If you want to have a more rounded rock climber, you’re going to have to expand your repertoire of climbing techniques. This means becoming an integrated rock climber on a variety of climbing features and climbing areas. Limestone crimping (small holds) skill will not get you very far on soaring granite cracks in the rock climber’s paradise of Yosemite – or vice versa. If you’re used to bolts every two meters then you may be in for a shock on routes in France’s world-class Verdon Gorge where they may be six meters apart. If you’re used to 30 meter routes, then you may find 300 metro routes hard going.
Conversely you may want to simply improve your rock climbing grade. If that’s the case, then stick to what you’re good at. If it’s 30 meter limestone crimping, then stick to 30 meter limestone crimping. For the time being, forget about 300 feet climbs in the Verdon, soaring granite cracks in Yosemite. Indeed forget about everything but your next goal – a slightly harder climb of 30 meter limestone crimping.
Either rock climbing journey leads to the same impasse. If you want to be a ‘better’, ie more rounded climber, you’re going to have to acquire a new skill-set, which compensates for your present weaknesses. For instance, if you’re rubbish at climbing cracks, then you’re going to have to learn crack climbing. If we take crack climbing as a niche, then within that, there are sub-niches. The cracks may be tips (usually the hardest), or fingerlocks (up to second joint) or hand cracks (jamming) or big hand cracks (fist jamming) or offthroughs (elbows, knee-bars) or chimneys (whole body). Each sub-niche requires a different variety of techniques. When you change the rock type, eg from rough gabbro to well-nigh frictionless glacier polished granite, you find that there are techniques within techniques. All the time, you’re proving your weakness, addressing them rectifying them.
If you just want to climb at a higher grade, then it’s simpler. Let’s say you’re fine at 30 met limestone crimping on routes of F6c (5.11b) but you want to improve to F7a (5.11d). Obviously you’re going to have to do something different – but what? If you’re used to sighting F6c, I’ll throw a rope down a few F7as and play around on them. What seems harder – the individual moves or the amount of them? Could you actually climb F7a right now, either as a worked grade or an on sight grade? Is it just your head that’s holding you back?
But let’s say it’s not your head that’s holding you back. Let’s say you find F6c OK but F7as desperate. Why is this? What are your weaknesses? Do you need better technique? Do you need more power? Do you need more power-endurance? Or do you need more endurance? Which is it?
Once you identify your weaknesses, you’ve identified training needs. If you need more power, then train power. The best way will be bouldering steep stuff of up to six moves (about two meters). Sustained traverses will give you more power-endurance and more sustained traverses (with slightly easier moves) will give you more power endurance.
So whenever you want to have a more round climber or if you want to increase your grade, identify your relevant weaknesses. These become your training needs. Devise and implement training programs to meet those training needs. Then integrate new / more finely honed skills into your climbing. Voila!