How Long Should I Rest Between Rock Climbs?
Resting is both the easiest and toughest part of rock climbing. Everyone knows they should rest between rock climbs, but when you are close to sending, it can be incredibly difficult to keep yourself off the wall. Also, while climbing gyms are great for training, they create bad resting habits for climbers. Outside, you are forced to hike between different boulders or climbs. But indoors, you simply need to pick up your shoes and tie into a different rope! Because of this, climbers will often overexert themselves by taking too little rest between climbs. Another common bad habit developed at the gym is over-resting. A gym is a place where many people like to hang out and chat. Maybe you end up in a group of boulderers sitting (or laying) on the mats, or you get caught up talking about local climbs with a gym employee. Before you know it, you have spent 30 minutes off the wall and have to warm up again! So how long should you rest between climbs when rock climbing? Like most questions about climbing and training, there is no one right answer, but we've put together some guidelines and suggestions about rest that can help you figure out how much rest you need.
The goal or goals of your climbing session have a big influence on how much rest you should be taking between climbs. Are you training for an outdoor project? Are you taking a light day? A high-volume day? Is there a fresh set on the boulders and you want to see how many you can put down? Before you start climbing, ask yourself what your goals for the session are, and be prepared to adjust your rest accordingly. Here are a couple of guidelines:
Long Sessions: longer rest
Short Sessions: shorter rest
High Volume: shorter rest
Low Volume: longer rest
Power/Strength Training: longer rest
Endurance Training: shorter rest
But how much rest is "longer" or "shorter"? After all, Adam Ondra will rest up to 45 minutes between attempts on his sport climbing projects! This is probably overkill for most climbers, but it is an important example: you can get a lot of energy back through resting. The amount of rest you take should correspond to the amount of energy you want to get back before trying again. A short rest (about <4 minutes) between attempts means either you did not expend much energy on the previous attempt or you want to increase muscle fatigue. You may want a shorter rest for a short session to make the best use of your limited time. You may also want a shorter rest when you are training at high volume or focusing on endurance. Local endurance training aims to increase a muscle or muscle group's ability to push through the "pump." The pump happens when your forearms are not able to receive enough blood. By training at a sustained intensity with minimal rest, often called ARCing, climbers can climb for longer before succumbing to the "pump."
A long rest (>4 minutes) between attempts means either you expended a great deal of energy on the previous attempt or you want to have as much energy as possible for your next try. When training power or strength, athletes will often rest for long periods to ensure that their next set is at their maximum ability. Bouldering, often considered to require more power than sport climbing, is best performed with longer rests to ensure maximum effort on each attempt. Sport climbers should also take long rests between maximum effort attempts. Long rests can help to extend a climbing session to ensure that you do not burn out too quickly. You should also be sure to take extended rests when doing low volume climbing as low volume typically means that you are attempting climbs that are difficult for you.
Some climbing training exercises like hangboarding and campus boarding require certain amounts of rest depending on the specific exercise you are performing. For instance, if you are doing repeaters on a hangboard, you are likely only going to rest for 3-5 seconds between reps to increase your finger strength endurance. But if you are performing max added-weight hangs, you will likely rest for 3-5 minutes between reps to maintain your finger health.
If you are simply sessioning in the gym or at the crag without specific climbing goals, here is a great tip to determine how much rest you need: After an attempt, give yourself an honest grade of how hard you tried/how much energy you expended from 1 to 5. If you are bouldering, take that many minutes of rest before your next attempt. If you are sport climbing, double the number and rest for that many minutes. So if your foot slipped on the second move of the boulder problem, you may only rest for 1 minute. But if you fell going for the final hold of your sport climbing project, give yourself 10 minutes of rest before the next attempt!