully at least 3 out of 4 times, then you should drop the difficulty of the problems. Once you are hitting all 4 problems successfully, move on to 4 new problems around the same difficulty (or change the ones you are succeeding on with new problems).

You might even like to train a specific area with each problem, like a particular grip type, dynamic movement, lock-offs, spans etc.

To progress this exercise, you can do one of two things:

  1. Increase the difficulty of the problems, so they are closer to your max (this will train more power).
  2. Decrease the rest period to 4 minutes, while keeping the difficulty around the same mark (this will help train more endurance).

I like to use easier boulder 4×4’s early in my climbing training program to build some endurance and sometimes use harder boulder 4×4’s later in a program if I’m training for a competition to simulate those conditions. Either way, boulder 4×4’s are a great way to increase your climbing fitness.

Use these in a 4-week block and assess the results for yourself.

Train hard and climb smart!

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