the Bronx Rock Invitational format

“Give climbing back to those, who know the most about it!”   is the motto of the Bronx Rock Invitational. The boulderers have to create their own problems. Every one of the invited participants is handed an identical set of holds with 32 different holds and has one hour, to create a boulder for the following competition. There are no limitations except for the wall section determined by draw, which might influence the style of the boulder.

setting scenarios – ”like rock“ / for projects on rock

Unfortunately still a widespread concept that tends to not make you a better climber  in the long run.

Plastic isn‘t rock, you should rather train such aspects that make you a better climber overall. An example are positive holds that even hard rock problems have. Positivity is an indication of how easy it is to maintain contact with a hold. The more outward pull the hold can sustain, the more positive it is deemed. And there lies the problem since with enough finger power you can hold onto even a small positive hold though your body position is off!

For your technique it is better to train on flat surfaces that come into the wall at a 90 degree angle. Greater angles than 90 degrees are considered slopey and force you to move more precisely. Theme boulders, for example ”only pinches“ or ”my weaknesses“. Main training aspect for competition climbers. The principle of bouldering is preserved.

Setting challenges

setting something that will force quality of movement as a criteria for success. For example ”statically impossible“ or ”dynamically impossible“. Like above, keyword being”working on my weaknesses“. Setting parcours  like in Fontainebleau a homogeneous demand regarding the difficulty but varied with respect to the movements. Is now being offered by many bouldering gyms.

Shaping your own two square meters of bouldering space attractively

Don‘t use smaller handholds but smaller footholds. Try using only very small footholds with Spax-screws or even just the structures of the wall. Or a handhold is a foothold (also known as tracking). You may use only footholds that are handholds at the same time. Both are very good ways for developing body tension. Sit-starts, where hands and feet are already in position when the bottom leaves the ground as the last body part calling for power and flexibility!

Setting scenarios – Commercial boulder gyms 

Whereas the other mentioned areas of setting deliberately invoke some frustration in the process of trying to solve the problem, this obviously is of no or at least lesser importance in commercial setting. Bigger gyms follow the Fontainebleau idea of varied and challenging circuits. In most gyms a grade range is coordinated with designated colours. This grade range might or might not be communicated, instead, a colour chart with recreational, intermediate, advanced, and expert designations is posted. This simple colour coordinated chart will creates easy to follow circuits, and hunting for numbers will become less of an obsession for gym patrons.

Route setting for training (designing climbing training)

At our workshops for the German climbing team, coaches and route setters work hand in hand. Usually the coach asks the setter for a certain style, specific challenges and of course the general difficulty depending of the kind of workshop (above German head setter Robert Heinrich). An examples would be “agility and quickness with the feet” as on the right side. Than the general logistics are discussed and a plan is made based on the space of the gym. Everybody benefits from the collaboration.
Watch this clip to learn more!


Pusher is a small brand that got started in 1993 dedicated to designing and manufacturing high quality, innovative climbing holds. In the late 90s and early 00s, Pusher was one of the very few companies to wholeheartedly embrace and support the bouldering and indoor climbing movements. There was an incredible amount of development, energy and innovation coming out of their shop, that let to the first “modern” climbing shapes. Other innovative shapes were Franklin Climbing’s series with holds named “Dirty Diana” or “Messiah” (pictured above) that are still a joy to set with. Today’s holds as the ones that Tobi Reichert sets for the finals of the Munich BWC owe a lot to these modern classics!
Climbing Business Journal’s 2015 “grip list” provides a US-centric but nevertheless interesting overview of current climbing hold shapes


Volumes are an extremely large type of hold that any variety of holds can be attached to. The volume is attached to the wall, and it has pre-placed t-nuts in it to which other holds can be attached. Volumes were at one time prevalent in Europe and on the World Cup circuit, but are now used world wide to make the climbing more 3-dimensional and, since they have a wider usable area, less susceptible for size / span dis- advantages.

Route Setting Basics

Route-setting is of pivotal importance for plastic climbing and bouldering, it is one of the areas in bouldering that developed immensely over the last years and is always under scrutiny from various points of view.
There are arguments over grades, aesthetics, if there are dis- advantages for a certain size / span, how far plastic should stroll from „real“ climbing (whatever that is) – the list goes on and on. These are the areas where appropriate route setting is crucial for our intentions: Talent-scouting When we search for kids of particular aptitude for bouldering we confront them with specially designed problems that require a certain aspect of that aptitude. Focus, attention span, positioning can be as well a subject of our observation as physical talent. Training for competitions and to become a better climber overall. Most coaches work closely with setters, the people who set the playing field for competition.  A coach must have basic setting skills too to devise challenges for his climbers. In my work with the German bouldering team for example objectives might be concentration, dealing with very hard, puzzling or frustrating boulders and not wasting attempts. Competitions Route setting makes or breaks bouldering contests. As of 2014 the standard of bouldering setters on an international level seems to be much higher than that of their lead counter parts – we had no tie in the last 5 years of the boulder world cup! To produce a result is the primary goal of the setter at a contest, originality and aesthetics come second. Regular bouldering grades don’t do the challenge of climbing a certain problem in a contest situation justice. Master setter Percy Bishton in fact calls his style „low grade – high risk“, in Vail 2012 a committing slab as the first qualifier problem was all that was needed to kick previous winners Jonas Baumann (2009, third place 2011) and Daniel Woods (2010) out of the contest. On an international level physical problems generally can’t be solved with just power and the mental challenge to be required to find a solution to the problem in just four to five minutes give the setters enough options to play with. The sequence in which the competitors have to climb the four or five problems is also important, a delicate slab following a strenuous compression problem requires the athletes to switch their activation level. Competitions in 2014 are very different than, say in 2001 and this is mostly due to the evolved setting. The biggest development has been in the requirement of dynamic moves and maintaining momentum. Volumes that you can hold everywhere eliminated height/span/ reach differences up to a point. Today’s bouldering comps are very intense physically but also require a lot of focus. Bad feet combined with powerful grips, body tension precision and spacial awareness through the use of volumes on rather low angle walls is what is expected from the setters.
First and foremost, plastic bouldering should be safe! Leave one finger pockets and all incut holds with sharp edges to real rock! You should be able to climb on these holds for prolonged periods of time without shredding your hands and putting unnecessary strain on your tendons. Ideally you just want to hold onto them! Variety is also very important, the more varied holds and mandatory force to hold them is, the safer and more enjoyable moving on them is! Resin was the primary material used to make climbing holds because it provides a nice texture with a workable strength to weight ratio at a reasonable cost. However, newer hold materials, especially the various urethane blends that most hold companies now use, are more flexible than resin and therefore do better on slightly uneven surfaces.