Climbing Performance Book Reviews

Google “Climb harder” and you’ll get a ton of resources — mostly crap. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

And so, today in 2013, the best resources for learning to climb better, outside of hiring a dedicated coach, are still old-fashioned books and videos.

But even within this realm, not all is equal. Numerous books claim to help you “Climb 5.12″, but when it comes down to the wire which ones can actually translate your money into higher grades on the rock?

Throughout the reams of paper printed about climbing, a few tomes have stood out over the years and today are often referenced by both hard climbers and esteemed coaches as being the most effective.

These modern climbing classics are:

Performance Rock Climbing

Published: 1994
Price: $18
208 pages

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

PRC is the definition of a classic – a well written book on climbing performance based on well-backed principles of sports science that has stood the test of time.  The key value of PRC is how well researched it was– bringing solidly-backed principles of sports science to climbing –written in a way that’s accessible to the newest of the newbies.

Covering basic climbing technique, physical training principles and mental aspects of climbing, Performance Rock Climbing is surpisingly comprehensive yet easy to read.

Suitable for:  Beginner to intermediate climbers and anyone who isn’t familiar with sports science principles.

If you don’t know what an engram is, the importance of specificity, and can’t tell the difference between aerobic and anaerobic endurance, you should read this book.

Not Suitable for: The 5.12 climber who already has a solid understanding of training principles for climbing.

The Self Coached Climber

Published: 2006
Price: ~$25(Book + DVD)
240 pages

Rating: ★★★★½ 

The Self Coached Climber caused a minor revolution in climbing when it came out in 2006. Today it is still considered the Bible of climbing performance and is one of, if not the most cited book on the topic.

Whereas climbing movement has traditionally been broken down into specific moves(drop knees, flags, high steps, etc.) SCC’s treatement of  Climbing movement is more holistic and created a theoretical framework and vocabulary for discussing both static and dynamic movement.

In addition to the excellent coverage of movement, SCC talks about climbing physiology and physical aspects of training on a deeper level than PRC, giving advanced climbers  a better understanding of climbing performance how to build more effective training plans.

While the text can be a bit heavy, the included DVD with exercises is accessible for anyone, and following the exercises will almost guarantee an improvement in climbing movement and balance.

If you can’t tell already, this book is more involved than PRC, but as with many things what you get out of it is what you put in. If you are ready for the next step, SCC will take you there, and beyond.

Suitable for: Intermediate to Advanced climbers who have hit a wall in their training.

Not suitable for: People put off by textbook – style writing.

 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes

Published: 2009
Price: ~$24 Shipped Worldwide
176 pages

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Written by acclaimed  climber and coach Dave Macleod, 9 out of 10 is one of those books which has gained its popularity not off gimmicks or even marketing(there’s practically been none), but off strict word-of-mouth — strong climbers telling other climbers to read this book.

I was personally recommended and lent this book by a personal friend much stronger than I. Though at the time I had already read PRC and some of SCC, I took it upon myself to read this text-only book and found to my great surprise that it was even more powerful in some ways than the other books.

In the same way that a good coach can make a huge impact on an athletes progression, 9 out of 10 is like a seasoned veteran whispering in your ear, pointing out tips and tricks that will save you months if not years of time on your path to getting stronger.

9 out of 10 is probably best read as a supplement to either PRC or SCC, but even by itself is one of the most useful books on climbing better out there.

Suitable for:  Every climber

Not suitable for: The illiterate

Neil Gresham’s MasterClass DVDs

Published: 2005
1 hour 41 minutes

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Neil Gresham is a British Climbing Coach, and his MasterClass videos are one of the most useful materials for learning climbing technique outside of an actual instructor. If anyone has told you “need to work on your footwork”  and you have wondered what the hell they were on about, this video shows you exactly that, very specifically and clearly.

The narration is chock-full of good advice and the video is clear at both illustrating technique, as well as showing the benefits of using good technique compared to hulking your way up the wall.

For a deeper analysis of movement and long term improvement, SCC is arguably more powerful, but for the average climber, Neil’s Masterclass is possibly the most effective video for immediate gains on the rock.

Suitable for: Anyone who has wondered what “footwork” really means.

Not suitable for: 5.12 climbers who have solid movement skills



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