Campus Training Part 2: Frequency & Exercise Overview

This is part 2 in a three-part series on Campus Training.  If you haven’t read Part 1, please do.

Frequency & Rest

The next order of business is to discuss frequency.  Of all training activities, this one has the highest Gab-to-Grab ratio of them all.  That is, far more time is spent talking about Campusing than actually doing it, and that is how it should be.  This training is used sparingly because it is extremely high intensity, and has very limited specificity to rock climbing compared to other mutually exclusive activities like limit bouldering.  In other words, limit bouldering offers a lot more upside than Campusing, and its not safe to do large amounts of both, so err on the side of too much limit bouldering.  Personally, I dedicate about 5 minutes of training time to bouldering for every minute of Campusing (and that doesn’t even account for the fact that every minute of “campusing” really only entails about 5 seconds of contact with the Campus board).  My typical Power phase will last 3-4 weeks, and entail alternating workouts focused on Campusing and Limit Bouldering.  An outdoor, power-focused climbing day would usually count as a “limit bouldering” day.  Every campus workout is followed by two full rest days (i.e. 70 hours of rest). 

I will pretty much never do more than 5 Campus workouts in a given training cycle.  In my experience, absolute campus power will begin to wane around the 4th-5th workout, although actual bouldering ability should continue to improve as other factors (like movement skills & core strength) improve.  Once I stop improving on the Campus Board I move on to other things.  The schedule will inevitably vary somewhat based on specific climbing goals, targets of opportunity (three-day weekends), etc.

Campus Exercises

There are many different ways to use a Campus Board, and its likely new exercises are invented all the time.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but I included every exercise I’ve tried.  If you know of something worthwhile that is missing, please describe the exercise in a comment.  Campusing should only be done in an open-hand or half crimp (Index and Pinkie straight, Middle & Ring bent ~90degress at the big knuckle) grip position.  Do not campus with a closed crimp grip.

Just about any of the Campus exercises described below can theoretically be done in both directions, that is, going up the board and going down.  Theoretically going down will produce more dramatic results, but also increases injury risk significantly.  Its also possible to do both in a single continuous movement (as described in the discussion about  plyometrics).  Personally, I’m not a big fan of going down, as it completely eliminates what little specificity exists in Campus training, and it just feels really dangerous.  But if you find yourself unreasonably healthy and you need that last little bit of power to complete an extremely valued goal, you might consider adding some limited down-campusing.

Note all of these exercises are shown in the video if you just want to cut to the chase….

-“Basic Ladders”: Go up the board one rung at a time, alternating hands, hitting every rung until you reach the top.  This can also be donw with a match between movements if the basica ladder is too strenuous.

-“Max Ladders”: Go up the board alternating hands, skipping as many rungs as possible.  The ultimate goal is to increase the distance between the first and last rung. 

-“Max 1st Move”: Start matched on the first rung and go as high as you can stick with one hand.

-“Go-Agains”: AKA “Bumps”, do the first Max Ladder move, then continue “bumping” the high hand one rung at a time until failure.

-“Touches”: As for the first move of a Max Ladder, but instead of latching the high rung, simply touch the rung, then ‘fall slowly’ back onto the starting rung. 

-“Double-Dynos”: (AKA “Doubles”) Move both hands at the same time in matched fashion, so for each movement your body has no contact with the board. 

-“Up-Down-Up”: This is a more advanced plyometric version of the other exercises, and is usually done with a Double Dyno, but could also be done with one hand fixed if Doubles are too hard (as for Max Ladders).  Begin by Campusing up a set increment of rungs, then down a set increment (with the same hand or matched hands).  When you latch the lower rung explode back up (trying to make the down and up portion one continuous movement). 

-“Typewriters”:  Begin with hands matched on the left (or right) end of your campus board.  Bump your right (or left if starting on the right end of the board) hand as far right as you can, without going up the board.  Continue bumping your right hand right until you run out of real estate or are about to fall off, then match your left hand next to your right. 

Demonstration of Campus Exercises.  It may help to view thise several times.  Never do all of these in one workout (unless you’re filming a video for your Training Blog)

Now that I’ve described a plethora of exercises, let me contradict myself.  I think a big mistake lots of people make is that they try to do too many different types of movements on the campus board.  In my opinion there just isn’t enough training time available to properly work all of these areas.  If you try to fit all this stuff in you will consume your entire time allotment just doing each activity once (leading with each hand).  That doesn’t allow any time to actually repeat a movement.  How can one expect to get better at a movement if they only do it once?  I describe all these exercises because they might help you overcome a specific weakness, but I would not recommend that any one person do all of them.  Tune in next week to find out which ones I think are really worth investing serious time in….


5 thoughts on “Campus Training Part 2: Frequency & Exercise Overview

  1. One thing you didn’t touch on is the length of time of a typical (or ideal) campus workout. Is there a certain number of moves or change (decrease) in performance that is typically used to measure a session? Or do you simply recommend an amount of time from start to finish?

    Additionally, do you recommend adding a bit of limit bouldering following a campus workout?
    I’ve heard this is a good way to integrate climbing movement into a pure plyometric focused workout on non-climbing training days.
    If so, can you discuss what an ideal post-campus bouldering session would look like?


    • I will address your first question in the final installment of this series, but I usually campus for ~20 minutes for the first workout in a power phase, then gradually increase the total time to a max of ~40 minutes. I try to perform campus sets on 90-second intervals, so that works out to about 15-30 total sets.

      As for deciding when to quit, I keep one eye on the clock and the other on my performance. If I regress for two consecutive sets I move to the next exercise. I quite once all exercises have been completed or I run out of time (whichever comes first).

      I do not recommend Limit Bouldering after a campus session. I know other people who do, but I find it takes me so long to get properly warmed up to campus (plus my campus sessions are somwehat long), that by the time I’m finished campusing I’ve had enough. You really need to be pretty fresh for effective “limit” bouldering. Continuing to climb beyond this point severely increases the risk of injury, accomplishes little from a training perspective, and necessitates additional rest between workouts.



  2. Pingback: Campus Training Part 3: Basic Routine | Lazy H Climbing Club

  3. Pingback: Tips for Effective Campusing Part 2: Going Big! | The Rock Climber's Training Manual

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