By: Cole Walton

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Indoor climbing volume | Climbing Tips

Volumes; what routesetters love to set, and climbers love to climb! As the indoor climbing industry continues to grow, so too does everything that is involved with climbing gyms. Starting as shaped firing clay, eventually turning into foam cast in a polyester resin, climbing holds have seemed to evolve even more so than the gyms they live in. Check out this article from our friends at Climbing Business Journal to learn more about the evolution of climbing holds.

Today, plywood volumes are becoming the newest sensation in revolutionizing indoor climbing. You have seen them around the gym, added as a feature, or even used for an entire problem in place of regular holds, but why should you care? Well, volumes are changing the way setters set and climbers climb.


Volumes are those giant prism features that are attached to the wall like any other climbing hold. The difference? On the volume itself, there are even more places to attach other holds. For the most part, when volumes are added to the wall, they are considered to be an extension to the wall, meaning that they are always on, no matter what problem or route you are doing. This gives setters practically infinite possibilities to change the way you climb a wall. Turning a once static and flat feature, into a dynamically changing three dimensional space. Depending on how the setter places volumes, you can now be climbing in between, around, or on top of things that wouldn’t have been previously possible with the way climbing walls are generally built.

For an example, check out this awesome problem at Golden that completely changes the face of their The 45 Wall.


Volumes are not only ways to transform familiar terrain into something completely new, they can also be used in place of the holds themselves. As you have seen at Movement, several of our Problems of the Week end up being volumes only, without any attachments. These Problems of the Week tend to mimic what one might find in a competition setting, where problems are a lot harder to read from the ground. The mentality of climbing competitions, like you may have noticed at the recent USA Climbing Nationals, is all about the ability to quickly read problems. Volumes with no holds attached become instantly harder to read than any angled hold would, and require a great deal of trial and error. Our volume only Problems of the Week are meant to simulate that same mentality in order to train our climbers for competitions as well as provide them with a new array of techniques to use.


Climbing volumes requires a very different set of skills than climbing the average hold. Technique is focused on balance and precision, as it seems like you have no real hand holds to use, even though each volume can be manipulated as a hand hold if used correctly. Crystal City’s head routesetter, Charlie Garcia, has the inside scoop on how to conquer these infamous volume only problems and routes!

  • Balance is the name of the game. Shifting your weight from unstable to stable positions can be more helpful than grabbing for something.
  • Pushing and mantling on volumes are also heavily used techniques when climbing volumes. For balance and pushing/mantling, check out this double feature from Columbia and Timonium.
  • Remember, all sides of a volume are usable, so try to think of every way to control a volume if you get stumped i.e. false grips, heel/toe hook, undercling, wraps, etc. Check out this cool volume only route from Crystal City.
  • Sometimes volume problems are more about momentum. Like a double clutch, dyno, run and jumps, or other coordination based moves. These usually require more practice to master those specific movements, like those shown in this video.

For more technique based instruction and how to decipher all this jargon, check out Rock & Ice’s article on climbing technique.