Technical/Tactical Series Part 1

In the next several editions of the Coaches ToolBox, we will explore several of our favourite Technical and Tactical Drills and Exercises. Especially, the ones that help develop and fine tune technical and tactical skills WITHOUT needing new boulders or routes or competition simulation.

As facilities continue to manage the challenges of operating during COVID, it is understandable that weekly competition simulations and new competition boulders/routes may not be a priority. A year without real competitions has meant time to focus on training and physical capacity, however, the technical and tactical skills that are practiced and developed through competition experience are surely in need of attention.

To create effective technical and tactical drills that do not require new routes or boulders or comp simulations, we need to first examine the factors that influence these areas in competition:

  • Time – what is the total climbing time? what are the work to rest intervals? how much can these vary?
  • Technical Demands – what are the common movement patterns seen in almost every event? of these, which ones are the common field separators (ones that done successfully, create separation of the best in the field from the rest)? how big an inventory of technical skills is needed (how many different tools does an athlete need to have mastered)?
  • Energy Systems – which ones are used? what are the recovery times for each?
  • Decision Making – what does athlete have autonomy over? how fast do decisions need to be made? what is the impact of mistakes?
  • Emotional Control – how often is a mental/emotional re-set required? how important is the ability to “let go” of what has already happened? what is the time frame to execute each re-set?

Once we have a clearer picture of the components demands during competition, it is possible to design exercises that ask the athlete to utilize one or more of these components.

The really great thing about technical and tactical drills is that they do not need to be high intensity. Because of this, they can be done during warm-up or as extra sessions without significantly increasing training loads. In fact, development in these areas is best achieved when physical demands are sub-maximal. This allows the focus to be on the technical or tactical component only.

Part 1 – Boulder Drills and Exercises

Here are some favourite boulder exercises and drills including descriptions and the components skills they help develop:

Drill #1 – “Build Me the Move”:


This simple drill can be done on most any boulder wall that has medium density of holds. Ask athletes to create and repeat the movement patterns listed below as a part of warm-up or during technical sessions each week. Even at submaximal intensity, the recognition and familiarity that comes with repetition will improve an athlete’s confidence in attempting these in competition.

Can be done as individuals or groups.


Technical Demands

There are movement patterns that we see in almost every WC in at least one of the rounds.

  • friction based “dynamic” stand up on slab (volumes).
  • volume pull to press (one or 2 handed) or “muscle up” transition.
  • standard “skate” coordination (step through initiation).
  • jump to foot stab.
  • dynamic lateral reach with opposite toe hook coordination.
  • stand up to overhead press.

There are several more to be sure, but most others require building specific boulders to practice.

Drill #2 – “Rapid Fire Boulders”


This drill can be dome on almost any boulder wall. The coach makes up 3-5 boulders varying in intensity from easy to really hard (only 1 should be hard, see more on this below). Once shown the holds, the athlete has only 30 seconds to read the boulder and start the first attempt and only 3 attempts allowed total.

The coach moves on to the next boulder as soon as last attempt is completed and shows holds. Repeat until all boulders are done. Can also be done in partners or groups where athletes make boulders for each other.

Athletes complete all 3 attempts on each boulder even if 1st attempt is successful. In this case, coach can ask the athlete if there is anything to change/improve on attempt 2 and 3. How often do athletes repeat boulders they “flash”. Through this process, an athlete can learn the value of repeating boulders.

At least one boulder should be at or just beyond the athlete’s limit in order to practice “letting go” of boulders that can’t be done.


Time Management – athletes learn to read boulders quickly.

Decision Making – only 3 attempts require athletes to improve the critical decision making between attempts to be successful.

Emotional Control – athletes learn to “leave the last boulder behind”.

Drill #3 – “Internal Clock”


This drill can be done on any boulder wall. The athlete is given a series of boulders, each a 5-minute time limit WITHOUT the ability to see a clock or ask for time. The coach sets a different objective for each boulder: number and when attempts are to be performed. Athlete attempts to use her/his/their “internal clock” to “time” attempts. The coach (or a teammate) records the time of each attempt.


Time Management – ever notice that the best athletes often get the “buzzer beater” send and rarely time out and do not watch the clock as frequently?

The next edition in this series will look at Technical and Tactical Drills for Lead.

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