Choosing rock climbing training goals

The first article in a series of articles on climbing preparation, Félicien teaches us the impact of in-depth reflection on his objectives.

Félicien Roy did a master's degree in kinesiology at the University of Montreal and has been training athletes for over 10 years. He applies the concepts studied during his master's degree in his rock climbing practice, as a personal trainer and as an athlete. He counts among his achievements multiple 5.14 and nearly a hundred 5.13. Here he presents an article on a key concept of training: knowing how to determine and organize your climbing goals.

`` No goal is too big, it's just a matter of time, persistence and the right effort to get there ''

Felicien Roy climbing Poumon d'acier 5.13d at Sanatorium

A workout can sometimes feel like an accumulation of exercises from a variety of sources. You have consulted several books, viewed numerous videos, observed and discussed with the strong climbers in your gym ... and have identified as many methods as there are people and documents consulted. These methods all seem relevant and bring good results to applying them, but what about you?

Each of the exercises proposed by these different sources is in fact directly linked to the specific objectives of the trained athletes. The choice of each exercise is therefore part of a long process of reflection on the precise training objectives, specific and to more or less long term, specific to each one.

If you want to find exercises that work for you and move you forward, you need to identify your own goals. You want to be stronger, of course, but why? According to which criterion (s)?

Rock Climbing Training Goals

This article is intended to help you determine your training goals, categorized into primary and secondary goals to better guide your physical preparation.

Good reading !


Climbing training objectives
  1.  Brainstorming
  2. Main objective and secondary objectives
  3. Expectations and sub-objectives
  4. Analysis of required skills
  5. Analysis of own skills
  6. Analysis of the gap 
  7. Creation and planning of a training
  8. Choice of specific exercises
  9. Evaluations and adjustments
  10. Performance (s)
  11. Assessment and feedback



Determine your objectives: brainstorming 

This step may take longer than you think. Take it ! This reflection is a great investment since it will guide your training for the whole year (or more!).

See far into the future! Ideally, goal planning should be thought of for a minimum of 6 months and ideally for a full year. Writing down a list of competitions you want to participate in, new challenges you want to take on, or any ideas or dreams that come to mind is a great place to start.

Write down whatever makes you want and motivates you. The questions' is this realistic? how to do it ? when? '' will come later. Take the time to verify that these are indeed your own dreams and that you do not want those around you. This step is a reflection step and like a draft, do not hesitate to come back to it several times to complete your list and give your thought time to move forward. This is the construction of the base of the pyramid and all of the following steps will flow from it. It is therefore important that this base is well thought out and solid.

Here is my personal 2020 list as an example: "Get into traditional rock climbing, take a 6 month trip to Spain, visit Potrero Chico for the multipitch and visit El Salto, send my big project in Rumney (Livin Astro 5.14c), send my secondary project in Orford (Shasha, 5.13d), explore local climbing sites where I haven’t been much (Orford, Kamouraska) and not yet experienced (Sanatorium, Shagg Crag) ”


Organize your objectives: main and secondary objectives 

         The second step is the classification by priority. We all want to do millions of things, but unfortunately there is not enough time to do it all. Among all the objectives selected, which are the ones that are most important to you and are a priority for you? This is also a good time to eliminate dreams that would take too many concessions or are too complicated to achieve because of your current life context. Some objectives may be added while others will disappear. This second reflection will help you to walk towards a list of classified objectives allowing you to know where you should direct your energy in priority!

My 2020 list in order of importance after removing a few goals that will be for later:

1 Livin astro in Rumney

2 Pleasure trip to Mexico

3 Sha-sha in Orford

4 Climb at the Sanatorium 

5 Climb more in trad


Felicien Roy trying Livin' Astro, 5.14c Rumney

 Livin Astro, 5.14C, Rumney


Define your expectations

The third step is to define your expectations specifically for each objective. The more detailed these expectations are, the clearer and more precise the path to your goal will be. The chances of deviating from the right direction will be less and if you deviate from it, returning on the right path will be faster. Setting your expectations properly will prevent a lot of disappointment. Without clear expectations we cannot know if our goal has been reached and it is easy to think that we never progress, or that we could have done better. Each expectation can then be considered as a sub-objective.

Expectations can be qualitative (descriptive) or quantitative (measurable). In my opinion, the ideal is to combine the two!

If I take my travel goal in Mexico. It will consist of a multipitch week in El Potrero then a week in El Salto in single pitch. Here are my expectations: 

- To have fun in the middle of the Quebec winter by climbing as many different routes as possible 

- To climb the hills gradually in multi pitch and make at least one of grade 12a in El Potrero.

- Make as many 5.12a and more routes as possible in El Salto and resist the temptation to project.

- Be autonomous in multipitch

Compare our expectations with our current capacities

This next step is key! The analysis of the gap between our current training state and our objectives will define the training axes to be able to succeed each of the sub-objectives that have been set. The time required to achieve the objectives can then be estimated and the training season planned. In the case of a target with a specific date, such as a competition, then expectations could be changed if the observed lag is too large and the training period too short to be realistic. 

To observe this discrepancy, you must determine what each sub-goal requires from a cognitive, energetic, motor or even contextual point of view and contrast it with your current state of training as well as your experience. Your training state will have to be assessed by a series of valid tests, that is, you must make sure that the tests chosen are adequate to measure the right things. 

Climbing objective setting - Offset analysis

Create and plan a workout accordingly

you now know which string (s) are missing from your bow! The missing or insufficient skills (weak points) should be worked on as a priority. The skills where you are already comfortable and your strengths should not be forgotten. They must be maintained and worked in parallel with the work of weak points. Organize and plan a gradual development of all these skills over time in order to be ready to face the constraints on the big day. It is only when this planning is carried out that the choice of relevant and adapted exercises comes to it. Each exercise will have a number of repetitions, a number of sets, a time under tension, a level of technicality, an intensity, a pace of execution ... specific and justified by the planning.

Alpha Beta 5.14a, Orford

Félicien Roy in Alpha Beta 5.14a at Orford - photo Mathieu Tranchida

Assessment and continuous adjustments

Training can sometimes go faster or conversely less quickly than what we would have thought and planned. The same tests as those performed during the initial assessment of training status should be repeated in order to measure improvements and speed of progress. Make sure that the tests are reliable, that is to say that they must be repeated under identical conditions (heating, measuring tool, state of fatigue, etc.). Certain unforeseeable events (injury, pandemic & closure of climbing centers) can also challenge the achievement of our objectives. However, they should not question them! It is not the objective that changes, but the means deployed to achieve them and possibly the planning over time of these means. A permanent adaptation of the organization of our training is thus necessary.



When the day comes for performance, all questions about our planning and training must be put aside. Now is the time to run and have fun! We must not doubt everything that has been worked on and accomplished in training so far! It is simply time to give 100% of what we have.

After the performance, the work continues ... Self-assessment! 

It is an important step to be able to progress in the long term but which is often forgotten. Once the performances are done or the season is over, you have to review it. The small and big victories and the failures of the season must be highlighted and questioned: 

- Has each objective and sub-objective been reached, almost reached or not reached at all?

- Do you want to continue working on the goals that have not yet been achieved?

- Have you overestimated or underestimated the objectives?

- Have you overestimated or underestimated your capacities to face it?

-Did the training you did seem effective in terms of planning, respecting the planning and choosing exercises?

-Has your planning been followed to the letter?

All these questions allow you to improve for your next training season!

Félicien Roy in 5km 5.13d Weir

Félicien Roy in 5 km, 5.13d, Weir


specific training goals and expectations are key in designing a workout. It allows you to create a guideline that will prevent you from straying too often towards training that may be pleasant, but less relevant to your progress and the achievement of your priority objective.

The strategy described in this article is one that I use and enjoy. It is certainly not the only one. Learn about the different strategies and stick to the one that works best for you. Do not hesitate to be supervised by a movement specialist for one or more of the stages presented. More and more kinesiologists, trainers and professionals with different backgrounds are present in climbing centers and will be able to support you throughout your training cycles.


Planning for 2020 seems to have paid off for Félicien. 

- Félicien made his first multipitch in 13a at El Potrero Chico '' Time for Livin '' 12b, 12b, 12a, 12c, 13a, 12c where he freed all the lengths except the last.

- He completed 19 routes 12a and more including 3 routes 5.13 in 10 days in El Salto

- The United States being closed, he replaced his Project Livin Astro, 5.14c by local climbs and managed to do 9 routes 5.13d in 6 months.

- In addition, he discovered ice climbing; an activity he never thought he would love so much!

You can reach him @felicienroy on instagram to find out more about training and his coaching services.

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