The Exploration 4×4 is one of my favorite drills for picking up new skills. The concept is super simple: pick four boulder problems below your flash level. The problems should be very different from each other in terms of hold type, wall angle, and movement style. What you’re going to do is climb each problem four times following one of four different rules each time. Here are the rules:

  1. Normally: Climb the problem as you would naturally. The purpose of this is to gain some knowledge about the climb; the movement, the holds, unexpected difficulties, etc.
  2. Slowly: Use slow and controlled movement throughout the entire problem. Use lockoffs, heel/toe hooks, etc. to strongman your way to the top. No dynamic moves!
  3. Powerfully: Explode between the holds, cut your feet, campus, and what have you. Just give every move some pop!
  4. Efficiently: Use what you’ve learned from your previous 3 ascents to inform this go. What moves felt better to take slowly? Which ones were better to bomb through? Get to the top as easily as possible.

Simple enough, right? Do all four laps–in the order specified above–on each problem before moving on to the next. Rest as needed, you’re not looking to tire yourself out. This shouldn’t be physically difficult, so if you’re having trouble completing the drill, reduce the difficulty of the boulders. You don’t necessarily need to do 4 problems, but I’ve found 4 to be a good number that keeps people engaged for a decent amount of time without them getting bored or feeling like they haven’t done much climbing.


Frequency: As often as you want
Intensity: 30-50%
Volume: 4 problems, 4 laps
Rest: As needed
Goal: Acquire new movement skills by climbing the same problem in different ways
Equipment: Boulder area