The rock climbing purists would probably shoot me down for writing this but I do believe that this really helps you to get better at climbing…
Every now and then, push your limits and try climbing some more challenging routes on top-rope, even if they appear to be physically out of your ability. I used to have an understanding with my climbing partner that with any new route I was working on, I had only three attempts to work out the crux on my own. If, by the third time, I was not making any headway or progress, my belayer would “help” me up by giving me a tight rope. As for how much tight rope I would get, well, it really depended on how much I was struggling to get up the route. I have had instances where I made it to the top of the route through a combination of my own effort and the belayer’s effort.
Now you may wonder what is the point of struggling up a route when it is clearly beyond your ability… The thing is, when you put your body through the motions (even if it is not completely on your own merit), it helps your body to learn the moves. The next time you try to climb the route, you may surprise yourself to discover that you struggle less (require less tight rope or even none) when trying to finish the route.
I noticed this when my friend egged me on to try a particularly nasty route in the gym with brown coloured holds. Knowing how tough it was, I was rather reluctant to give it a go. I only attempted to climb it because my friend wouldn’t leave me alone until I tried it. Needless to say, I struggled. Huffed and puffed and got blown over by the route, I gratefully accepted whatever help my friend/belayer was giving me. After a painful struggle, I made it to the top and vowed that I would never be so stupid as to try this route again. A couple of weeks later (or perhaps it was a month later), I tried the route again. To my surprise, I managed to get through it without cheating nearly as much as the first time. The third time I worked on the route, I managed to complete it on my own merit (although I had to hangdog a couple of times). The fourth time, I sent it. And this was a route I had already labelled in my mind as “too difficult” for me.
Please note that you should only do this in the climbing gym. Don’t try this when climbing outdoors because your struggles can destroy the rock surface (especially if you’re climbing limestone) which can be very annoying to the climbers who are physically capable of climbing the route. If you do try this outdoors, don’t say I didn’t warn you and don’t mention my name either. I don’t want anyone kicking my behind for even suggesting this. The climbing purists will probably come here and flame me.
Another thing you can do, which helps you psychologically, is touch the next hold. Even if you need help to get there, just make sure you don’t get lowered before you’ve touched the next hold.