3 Beginner Partner Climbing Trust Drills

Fun exercises to maximise the full potential of your most valuable training aid

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What would you call your most valuable training aid? Climbing shoes? Finger board? Power balls? Maybe, but I call mine Swena. That’s right, without a shadow of a doubt I’d say that my single most important asset that’s proven to be most beneficial to my climbing progression has been my climbing partner.

Having the right climbing partner can make all the difference in a training session, and is absolutely crucial if you want to be pushing your limits out on the real rock, whatever your chosen climbing method. 

So why is it so important to have a good relationship with your climbing partner? And how exactly does it make the slightest bit of difference to your climbing? Well, picture this; you’ve just passed that beautifully technical move half way up your current boulder problem, the one you’ve been stuck on for weeks. You’re cruising towards the final move, but suddenly that top out is looking a little less than desirable. You’re pumped as hell and you know it’s going to take all you’ve got to throw for that final hold. Is this really the ideal time to be questioning how reliable your spotter is? Are they ready to gracefully guide you to those ever important crash pads or is there chance you’re going to take a four metre drop onto some nice hard slab.

Obviously this sort of trust is something that’s built over time but here’s a few fun little things that me and Swena play with during our training sessions to help speed things up.

1. Trust falls / Spot falls

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Trust falls are a nice and simple exercise you can practice with your partner. They are used in many different types of team building exercises and are great for building trust for the exact sort of situation we just discussed. It’s much better to know that you can catch and be caught by your partner way before there is ever any need to use it on a real climb.

Start off small and work your way up with this one. Practice just falling back from a standing position on the ground and having your partner catch you, then lower you to the ground.       

When you’re both comfortable with this, try giving it a go on the bouldering wall at your local climbing gym. Gradually work your way higher up the wall until you’re both comfortable catching each other at a good height.         

Remember when spotting a climber the aim is to guide them to the crash pad and protect their head, we’ll be covering some spotting techniques in a later blog. 

2. Blind Climbing

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This is my personal favourite and is a great way to build some really solid communication skills with your partner. Good communication is another essential factor to take into consideration when you’re climbing. It can be pretty hard to hear what your partner is shouting when you 20m up a wall on a windy day or when you’re climbing in a crowded gym. Missing a key bit of information could prove dangerous for you and your partner.

For this one you’ll be hitting the boulder wall again and you’ll need a blindfold, or you can make do with just closing your eyes i guess, but where’s the fun in that?! The aim of this is to guide your blindfolded partner up a climb just using verbal guidance, before they get completely pumped out. Start with a V0 and see how far up the grades you can get. Be prepared to get frustrated with each other on this one, it’s harder than it sounds. This exercise is also great for working some lock off strength and endurance.  

3. Linked Partner climb

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This can be done in the gym or outside as long as you can find a nice wall with plenty of holds. Make sure it’s something that you’re comfortable climbing and keep the height low to start with. This exercise will give you a great first-hand experience of exactly where each other’s strengths and weaknesses lie on the wall.

Start by trying to traverse along the wall with your partner whilst you are in a locked monkey grip. Take some time to get used to using each other’s balance to stable yourselves. 

Once you’re comfortable with this, try and do the same again but making your way directly up the wall. This will restrict your movements a lot and keep you quite bunched up on the wall so be prepared to get up close and personal. Experiment with different positions and lock offs on the wall to see what works best. Solid feet are a great help with this one. 

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Remember to try it on both sides so you use your dominant hand and your weaker hand.  We’ll have some specific climbs set up for this at movement co with a monthly prize give away for the pair with the best time. Pop in and see how you go. 

All of the exercises we’ve just discussed are designed to help build trust and deepen your understanding of each other’s climbing abilities, they also force you to adapt to new situations, and different styles of climbing. Not to mention it’s also going to push your strength and endurance on the wall.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you and your partner have fun trying some of these out. For more ideas, keep a look out for our future blogs or pop in to movement Co to see us face to face for one of our classes.

Give these 3 partner drills a try and show us how you go by posting your videos on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you have any questions or feedback add them in the comments section below.

Ben Westbrook
Climbing and Parkour Coach

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