Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

Climbing With Coxsey | 13 Lessons From The UK’s Most Successful Competitive Climber

Here's what we can learn about bouldering from watching a two-time World Cup winner in action

Let’s cut right to it. Shauna Coxsey knows a thing or two about climbing. After all, you don’t win two consecutive bouldering World Cups (2016 and 2017) without being somewhat of a master in your field. A specialist, you could say.

This summer, you’ll actually able to pick up some of this specialist Coxsey knowledge thanks to the very cool Red Bull Pro. The initiative is giving members of the public, yes that’s people like me and you bud, the chance to get real-life insight into life as a professional athlete. What they eat, what they drink, how often they train, and loads more super useful tips.

With this exciting Red Bull Project Pro stuff in mind, we decided now was as good a time as any to do a deep dive on the ingredients that make up Shauna’s formidable climbing talent. So, gather round. Class in session. Here’s a few things to remember if you want to climb like the UK’s most successful competitive climber.

1) The Importance of Upper Body Strength

Remember that time you tried this down at the old converted biscuit factory? It didn’t go well, did it? You fell off within, what, half a second (precisely enough time for you to remember that you’re not as hench as you think you are). Yeah, people laughed. Rest in peace, dignity. You are with the angels now.

As Shauna so perfectly demonstrates here, one thing all of the world’s best climbers have in abundance is incredible upper body strength. If you want to be up there with the very best, you need to put in the hours and get strong. That being said, pure strength alone is nothing without technique. Speaking of which, see the next lesson.

2) The Importance of Technique

Without good technique, climbers would just be strong people repeatedly falling off a wall. One thing our Shauna isn’t short of is technique. As this video demonstrates, she’s just as capable of bringing balletic movements to a bouldering problem as she is brute force. Her melding of the two characteristics is one of the reasons she’s been able to deliver on the biggest stages in climbing. Watch that first move. Then watch it again, and again, and again. It’s so, so, good.

3) The Importance of Commitment

Courage. Commitment. A willingness to send it. Whatever you want to call it, the best climbers aren’t afraid of taking a chance and hurling themselves at a hold. Sure it’s always a calculated move, always carefully thought out – the result of years and years of practise, but the underlying principle remains the same. If you want to be number one on the wall, you have to go forth and be brave. Seize the day.

4) The Importance of Music

Look, this is by no means the most important lesson here but if you can think of a better song to climb to than Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ then, well, we want to hear it. Whatever your jam is, turn the volume up on it and you might just find it gives you those extra percentages you need to get up the wall. And if that doesn’t work, at least you’ll have a banger looping in your head on the way home.

5) The Importance of ‘Knowing Where To Go’

The first move on this video is truly a thing of beauty. A backwards leap on an overhang, followed by one of the grippiest grips you’ll ever see. A proper masterpiece. Unfortunately, it’s the only move we get to see because as Shauna says herself “I don’t know where to go.” Of course, she no doubt smashed this problem next time she tried it but for us mere mortals it’s an important reminder to scout out our routes before grabbing a hold and getting stuck in.

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Favourite move from today.

A post shared by SHAUNA COXSEY (@shaunacoxsey) on

6) The Importance of Footwork

Despite what you might have thought when you first got into climbing, the sport itself is about so much more than simply having strong arms and grabbing increasingly high holds with your hands. This clip below is a great example of how footwork, and there are loads of great examples in Shauna’s back catalogue, can aid a climber’s progress up the wall (the heel hook to sole move here is poetry in motion).

7) The Importance of Holding On

There’ll be times when you’re climbing where you attempt a move and about halfway through that move you’ll think “Yeah. No. I’ve fudged this. Blown it. Game over.” However, as Shauna shows in the video clip below, things aren’t always as lost as they might seem. Hold on. Don’t let go. You might end up being pleasantly surprised by the results.

8) The Importance of Balance

There’s a moment early on in this video where it looks like an incredibly still Shauna is tied to the wall with some invisible string. As a climber, she’s someone who’s mastered her centre of gravity, mastered making microscopic adjustments to her position that significantly improve her chances of success. Hundreds of examples we could have used here but we particularly like the whole tightrope walking impersonator act she’s doing here. Impressive.

9) The Importance of Momentum

You’ll often hear climbers discussing flow. Like with many other sports, momentum and the smoothness of movement from ‘point a’ to ‘point b’ can make the world of difference. In this example, Shauna does a great job of channeling the energy generated by a move into powering the next one. Look and learn.

10) The Importance of… Running?

OK. So it’s unlikely you’ll be running up and down every single bouldering problem you come up against. However, what this video illustrates so nicely is the importance of having a vision and… running with it.

11) The Importance of Control

When faced with a weird, swinging, orange planet at the bouldering centre, some of us might panic. Shauna, however, remains cool, calm, and collected throughout. Taking a moment to assess the situation before bringing the orb under full control, she then pulls her body close to it (still in full control of the situation) and completes the problem with zero fuss. She makes it look easy. It’s anything but.

12) The Importance of Creativity

“Do you make up your own climbs? For as long as I can remember I have made up moves and boulder problems. I think its’s a really good way to learn and develop as a climber,” writes Shauna in the caption for this video. Not much else to add to that really. Get creative. Make up your own problems. It’s a recommendation that comes courtesy of one of the best climbers in the game.

13) The Importance of Nutrition

When you’re watching the best of the best in action, it’s easy to forget just how much thought goes into the food and drink consumed by these athletes. For Shauna, it’s all about starting the day right with a good breakfast, snacks throughout the day for energy, and then a good dinner in the evening.

A real lover of baking, Shauna always tries to get the balance right between fruit, veg, and sugary treats. And, during intense training and on competition days she always makes sure to stay motivated by having a Red Bull in her kit bag.


Want to get expert training tips from professional athletes like Shauna Coxsey – as well as a real-life insight into life as a pro? Visit the Red Bull Pro Hub and get inspired to take your own training to the next level.

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