Rock climbing isn’t for the faint of heart. You need strength, endurance, willpower, sharp wits, and nerves of steel to make an epic ascent. Prepare mentally and physically for the crags with this plan from Rob Shaul, coach and founder of Mountain Athletics in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Jordan Smothermon, a climbing coach at the same gym. In just four weeks, you’ll build a rock-solid body, strengthen specific muscles needed for the sport, and boost your climbing capacity. Are you ready to reach new heights?

DIRECTIONS: Do Workout A, Workout B, and Workout C once a week, resting at least one day between them. Begin the program four weeks before your climb.

KEY TERMS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Boulder Problem: This is a route at a rock climbing gym that’s typically designated by a specific color.

V-Number: Each boulder problem is given a v-number, or difficulty rating. The easiest is V-0 with advanced being V-5. However, v-numbers can go well above 5—but most people can’t complete them. (For instance, a V-14 is thought to be almost impossible). A v-number can be found at the beginning of each problem. Consult experts at your local rock gym to learn their v-number marking system.

V-Sum: Add up the v-numbers for the 8 most difficult bouldering problems you can complete. This is your v-sum. Every week, re-test yourself during Workout A to gauge your progress.

WORKOUT A

WARMUP

HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 3 total.

1. 25-Move Wall Traverse
Find an open space on a climbing wall. Grab holds that aren’t far from the floor, and traverse—or move sideways—using 25 moves. Every time you touch a hold, that’s one move. Twenty-five moves should take about 30 to 40 seconds to complete.

2. Pushup
Assume a plank position with your arms straight and your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, push yourself back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.

3. Situp
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees 90 degrees. Raise your torso into a sitting position. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10.

4. Ultimate Elbow Stretch
Stand facing a wall. Your arms should be straight down by your sides, and your palms should be pressed against the wall. Without letting your palms release from the wall, walk your feet forward and try to get your chest and shoulders to touch the wall. Hold for 10 seconds. (.)

CLIMBING
V-Sum Complex: Based on your level, climb 8 difficult bouldering routes. If possible, do not repeat routes. Add the v-numbers of each route to get your v-sum score.

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WORKOUT B

WARMUP

HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 4 total.

1. Bodyweight Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, and slowly stand back up. That’s 1 rep. Do 10.

2. Situp
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees 90 degrees. Raise your torso into a sitting position. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10.

3. Pushup
Assume a plank position with your arms straight and your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, push yourself back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.

4. Pullup
Hang from a bar using an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull your chin up past the bar, and then lower your body back down. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 to 5.

5. Dead Hang–10 seconds
Grab a pullup bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your shoulders away from your ears, hang without letting your feet touch the floor. Hold this hang for 10 seconds.

6. Ultimate Elbow Stretch
Stand facing a wall. Your arms should be straight down by your sides, and your palms should be pressed against the wall. Without letting your palms release from the wall, walk your feet forward and try to get your chest and shoulders to touch the wall. Hold for 10 seconds.

CLIMBING

SET 1
Hangboard Complex: On a hangboard, select holds for each hand that are wide enough for 4 fingers and deep enough for your first finger joint. You’ll hang by two hands, but the number of fingers you use on each hand changes each round.

ROUND 1
Four-Finger Hold (on both hands): 7 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds

ROUND 2
Three-Finger Hold: 7 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds

ROUND 3
Two-Finger Hold: 7 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds

ROUND 4
Four-Finger Hold: 7 seconds
Rest: 60 seconds

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SET 2
Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 6 total.

1. Dumbbell Front Squat
Hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other, upper arms perpendicular to the floor, and one end of each dumbbell resting on the meatiest part of your shoulder. Push your hips back and lower your body into a squat, and push back up. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders, your arms bent and palms facing each other. Press the weights directly over your shoulders until your arms are straight. Then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.

3. Feet-Elevated Hip Lift
Lie on your back with your feet on a bench and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Squeezing your glutes, lift your hips until you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 10.

SET 3
Hangboard Complex: Perform the same complex as you did in SET 1.

SET 4
Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 4 total.

1. Flutter Kick
Lie with your back flat on the floor and your arms extended a few inches from your sides, palms up. Without crunching upwards, lift your legs about six inches off of the ground. Alternate kicking your feet as if you were performing the backstroke, keeping your heels off the ground the entire time. Each kick is one rep. Do 20.

2. Russian Twist
Sit holding a medicine ball or light dumbbell in front of your chest. Lean your torso back slightly and raise your feet off the floor. Now rotate the weight to your left and then to your right. Move back and forth quickly. Do 10 reps.

3. Plank
Assume a pushup position, but with your elbows bent and your weight resting on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Brace your abs as if you’re about to be punched in the gut. Hold this position for 45 seconds.

4. Pigeon Stretch
Kneel on the ground. Let your left knee fall away from your body so your shin is in front of your torso. Stretch your right leg out behind. Place your hands on the floor for balance. You should feel a stretch in your left glute and hip muscles. Hold for 15 seconds, and then switch sides.

SET 5
Hangboard Complex: Perform the same complex as you did in SET 1 and SET 3.

WORKOUT 3

WARMUP

HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 3 total.

1. 20-Move Wall Traverse
Find an open space on a climbing wall. Grab holds that aren’t far from the floor, and traverse—or move sideways—using 20 moves. Every time you touch a hold, that’s one move. Twenty moves should take about 25 to 30 seconds to complete.

2. Pushup
Assume a plank position with your arms straight and your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, push yourself back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.

3. Lunge—10 reps
From a standing position take a large step forward with one leg. Slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees. Pause, then push youruself to the starting position as quickly as you can. Switch legs and repeat. That’s 1 rep. Do 10.

4. Situp
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees 90 degrees. Raise your torso into a sitting position. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10.

5. Instep Stretch
Assume a pushup position. Bending your knee and moving at the hip, bring your right leg forward so your foot is outside your hand. If you can, bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then switch sides and repeat.

RELATED: A 6-Week Beginner’s Trail-Running Workout

CLIMBING

SET 1
Boulder Problem Complex: Select a boulder problem that is 2 difficulties less than your v-sum score. Complete the prescribed number of reps, and then immediately perform the same number of burpees and 10 bodyweight squats. That’s 1 round. You’ll perform 10 rounds total.

ROUND 1
Boulder problem: 5 reps
Burpee: 5 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 2
Boulder problem: 4 reps
Burpee: 4 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 3
Boulder problem: 3 reps
Burpee: 3 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 4
Boulder problem: 2 reps
Burpee: 2 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 5
Boulder problem: 2 reps
Burpee: 2 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 6
Boulder problem: 1 rep
Burpee: 1 rep
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 7
Boulder problem: 2 reps
Burpee: 2 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 8
Boulder problem: 3 reps
Burpee: 3 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 9
Boulder problem: 4 reps
Burpee: 4 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

ROUND 10
Boulder problem: 5 reps
Burpee: 5 reps
Bodyweight squat: 10 reps

SET 2
Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 4 total.

1. EO’s
Lie on your back with your feet elevated and knees bent at 90-degrees. Raise your arms with your elbows bent at 90-degrees. Using your core, roll your shoulders to the right. Without putting your feet on the floor, lift your hips and roll to the right. Your body should “walk” down the floor. Perform the exercise to the right for 20 seconds, and then repeat to the left.

2. Side Plank Right
Lie on your right side with your legs straight, and prop up your upper body on your forearm as shown. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders, and hold for 20 seconds, and then switch sides and repeat.

SET 3
Perform the exercises in the order shown as a straight set. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. When you’re finished both exercises, rest for 20 seconds. That’s 1 round. Do 4 total.

1. Russian Triangle
Sit holding a medicine ball or light dumbbell in front of your chest. Lean your torso back slightly and raise your feet off the floor. Now rotate the ball to your left and then to your right, and then lie down so your back is flat to the floor. That’s 1 rep. For your next rep, perform a situp, rotating the ball first to your right and then to your left before lying down again. Repeat for 20 seconds.

2. Plank
Assume a pushup position, but with your elbows bent and your weight resting on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Brace your abs as if you’re about to be punched in the gut. Hold this position for 20 seconds.

3. Rest for 20 seconds.

SET 4
Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 3 total.

1. Ultimate Elbow Stretch
Stand facing a wall. Your arms should be straight down by your sides, and your palms should be pressed against the wall. Without letting your palms release from the wall, walk your feet forward and try to get your chest and shoulders to touch the wall. Hold for 20 seconds.

2. Pigeon Stretch
Kneel on the ground. Let your left knee fall away from your body so your shin is in front of your torso. Stretch your right leg out behind. Place your hands on the floor for balance. You should feel a stretch in your left glute and hip muscles. Hold for 20 seconds, and then switch sides.

3. Hip Flexor Stretch
Stand with your feet together, hands on your hips. Step forward with one foot so your feet are a couple of feet apart. Keep your toes facing forward and your knees slightly bent. Gently push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the hip of your back leg, and hold this position for 20 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

The Editors of Men’s Health The editors of Men’s Health are your personal conduit to the top experts in the world on all things important to men: health, fitness, style, sex, and more.

Contents

Want to Try Rock Climbing? Here’s What You Need to Know

Photo: John Fedele/Getty Images

There’s nothing more badass than telling your friends you spent your Saturday morning scaling a mountain (or three). But between the high-tech gear, the craggy cliffs, and the steep mountain faces, getting started can be a little intimidating. Thankfully, it’s much more doable than you think, whether you want to commit a full weekend to the endeavor or just make it a weekly lunch hour workout. Whatever your climbing aspirations, here’s what you need to know to get started.

It’s a killer workout

For every hour you climb, you’ll burn around 550 cals, with that number growing even higher as you ramp up the level of difficulty. Better yet, you’ll target cardio and strength work throughout the entire journey. But make sure to keep it slow and steady rather than giving in to the temptation of sprinting to the top: “It may seem easier to thrash your way up a hill, but climbers agree that learning to climb efficiently and smoothly is more rewarding and lets you go longer,” says Dustin Portzline, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and head guide at Mountain Skills Climbing Guides in New Paltz, NY. It’s also important to focus on form so that you target the right muscles, according to Luke Terstriep, operations manager at Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, CO. Beginners tend to focus too much on their arms to lift them when in reality it’s their legs that really push and propel them up an incline: “The arms and hands are all about balance; it’s the legs that bring the strength,” he says. (If you want to prep for your first climbing sesh, do these 5 Strength Exercises for Rock Climbing Newbies.)

Start with a pro

Climbing is a highly technical sport so it’s important to make sure you master the fundamentals. “Working with someone who has the right type of expertise is necessary for avoiding bad habits that can be costly not just to your workout, but ultimately to your safety,” says Terstriep. If you’re completely green, try an “intro to rock climbing” class at your local indoor bouldering studio with knowledgeable instructors who can teach you the basics. If you’re going outdoors, make sure you pick a certified guide (Terstriep recommends a career mountain guide certified by the American Mountain Guide Association). Review what kind of terrain you’ll be tackling. Not only will the guide pick out the best cliffs, he or she will also help guide you through different routes, provide on-spot instruction, and handle all your gear. Expert tip: October is the best time of year for climbing-they even call it “Rocktober”-because of cooler temps and dryer weather. (Celebrate the sport’s best month at one of these 12 Places to Go Rock Climbing Before You Die.)

Indoor and outdoor experiences are different

While both indoor and outdoor climbing experience are worth their salt, the two aren’t exactly interchangeable. Experts recommend starting indoors, at places like Brooklyn Boulders in New York City, to try your hand at the sport in a controlled setting with predetermined routes to follow up the wall. As you get more comfortable, you can challenge yourself with different walls or more difficult routes, all the while knowing that you’re in a safe, contained environment with relatively low risk. You’ll reap the physical benefits (and feel the effort during your climb), but it’s more accessible to beginners than outdoor workouts thanks to less equipment and fewer technical skills involved, says Portzline. Outdoor climbing takes place off a natural rock cliff so you’re toying with an adrenaline rush the entire time in addition to the added element of unpredictability in the environment, like rock slippage or weather changes. In addition, outdoor routes tend to be significantly taller than indoor walls so your body’s endurance will be tested, says Portzline. From a time perspective, the two are dramatically different: You can expect to be in and out of a bouldering studio in as little as an hour, says Terstriep. But an outdoor expedition should take at least half a day when you factor in the hike to and from your vantage point.

You’ll use lots of equipment

Whether you’re at an indoor bouldering studio or roughing it outdoors with an outfitter, everything can be rented. Climbing indoors requires less equipment (just a harness, shoes, chalk bag, and belay system) that you will be fitted for and taught to use at your first visit. When you take your climb outdoors, you up the ante on the equipment requirement. Your guide will take care of most of it, but be sure to wear a helmet to protect you in the event of a fall (and also from any debris that may fall from above). You also want to make sure that your shoes fit snugly, so you’re stable as you maneuver through different rock holds and potentially treacherous nooks and crannies.

Prepare to be outside your comfort zone-it’s good for you!

According to Terstriep, it’s natural to feel nervous and a little fearful at the start of any climbing session, whether indoors or outdoors. “But all of that adrenaline and anxiety will result in a major sense of accomplishment at the end of the day,” he adds. Try to focus on releasing some of those nerves as you climb since they tighten your muscles, stiffen your movement, and prevent you from trusting your gut instinct as you plot or follow an ascent route.

Why Rock Climbing May Be the Ultimate Full-Body Workout

The muscles in your hips and torso strain to hold your lower half against the wall. You arch backward and extend one hand up to clasp the next hold—your thighs and calves burning with the effort of holding you steady and in balance. A moment later, when the tips of your fingers have secured their grip, there’s a wholesale shift in the muscles you call on to maintain your safe purchase on the climbing wall.

Exercise is all about engaging your muscles—from your heart to your biceps and quads—and asking those muscles to perform work. And when it comes to activating and training a diverse range of muscles, few exercises rival climbing.

Both climbing and bouldering, the name for climbing on low rock formations without a rope, involve “nearly the whole body’s musculature,” says Jiří Baláš, a faculty researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, who has conducted research on climbing. While running, cycling, rowing and most conventional gym workouts teach the body to perform consistent, repetitive motions—either to build strength, increase cardiorespiratory fitness or both—climbing is “a more complex movement,” Baláš says.

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In fact, climbing is an endlessly variable series of movements. No climbing surface or route is quite like another, so the work you ask your muscles to perform during a climb changes each time you exercise. This ensures you’re training a greater number of muscles. Research suggests this kind of dynamic muscle activation is much more challenging and fatiguing than simpler, repetitive movements.

While all of the pushing, pulling and lifting involved in climbing mirror aspects of resistance exercise, climbing is also an excellent cardiovascular workout, says William Sheel, a professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Canada. In a 2004 study he and his colleagues conducted on the physiology of rock climbing, “we found that climbers use a significant portion of their aerobic capacity,” he says. “The heart rate response was higher than we predicted.”

MORE: This 15-Year-Old Girl Could Be the Best Rock Climber Ever

Sheel says the amount your heart rate will increase during a climb depends on how hard you push yourself. But whatever your skill level, if the climb is challenging for you, your heart will get a workout.

As with anything else that elevates your heart rate, climbing also burns calories. Even if a 155-pound person is climbing a few notches below “maximal effort,” he or she will burn between eight and ten calories per minute while climbing, Baláš says, citing some of his own research. That’s nearly equal to intense cardio workouts such as spinning. The fear component of climbing can further crank up your heart rate and caloric expenditure.

There are even more health benefits. The balance and neuromuscular coordination required for climbing may bolster your brainpower. A recent study from the University of North Florida found that activities that involve balance, muscle coordination, spatial orientation and other aspects of climbing could significantly improve a person’s working memory, as well as other cognitive functions.

Studies have also linked the kinds of dynamic, balance-dependent movements used in climbing to an improvement of coordination and other motor skills among those with neurologic conditions like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Some research has even shown that eight weeks of bouldering can significantly reduce the severity of depression.

Surprisingly, nearly anyone can try it. Climbing walls—both natural and artificial, like those at an indoor rock climbing gym—come in many grades of difficulty. “With the right harnesses and gear, almost anyone can get started,” Sheel says.

Check with your doctor first if you have a heart condition, especially if you’re afraid of heights. But if you’re looking for a new way to build strength, coordination and fitness—and to train many of your body’s underworked muscles—adding a weekly climb to your regimen is a great way to do it.

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So you’ve discovered that rock climbing is not only awesome fun, but also a great way to get in shape, and stay in shape. But what are the best exercises for rock climbing, that will not only improve your climbing but also help you climb well into retirement?

Climbing is a versatile sport that demands more than just strong fingers and forearms. In fact, only doing pull-ups will often give you muscle imbalances that could lead to injury. In this post, The Adventure Junkies will walk you through the best exercises for rock climbing, including workouts that will not only improve your climbing, but also help to maintain good balance and flexibility.

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PULL UPS AND DEAD HANGS

Climbing starts with you fingers, forearms and shoulders, which all flex and strain to pull you up a route. The classic exercise is doing sets of pull-ups with your palms facing away from you. Do sets of five (or more, if you’re more advanced), with a short rest in between. This mirrors a climbing route, where you pull hard for a short period (through a crux, perhaps), and then reach a resting point.

If you’re just starting, then you don’t want to pull too much, too soon, as this could lead to injury. You could try assisted pull-ups, starting with your feet elevated on something, such as a chair. After a week or two, if you can feel the difference in your strength, then start to graduate slowly to more weight.

If you have a hangboard, you can use it for specific pull-ups and dead-hangs (static hanging, without pulling up) to work on your fingers, arms, shoulders and core. If not, you can do pull-ups using any horizontal bar that you can hang on to, or a solid door-frame. Make sure what you’re using is strong enough, and isn’t going to leave you with an ugly household repair bill.

Door-frames can also be used for stronger fingers. It is best to strengthen your fingers through isometric training, which means dead-hanging with a set weight for a short period of time – usually five to 10 seconds – without trying to pull up.

Make sure you hang correctly – squeezing your shoulders inwards to engage the muscles – to minimize the chance of injury. If you are dead-hanging, your elbows should be slightly bent.

LEGS

Good climbing technique dictates that you use your legs to push yourself up, rather than your arms to pull yourself up. Your leg muscles are much larger than your arms, so having stronger legs will also improve your climbing.

Try doing a series of single-leg squats. Standing up with your hands on your hips, raise and straighten one leg as you lower your weight onto the other, going as low as you can before standing back up. Try to take 30 seconds to lower and then raise yourself, and then swap legs.

If this is too difficult, do sets of basic leg lunges. Again, this will improve your climbing because the action mirrors a common movement on a climbing route: pushing your body up with your legs.

CORE

A strong core is great for any climber, as it allows different muscle groups to take some of the weight off of your arms. It can be particularly useful on horizontal roof climbs, or tough boulder problems where you have to tighten every muscle in your being to prevent popping off the rock.

PLANKING

A plank is a resistance exercise where you engage your core as you hold yourself up on your hands or forearms, keeping your body as straight as possible. Holding a standard plank position for one minute intervals is a good core workout, but there is a variation that can also help with finger strength. Try planking on straight arms, with fingers outstretched.

Another variation is to hold yourself in a plank position on your hands, and then slowly, and in a controlled fashion, raise your left knee up to your chest, followed by the right knee. This is called the Mountain Climber Plank. For another variation, touch your left knee to your left elbow, and your right knee to your right elbow.

VIDEO: HOW TO DO A MOUNTAIN CLIMBER PLANK

LEG LIFTS

Using your core to lift your legs is another common movement in climbing, especially on overhanging or roof routes. To do hanging leg lifts, use a hangboard or a pull-up bar to hang from your arms, and then raise your legs so they are perpendicular to your upper body. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and then lower them in as controlled a manner as you can. Try to do this 10 times, with a short rest in between. If this is too difficult, you can ease the strain by bending your legs at the knee.

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/agl_photography

If you’re just starting out, or don’t have anything to hang off, you can still do leg lifts by sitting on the floor, leaning back slightly (and keeping your back straight), and lifting your legs to turn your whole frame into a ‘V’ shape. Start with bent knees for an easier workout. You can also swing your legs to the side in a windshield-wiper motion to work out your lateral abdominal muscles.

VIDEO: CLIMBING LEG LIFTS FOR BEGINNERS

ANTAGONIST MUSCLES

Climbers tend to pull a lot, and have hunched, imbalanced shoulders. This can be countered by doing exercises to develop strong antagonist muscles, which can help prevent injury.

PUSH-UPS

Great for chest muscles, as well as shoulders, arms and core, a good push-up starts with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and keeping your core engaged and your body straight as you lower your chest to just above the ground. Keep your elbows as close to the sides of your torso as possible, which activates your triceps and aligns your joints correctly.

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/shironosov

TRICEP DIPS

These dips will work on your triceps as well as your chest, shoulders, and abdominal muscles. Take a chair or bench and lean on it, with your chest facing up and the palms of your hands on the bench, shoulder-width apart. In a controlled manner, lower your upper body until your arms are bent at right angles, and then push back up.

Keep your legs, head and back as straight as you can. Do three sets of 20 or more, depending on how comfortable you are with this exercise.

YOGA

It’s no wonder that many climbers also practice yoga, which not only improves their climbing, but also their longevity. It’s fun, and great for strengthening as well as improving balance and flexibility.

There are many yoga routines, some of which focus on strength, others on flexibility, or both. After a day of climbing, an evening yoga session based on stretching your muscles is an excellent way to ease the muscular tension of a full day of pulling on rock.

One sample session includes poses such as the eagle, warrior 1, downward dog, seated twist and bridge pose, which will stretch your shoulder, trapezius, calf, chest, hip flexor and lower back muscles, while also strengthening your leg and butt muscles.

You should try and do a full yoga session at least three times a week to keep your climbing muscles loose, which not only makes them stronger, but will also make them less susceptible to injury, and keep you climbing harder, for longer.

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/alexbrylov

19 Rock Climbing Home Workouts for When You Hate the Gym

We all have those days — those days where you just can’t go to the climbing gym.

Maybe you’re busy.

Or exhausted.

Or just not in the mood.

Yet, you’d still like to get a little workout in so you can keep getting stronger. Luckily, there are simple workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home that will help you build strength for rock climbing.

This article cover 19 of these rock climbing home workouts. The workouts target some of the most important muscle groups for rock climbing and most can be done without any equipment.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

Which Muscles Would You Like to Work Out?

  1. Upper Body
  2. Core
  3. Fingers & Forearms
  4. Legs

Upper Body

You worked hard to develop all that upper body strength.

Now use these workouts to make sure you don’t lose it when you can’t make it to the climbing gym.

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Presses

While standing or sitting, take a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time, with wrists oriented so the palms of your hands are facing forward.

Press the dumbbells upward until they touch at the top. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height.

Full description: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2. Tricep Dips

Place your hands shoulder-width apart on a chair or bench with your legs extended out straight in front of you. Bend your elbows to lower your body to the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Then press down to straighten your elbows and return to the starting position.

Full description: Tricep Dips

3. Pull-Ups

Do I even need to explain this one? 🙂

If you can’t do regular pull-ups, you can make them easier by placing a chair underneath the pull-up bar and putting one foot on the chair while pulling up.

4. Push-Ups

Normal push-ups are great for working your antagonistic muscles. They can help your body balance out a little bit and lose some of that climber’s hunch.

If you want to mix up your push-up game, consider these variations:

  • Elevated push-ups
  • Spiderman push-ups

5. Bicep Curls

Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side while standing or sitting upright in a chair. Curl the weights by bending your elbow. Curl them until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your sides.

Full description: Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Core

If you’re stuck at home for the night you can still work your core. All you need is a floor and your body weight.

Try these exercises while watching Netflix, why don’t ya?

6. Plank

Get into push-up position. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Hold this position for as long as desired.

7. Side Plank

Lie on either side with your legs extended and stacked one on top of the other. Prop your body up using your forearm, forming a straight line from shoulders to ankles.

Hold this position for as long as desired. Switch sides and repeat.

8. Crunches

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands behind your head. Roll your shoulders off the floor, pushing your head towards your knees, until your shoulders are about four inches off the ground. Lower your head back down to the floor.

9. Bicycle Kicks

Lie on your back with your hands flat on the floor. Lift your feet off the ground. Bring your left knee towards your chest while extending your right leg. Then bring your right knee towards your chest while extending your left leg.

Full description: Bicycle Kicks

10. Six Inches

Lie on your back with your legs extended and hands by your sides. Lift your legs six inches off the ground. Hold for as long as you can.

11. Flutter Kicks

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Place your hands under your butt to lift your legs a few inches off the ground. Flutter each leg up and down a few inches without having them touch the ground.

Full description: Flutter Kicks

Fingers & Forearms

You know how important finger strength is, so make sure to target your digits when you’re working out from home.

These basic workouts can help you retain and build finger strength on your non-gym days.

12. Basic Hangboarding Routine

Have a hangboard at your house? It’s time to finally use it.

Try out a basic hangboard routine to build finger strength at home.

13. Pulley Sprain Prevention

Place a rubber band around the tips of your fingers on one hand. Spread your fingers as far apart as you can without bending your wrist.

Full description: Pulley Sprain Prevention

14. Wrist Curls

Sitting in a chair, take a dumbbell in each hand. Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front and palms facing up. Curl your wrists upward towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down.

Full description: Wrist Curls

15. Reverse Wrist Curls

Sitting in a chair, take a dumbbell in each hand. Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front and palms facing down. Curl your wrists upward towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down.

Full description: Reverse Wrist Curls

Legs

Though often overlooked when climbing, you can take some time at home to work out your lower body.

These home-friendly climbing exercises can all be done without any equipment. So no excuses!

16. Bodyweight Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down by bending your knees and hips. Go as far down as you can. Then press up, reversing the motion and returning to the standing position.

Full description: Bodyweight Squats

17. Lunges

Stand comfortably. Step ahead with one foot and then lean forward until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle and your back leg is parallel to the ground. Return to the standing position and repeat with your other leg.

Full description: Lunges

18. Wall Sits

Lean against a wall with your legs straight out in front of you. Slide your back down the wall until your knees are at right angles and you are in a sitting position. Hold this position for as long as you can.

19. Calf Raises

Standing comfortably, place the balls of your feet on a raised surface such as a stair. Raise your heels. Lower them back down to complete a full rep.

You can hold dumbbells in each hand to make this exercise more difficult.

Full description: Calf Raises

8 Exercises that Make You a Stronger Climber

Rock climbing is a skill sport but it’s also physically demanding. You can be good at it, but being stronger make you better.

Climbers have to condition themselves to deal with the most difficult routes. There will be twists, small holds that barely fit the feet and finger tips, and slippery rocks. Suddenly, hanging off a cliff becomes dangerous.

Whether you’re bouldering, sport or trad climbing, your body needs to be in good shape. Strong arms and core, flexibility and balance are key because you need to move your body as powerfully as possible.

Rock climbing is a leisure activity, even though it’s very challenging. It takes quite a lot of your spare time and, on top of that, you have to train for it. Who has the time for that? A few short but intense workouts will suffice.

Push-ups

“Push-ups are the best exercise to learn to balance yourself out,” Sarah Laine, a climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, a rock climbing facility, says. “It’s also a good core exercise.” Strong core helps prevent injuries. “Most climbers are hunched over because they have overdeveloped muscles in the back and underdeveloped muscles in the chest,” she adds. Push-ups will help with that imbalance. “It’s a good idea to do them before and after a workout session.”

Pull-ups

“Pull-ups are definitely very helpful,” Laine says. “You are focusing on upper body strength.” It’s important to move slowly when you perform the exercise. You won’t be climbing fast anyway. You’ll need to maintain balance and have control. So, slow down until you feel that even doing 15 pull-ups is difficult. Go as high as you can.

Planks

The plank is often regarded as the single best exercise for strong core. It’s good to do it if you’re a climber because it helps with balance and positioning. Your core muscles become especially important when you are on a tough route where the climbing holds are small and you need to stay balanced. This isometric exercise requires you to rest your weight in your arms, not the hands. Form a straight line and tighten your belly. Hold that position for as long as you can and repeat a few times.

Traversing

“Traversing is very important when you’re climbing across the wall as opposed to straight up,” Laine says. “Look out for really small holes in the gym so you can focus on how to handle them and not be blindsided and surprised outside,” she adds. Traversing is also a great way to build endurance and improve technique. To make it more challenging, set a timer and just climb. Keep climbing until your hands get weak.

Bar hangs

This exercise is good because it improves your grip. You have to hang on to holds, some of which are very small, all the time when climbing and you need to know how to best do that. The longer you can count on your hands, the more time you have to figure out your next move and rest other muscles. The exercise is pretty simple – just hold on to something heavy with one hand. Hold for as long as you can and switch.

Mountain climbers

This is an awesome exercise for balance, quickness and coordination. You are engaging your arms, core and legs all at the same time, making your muscles work hard so you can maintain balance and move your body in a controlled motion.

Run

Running helps to improve your endurance. If you haven’t run in a long time, or ever, start small. Mix it up by doing intervals – running followed by walking at an incline.

One-leg squats

Thinkstock

Build your leg strength. This is one of the hardest exercises but it’s worth every drop of sweat. Don’t cheat; go down on one leg until your glutes touch your foot. Do each leg for half a minute. One you master that basic move, add weights to make the exercise a bit harder.

More readings:

The Best Places to Go Rock Climbing in the World

Skills All Rock Climbers Should Master

The 15 Most Dangerous Rock Climbs

Alex Beale of 99Boulders, a site focusing on climbing gear and training, has written a guest post details ten easy and effective off-the-wall exercises you can do to complement your current training regimen.

You want to know something?

You don’t need to spend all your time training for climbing on a climbing wall. In fact, there are many off-the-wall exercises that can complement your climbing training efforts.

There’s no need to get fancy with these off-the-wall exercises, either. Common exercises that you are likely familiar with and that use minimal or no equipment can help you strengthen muscles that are important for climbing.

They can be done from the comfort of your own home or in the gym after a climbing session. This article covers 10 of them which target either the upper body, core, forearms, or legs.

Let’s take a look.

UPPER BODY

Climbing is a great upper body exercise in and of itself. However, it can be supplemented with these off-the-wall exercises when need be — especially, as you’ll see, as a way to balance out your body.

1. Push-Ups

Alex Megos, one of the strongest climbers in the world right now, was once asked what his top three training tips are for other climbers. His response? “Antagonist training, antagonist training, antagonist training.”

Push-ups are one of the most basic forms of antagonist training. They work the pushing muscles, as opposed to regular climbing which mainly works the pulling muscles. Working both of these muscle groups helps your body stay balanced which, in turn, can help prevent injuries.

2. Pull-Ups

I said there was no need to get fancy with these exercises, didn’t I?

The pull-up is one of the most popular off-the-wall climbing exercises for good reason. It strengthens many of the muscles that you use when climbing, making it a great exercise to do in place of or in addition to on-the-wall climbing.

3. Tricep Dips

To do tricep dips, place your hands shoulder-width apart on a chair or bench with your legs extended out straight in front of you. Bend your elbows to lower your body to the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Then press down to straighten your elbows and return to the starting position.

Like push-ups, tricep dips are a simple exercise which target some of the antagonist muscles.

Bouldering Essentials is packed with clear, practical advice for everyone interested in bouldering whether a complete beginner looking to learn the basics, an indoor climber keen to start bouldering outdoors or an experienced boulderer who wants to explore advanced topics such as dynamics, strategy, tactics, training and highballing.

With a foreword by renowned climber Johnny Dawes, the book features over 200 stunning photos from the best bouldering areas in the world including Bishop, Castle Hill, Fontainebleau, Hueco Tanks and Rocklands. Bouldering Essentials will provide all the inspiration and information you need to reach your full potential as a boulderer.

Buy it now for only €25 including postage worldwide.

Improving your core strength is an integral part of improving your climbing. Core strength helps you be more precise with your footwork and more controlled with your body.

4. Plank

The plank is one of the most straightforward core exercises. To the uninitiated, to do a plank first assume push-up position. Then, bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Hold this position for as long as you want.

However, let’s be honest: most of you are surely quite familiar with regular planks already.

So, for a challenge, try lifting and extending your opposite arm and leg while in plank position. Try planking for one minute with your left leg and right arm off the ground, for example. Then, plank for one minute with your right leg and left arm off the ground. You’ll find it’s much more difficult!

5. Six Inches

Call me a masochist, but this is my favourite core exercise. To do it, lie on your back with your legs extended and hands by your sides. Lift your legs six inches (about 15 cm) off the ground and hold them there for as long as you can.

If this position puts a lot of strain on your lower back, try placing your hands underneath your butt before lifting your legs into the air. This will place more of the strain on your core muscles.

Is normal six inches too easy for you? Call a friend over and have them push on your legs and chest while your legs are off the ground. You’ll have to fight extra hard to keep your legs suspended.

6. Hanging Leg Lift

Hang with straight arms from a pull-up bar. Then lift your legs so your hips are at a 90-degree angle, trying to keep your legs as straight as possible at all times. Slowly drop your legs back down to complete one rep.

This exercise can be difficult to beginner climbers. To make it easier, bend your knees while lifting your legs.

On the other hand, some people might find this exercise easy. To make it harder, hang from the bar with your elbows at 90-degree angles while doing your leg lifts. Don’t forget to breathe!

FOREARMS

7. Wrist Curls

The forearms are an important part of the body when it comes to climbing. On-the-wall climbing is a great way to work them out, and wrist curls are a good forearm exercise for days when you just can’t make it to the gym. They help strengthen the wrists, too.

To do a wrist curl, while sitting in a chair, take a small dumbbell in each hand (you can use a soup can if you don’t have a dumbbell). Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front and palms facing up. Curl your wrists upwards towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down to complete one rep.

8. Reverse Wrist Curls

Remember that a balanced body can help you prevent injuries. Forearms, especially the areas around the elbows, are notorious potential hotspots for pain and injury. For that reason, don’t just curl your wrists one way — curl them in reverse, too, so you strengthen the muscles on both sides of your forearms.

While sitting in a chair, take a small dumbbell in each hand. Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front, palms facing the ground. Curl your wrists upwards towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down to complete one rep.

Bouldering Essentials is packed with clear, practical advice for everyone interested in bouldering whether a complete beginner looking to learn the basics, an indoor climber keen to start bouldering outdoors or an experienced boulderer who wants to explore advanced topics such as dynamics, strategy, tactics, training and highballing.

With a foreword by renowned climber Johnny Dawes, the book features over 200 stunning photos from the best bouldering areas in the world including Bishop, Castle Hill, Fontainebleau, Hueco Tanks and Rocklands. Bouldering Essentials will provide all the inspiration and information you need to reach your full potential as a boulderer.

Buy it now for only €25 including postage worldwide.

Climbers often overlook leg exercises in lieu of upper body exercises. The legs are an important source of strength when climbing, though, and deserve attention when training. Try out these simple exercises to build strength in your legs.

9. Bodyweight Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down by bending your knees and hips. Go down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Then press up, reversing the motion and returning to the standing position.

An obvious way to make squats harder is to add weight. Or, you can add a cardio aspect to the exercise by doing jump squats.

10. Lunges

Here’s another basic yet fundamental exercise to strengthen your legs. Start by standing comfortably. Step ahead with one foot and then lean forward until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle and your back leg is parallel to the ground. Return to the standing position and repeat with your other leg. As with squats, lunges can be made more difficult by adding weight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while lunging to make things more challenging.

More information to help you improve your climbing

There is a plenty more articles on this site that will help your improve your climbing:

Symmetry and Climbing discuss how important it is to work on movements on both sides.

How to Dyno takes you through all the various types of dynamic movement, with video examples.

Ten tips for Climbing Indoors is ideal for total beginners.

Ten tips for Bouldering Outdoors will be very useful for anyone thinking of venturing outdoors to boulder.

You can also our free 42 page Bouldering for Beginners ebook.

However if you want to learn more about bouldering then the best option is to pick up a copy of Bouldering Essentials: the complete guide to bouldering.

Welcome to the Rock and Ice year-long training plan. If you stuck with the first two training plans in this ongoing series (visit Phase 1 & Phase 2), you should be feeling fit and ready to start strength training. Don’t worry if you’ve only just joined in; simply start with two weeks of the low-intensity endurance phase given last issue, then commence the strength phase outlined below.

STRENGTH TRAINING

With summer in full swing, try to substitute sessions on the crag for indoor training. For example, boulder on rock or work the moves on a redpoint project, or, for an endurance session simply go and tick off more moderate routes. If you go on a major climbing trip (for longer than five days), rest at least three full days before you leave and three days afterward before resuming training. Also, taper down seven to 10 days before the trip by gradually reducing the intensity and frequency of sessions. After your trip, build back up again over a week rather than jumping straight in with hard training.

OVERVIEW

The focus of this next phase is bouldering, with small amounts of supportive hangboard and endurance work to prevent performance losses. Take three or four rest days after the first three weeks and then resume. At the end of the phase, rest four days and see the next issue of Rock and Ice, No. 212 for the next phase. If you have limited access to a climbing gym simply substitute bouldering sessions with hangboard sessions.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced/Elite

1. Bouldering

2

2

3

2. Hangboard/Campus

0

1

1

3. Endurance

1

1

1

4. Conditioning & Flexibility

1

1

1

5. Antagonists & Core

1

1

2

SESSION-PLAN DETAILS

1. BOULDER SESSIONS (INTENSITY)

TIME

  • 15-Minute Warm-up: Pulse raiser, mobility exercises and easy climbing
  • 45-Minute Progression of Boulder Problems: Alternate between vertical and overhanging, climbing at least two slabs

PROJECT BOULDERING

Intermediates and Elites: Try three different projects that you expect will take a minimum of two or three sessions to complete. Each individual move should take between two and five tries on the first attempt. All three problems should be overhanging, but each should emphasize a different style and/or angle: e.g.: slopey/pinchy holds, crimpy/positive holds, gently overhanging, severely overhanging. Spend 30 minutes on each project and take 15 minutes’ rest after each projecting session.

Beginners: Try five boulder problems that you expect to complete in three or four tries. Spend no longer than 15 minutes on any problem. Move on and return to it next time. Rest 15 minutes after every 30 minutes of climbing.

Intermediates and Elites: Finish with the arms and core exercises given for the hangboard routine, but NOT finger exercises.

Number of sets

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced/Elite

1. Half crimp (fingers bent 90 degrees)

3

4

5

2. Hang (open hand)

3

4

5

3. Full crimp

0

2

3

Warm Down: Easy movement and stretches. Eat a protein- and carb-based snack within 30 minutes of training.

==

2. HANGBOARD & CAMPUS SESSION

Warm up thoroughly, as for bouldering. If you don’t have access to a bouldering wall, do gentle warm-up sets of hangs and pull-ups with one foot on a chair. Give yourself less assistance each time. Rest two to three minutes between sets of all exercises.

> Set 1: Approx 6 – 8 reps

> Set 2: Approx 3 – 4 reps

> Set 3: Approx 1 – 2 reps

> Set 4: Approx 3 – 4 reps

> Set 5: Approx 6 – 8 reps

a) Deadhangs/Repeaters

A “repeater” set is where you hang to failure three times in a row, with a two-second rest between each hang. You should reach the failure point before 10 seconds on the first hang, so calibrate the exercise by adding weight, switching to a smaller hold or removing fingers. Make each set slightly harder every time you train.

b) Campus Ladders

Only do this exercise if you can boulder approximately V6. Use medium (first-joint) campus rungs with a half-crimp grip (fingers bent at 90 degrees). Lead with one arm, rest two or three minutes and repeat, leading with the other arm for one set.

Warm up set x 2

Submaximal set (e.g.: rung spacings you can just complete at your limit) x 1. Maximal set (spacings you can not complete) attempts x 3 Submaximal set x 1.

c) Fingertip Pull-Ups or Campus Offset Pull-Ups

Note: The rung spacings on the maximal set will be one greater than the submaximal set (e.g.: if the submaximal is 1>4>6, the maximal set will be 1>4>7). This is essentially a project, something you are trying to complete and are very close to, but can’t quite complete.)

All sets are to failure, with a half-crimp grip using a campus rung or first-joint, flat hold. If your maximum capability for pull-ups is less than 15 reps, do standard pull-ups, with your hands level. Use a weight belt to increase intensity and conform to rep targets. If you can do more than 15 pull-ups, try offsets on a campus board with your hands at different heights. Vary the rung spacings to conform to the rep targets. Repeat a second time, leading with the other arm, to count as one set.

d) 90-Degree Lock-Offs (on bar or hangboard jugs)

Beginners should use two arms. Intermediates use one arm with a knotted rope or a poor handhold or bungee stirrup for assistance. Elites use one arm. Do four sets, aiming to reach the failure point before eight seconds. Increase intensity each session by adding weight or using less assistance.

e) Pull-Ups (on bar or jugs)

Use calibration guidelines as given for exercise d). Do four sets of six to eight reps to failure, or for better results, use the same rep/set structure as given for exercise three. Increase intensity each session.

f) Straight Leg Raises or Front Lever

Intermediates should do straight-leg raises (hang from the bar with arms slightly bent, and raise legs using controlled form). Do four sets of 10. 10 to 15 reps to failure.If you can do 15 reps comfortably, then do front levers with one or both legs bent (hang from the bar with arms slightly bent, bend legs, bring your feet to bar level and hold torso horizontal using controlled form). Make four attempts or hold for four to six seconds (to failure).Elites should attempt a full front lever (torso horizontal with both legs as straight as possible): make four attempts, hold for four to six seconds.

3. ENDURANCE

Select your own endurance session to do once a week. Prioritize weaknesses or goals. For example, if you’re going trad climbing or if low intensity endurance is your weakness, train by doing routes in sets of three or four in a row, or circuits of 80 to 120 moves. If you’re going sport climbing or if power endurance is your weakness then do hard single routes (or two-in-a-row) or circuits of 20 to 50 moves .

4. CONDITIONING & FLEXIBILITY

a) Run

Running is preferable to cycling in order to avoid bulking up the leg muscles. Go at a slow steady pace to warm-up for the first 5 minutes. Then do 5 intervals of 1 min. on at 90 to 95 percent effort followed by 1 min. slow jog to recover. Then run at a steady pace to finish. Make the intervals 10 seconds longer each session, until eventually you are doing 2 mins. on / 1 min. off x 5, then 5 mins. to warm down.

b) Burpee

x 8 (on 1st session). 1 min. rest. Repeat x 4. Do 1 more rep per set each session (i.e., by session 10 you’ll be doing 18 reps per set).

c) Flexibility

Hold stretches for 20 seconds, release for 10 seconds, then repeat again for 20 seconds.

1. Hamstrings 2. Thigh / quadriceps 3. Calf 4. Groin 5. Lats 6. Shoulders 7. Chest 8. Forearms (flexors & extensors)

5. ANTAGONISTS & CORE

This session remains the same. Refer to Phase 1 & Phase 2 in this series for more information.

Go to Building a Better Climber: Phase 4 – Power Endurance
Revisit Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 – Low-Intensity Endurance

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 211.

Rock Climbing Training Exercises – How To Train For Rock Climbing

Like all sports, rock climbing requires an investment of your time and energy to learn new skills. If you want to continue growing as an athlete, rock climbing exercises can be self-challenging and help you develop strength and fitness. As your balance and efficiency improve over time, your technique and strength will allow you to climb overhanging, near-vertical, or vertical rocks.

Rock climbing requires you to accelerate up a wall with your legs rather than pulling with your arms. You need a strong torso and core, and if you have excellent efficiency, it means you have a solid strength-to-weight ratio. The sport involves strength training, but not all exercises are climbing specific.

Take a look at the following rock climbing exercises for beginners to help you gain precision and power.

How to Train for Rock Climbing

Before starting, it’s recommended to create a training schedule to include four to five workouts per week. Balance your exercises between the gym and climbing wall because various strength exercises will improve your ability. Dedicate three days to strength and one or two days to cardio. You can switch up your strength exercises each week where one is fitness and the next is climbing:

  • Weekly cardio workout: As suggested, perform cardio workouts two days per week, beginning and ending each with static exercises to keep your muscles loose. Work out between 30 and 60 minutes.
  • Interval training: Interval training is when you implement 30 to 60 seconds of high-intensity cardio followed by a lighter workout for one to two minutes. You can repeat intervals for 20 to 40 minutes while remembering to dynamic stretch before and after.
  • Weekly strength training workout: Schedule three days each week to strength training for rock climbing with three to four sets of each workout. Suggested exercises include the lateral pillar bridge with lateral pull, lateral pillar bridge with an overhead press with a band, pull-ups, pushups with a single arm row and the dyno step jump to squat landing.

Other strength-training exercises you can perform each week include the following:

  • Deadlift
  • Frog stretch
  • Military press
  • Barbell front squat
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Inverted row
  • Y-extension

If you’ve never lifted weights, seek help from a trainer so you can master the proper form. If you start with bad techniques, they can lead to injuries.

Rock Climbing Training Exercises for Fingers

When it comes to rock climbing, your arms, legs and abdominals are not the only things you need to place focus on strengthening. Training your fingers for altered grip positions will help you be able to tackle a variety of edifices. Check out a few finger exercises to keep you ahead of the game:

1. Bouldering

Bouldering forms practical strength in your fingers and helps you develop technical skills. It’s important to focus on hard moves and to target varying grip positions. Try to climb the chosen problem several times and rest five minutes for intense grips and three for small obstacles. Positions you can try are the crimp, pinch, open hand and two finger pocket. Train for 30 to 90 minutes.

2. Fingerboard repeaters

A fingerboard training tool is what you can use for multiple finger grips and positions. It allows you to target definite grip positions at recurring high-intensity contractions. Repeaters let you hang with both hands on identical blocks so you can train your weakest grip first. It’s suggested to perform 10 hangs lasting about five seconds while taking a rest between. Highly intense hangs are effective, especially when you add weight to your waist for more resistance. Stretch to recover and then move to next grip position.

3. Hyper-gravity bouldering

Using a 10 to 20-pound weight belt, determine the number of attempts you want to start with. Most begin at five and build to 10 and 15 as you achieve strength. You activate the exercise by choosing a nontechnical overhanging problem that will be doable yet strenuous. Perform the climb about three times with the belt. Rest three minutes for short attempts and five for long. Once you complete the first round, move to a different exercise that targets another grip and repeat the steps.

4. Feet-on lunging

For the feet-on lunging exercise, go to an indoor wall overhanging about five to 25 degrees past the vertical line. The steeper the wall becomes, the trickier it will be, so you can also choose one with various sized hand and footholds. Place two footholds one foot off the ground. Then, take two handholds and put one ahead of your face and the other two feet above the first.

Begin by balancing your weight on the footholds and clasp the hold in front of your face. Hold your other hand behind back and lunge up and down. Between both handholds and using one hand, pull your body toward the rock wall and thrust up to the top hold. In one smooth motion, fall back down to the initial hold. It’s important not to pause so you can explode back up. Do eight to 12 handholds then switch to your other arm. Execute two or three sets of each hand by concentrating on speed rather than the volume of repetitions.

5. Campus training

Campus training uses a hand-over-hand, laddering motion with no support from your feet. With the precise dynamic movements of this exercise, you begin at the first rung of your campus board. Hand over hand, pull yourself up the board using alternating rungs, attempting to ascend as fast as possible. Once you reach the top, match your hand together then descend. Do six to 12 hand moves and increase the level of difficulty by skipping rungs each time.

Spooky Nook Sports Climbing Gym

Rock climbing exercises are essential to not only increase your strength as an athlete but to also decrease your risk of injury. The Spooky Nook Sports climbing gym has walls reaching up to 30 feet with different levels of difficulty. The premier center also has a free-standing boulder with unique features and angles. You can check out new routes each time you come, along with our crack climbing segment.

Whether you are a beginner or have a few years of experience, our rock climbing walls will help you train.

How to Train for Rock Climbing and Bouldering

From your forearms to your feet, you fire up a lot of different muscles when you climb. Rock climbing and bouldering require power for explosive movements, balance to traverse or move up a rock face, endurance to sustain you through long climbs, and a stable core to help you climb better and more efficiently.

The best way to train for rock climbing is to spend time climbing—whether you do at the gym or the crag. Having a focused strength and endurance training plan will also translate to improvements when you’re taking on the next problem. The following exercises can be done at home and require only a resistance band. This full-body workout challenges your upper half (arms, shoulders, fingers, chest, core) and lower body (quads and glutes).

Here’s a general overview on how to train for rock climbing and bouldering:

  • Warm up your body: Take the time to get your body used to a range of movement.
  • Crank up the power: Climbing and bouldering require upper body strength, but don’t neglect your lower limbs.
  • Build endurance: Build up your endurance so your muscles don’t get fatigued too soon and so you can climb continuously on longer routes and over longer periods.
  • Enhance your balance: Improving your balance will help you position your body better on the wall.

Before beginning any training plan, check in with your doctor or certified training professional.

Training Schedule for Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Start these exercises six to eight weeks before you plan to climb or boulder intensely. You’ll see real improvements in strength and endurance over this time. You’ll want to balance these workouts with time in the climbing gym or outdoors. If you have access to a climbing gym or climbing training tools, work on building up hand, finger and grip strength. Depending on how often you’re climbing, perform these exercises two or three times a week.

To keep your energy up for hours of sustained bouldering or climbing, supplement these exercises with cardio workouts. Rowing on a machine is a good choice to work your upper and lower body. Swimming strengthens your upper body while getting your heart and lungs pumping. Whether it’s biking or working on a gym climbing machine, choose an activity you enjoy. Try to do about 30 minutes of cardio activities two to three times a week in addition to climbing time.

Training Exercises for Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Keep the following in mind as you train:

  • Make the exercises fit your body, not the other way around.
  • If something doesn’t feel comfortable, make modifications or skip the exercise.
  • Set your own pace. Increase the repetitions or add more resistance as your training progresses.

Warm up: Start each workout with five to 10 minutes of easy cardio activity such as jogging or jumping jacks. Then follow the guidelines below:

  • Inhale during your initial exertion, then exhale as you return to the starting position. Make sure you breathe regularly during faster exercises.
  • Initially, you’ll want to rest for about 60 to 90 seconds at the end of each exercise. Reduce that rest time to between 30 and 45 seconds as you get more fit or if you want a greater cardio challenge by keeping your heart rate up.
  • Complete all of the exercises once, then rest for two minutes and repeat the set one or two more times.

Shoulder External Rotation to a Pull-Apart Exercise

The following three exercises warm up your rotator cuff, a group of muscles that helps stabilize your shoulder when you use your arm. The goal is to reduce the chance of a shoulder injury by getting those muscles used to, or aware, of these motions.

Prop: Resistance band

  1. Hold a resistance band between your hands with some tension.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you.
  3. Move your wrists away from each other as you widen the resistance band.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Tips and modifications: Avoid shrugging your shoulders.

Shoulder External Rotation Exercise

Prop: Resistance band

  1. Use a resistance band that you can secure at slightly above shoulder height.
  2. Stand facing the band and grab the end of it with your left hand.
  3. Your left elbow should be out to your side at shoulder level. Your palm should face down and out in front of you.
  4. Move your forearm up and back so your arm now forms half of a football goal post (or a cactus arm). Try not to move your elbow as you pull up on the resistance band and return it to the original position.
  5. Do 15-20 reps on each arm.

Tips and modifications: Keep your back straight and avoid dropping your elbows. Keep your chin slightly tucked.

Shoulder Internal Rotation Exercise

Prop: Resistance band

  1. Use a resistance band that you can secure at slightly above shoulder height.
  2. Stand facing away from the band.
  3. Grab the end of the band with your left hand; your left elbow should be out to your side at shoulder level with your forearm up at a 90-degree angle and forming half of a football goal post (or a cactus arm).
  4. Move your arm and pull the band forward while keeping your elbow steady. Slowly return to the 90-degree angle.

Tips and modifications: Keep your back straight and avoid dropping your elbows.

Jump Squat Exercise

This strength exercise conditions your legs for power while climbing and falling, as well as dynamic moves. Jumping off a wall and landing is something you’ll do frequently when working on challenging bouldering problems.

Prop: None

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat down until your thighs are at least parallel with the ground.
  2. Keep your chest up, your feet flat and your knees over your toes.
  3. As you come up from the squat, push through heels and explode up and jump a few inches off the ground.
  4. Land softly and quietly, and immediately go into another squat.
  5. Do 15-20 times.

Single-Leg Squat Exercise

This exercise works your quads and glutes while challenging your balance. It simulates climbing positions and movements you’ll make as you extend your leg to find footholds.

Prop: None

  1. Balancing on one leg, lift and extend the opposite leg out in front of you.
  2. Relax your shoulders and engage your abs, keeping your body weight centered over the standing leg.
  3. Keep your arms straight out in front for balance and your chest up.
  4. Lower yourself down into a single-leg squat.
  5. Push into your heel on the standing leg to help you up.
  6. Do 15 times on each leg. Rest for 30 seconds between legs.

Tips and modifications: If you find this too challenging, set up a chair behind you so you’re sitting into it.

Side Plank with a Lateral Pull-Down Exercise

This exercise works several muscles you engage to pull yourself up, including your lats and shoulders. It also works your glutes and obliques to develop upper body and core strength to keep you stable.

Prop: Resistance band

  1. Use a resistance band that you can secure about 2 to 3 feet off the ground.
  2. Get in the side plank position with your head facing toward the band: Lie on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and stack your feet one on top of the other.
  3. Hold the resistance band in your top hand and keep your shoulders perpendicular to the floor as you engage your abs. Tighten your glutes and lift your torso off the floor.
  4. Maintain this position while pulling the band from overhead down toward your shoulder, stopping when your elbow is near the side of your ribs. Be sure to keep tension in the band from the extended position to the tucked position.
  5. Do 15 reps on each side.

Tips and modifications: If this is too challenging, you can modify the exercise by crossing your top leg in front of your lower leg, or going down onto knees.

Side Plank with Overhead Press with Band Exercise

This exercise works on your deltoids, upper trapezoid and triceps to help you pull yourself up.

Prop: Resistance band

  1. Use a resistance band that you can secure about 2 to 3 feet off the ground.
  2. Get in the side plank position with your head facing away from the band: Lie on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and stack your feet one on top of the other.
  3. Hold the resistance band in your top hand and keep your shoulders perpendicular to the floor as you engage your abs. Tighten your glutes and lift your torso off the floor.
  4. Maintain this position while pressing the band from shoulder height up overhead, locking out the elbow.
  5. The band should have tension throughout the movement.
  6. Do 15 times each side. Rest for 30 seconds between sides.

Tips and modifications: If this is too challenging, you can modify the exercise by crossing your top leg in front of your lower leg, or going down onto knees.

Pushup with Single Arm Row Exercise

This exercise works your arms and shoulders for stronger climbing. The pushups strengthen your pecs and triceps while the arm rows focus on your lats and biceps.

Prop: None

  1. Begin in a pushup position with hands on dumbbells and feet set wide apart.
  2. Lower your body down in a straight line. After you push back up, row one elbow back, bringing the dumbbell up toward the rib cage.
  3. Return dumbbell to ground and do another pushup.
  4. Row the other elbow back, bringing the dumbbell up toward the opposite rib cage.
  5. Maintain a plank position throughout the exercise by keeping the body straight from head to toe. Do not let hips rotate; keep chin slightly tucked looking at the ground ahead of you.
  6. Do 10-15 reps on each arm.

Tips and modifications: If you are unable to maintain a stable trunk while on your feet, drop to the knees to complete the exercise.

Improve Your Climbing Technique

Good physical conditioning is one way to improve your climbing. Another is better technique. Honing your technical climbing and bouldering skills will result in better, more efficient climbing. Read more about how to improve your footwork and other climbing moves in this Climbing Techniques and Moves article.

Getting Started Rock Climbing

Indoor (Gym) Climbing Basics

Bouldering Basics

Gym to Crag: Learning to Climb Outdoors

Sport Climbing Basics

Indoor rock climbing is one of the most adrenaline-pumping sports you can do. It’s also gaining popularity, and fast. Whether you’re bouldering (no rope) or using a harness and rope, indoor climbing is a great total-body workout to get strong and burn calories.

This physically and mentally demanding sport requires more than just working on the wall. You need to train your mind and body hard to literally push yourself to new heights.

“You have to focus your training in the gym as well as the wall if you want to progress in climbing,” says Trevor Swaine, C.P.T. and founder of First Ascent Fitness. “Most movements in climbing are very controlled and fluid, therefore, we want to maximize muscle contractions and minimize the generation of momentum.”

Designed by Swaine, this strength-building gym workout will target the core and back while also incorporating chest and triceps exercises to avoid muscle imbalances. Take your fitness to a whole new level with this intense 12-move full-body workout.

Jorg Badura

THE WORKOUT
Pullup (with thumbless grip)
Sets: 4
Reps: 10
A thumbless grip increase forearm and grip strength.

Spiderman Pushup
Sets: 3
Reps: 14
As you lower your body to the floor like a traditional pushup, raise your right knee to your right elbow alternating sides each rep. This motion will further engage your obliques and triceps.

One-arm Suspension Trainer Inverted Row
Sets: 4
Reps: 8
Keeping your core engaged and your feet wider than shoulder width pull your body up quickly from a horizontal position and hold for 3 seconds at the top before slowly lowering back down. Alternate arms.

Single-leg Burpee
Sets: 2
Reps: 10 (each leg)
Do burpees with one leg raised off the floor the entire time, including the jump at the end of the movement.

Bentover Row (using Fat Gripz)
Sets: 3
Reps: 6-8
Adding Fat Gripz will keep a more open hand and will increase your grip strength. Control each rep with proper form, using a tempo of a three-count up and three-count down.

Reverse Cable Flye
Sets: 3
Reps: 15
Set cables above shoulder height. Instead of bringing the cables as in a standard flye, cross your hands over each other and retract your scapula to move the cables away from your body. Perform 5 reps, hold for 3 seconds, take a big step back while holding cables out to the side, and repeat 3 times for 15 total reps.

Forearm Kettlebell Curl
Sets: 3
Reps: 12
While standing in a staggered stance pick up a kettlebell with the handle facing away from you and squeezing the base of the kettlebell with your palms. Curl the bell up to your chest quickly and slowly let the kettlebell down using a three-count tempo. Press your palms into the kettlebell as hard as possible and control the weight throughout the exercise.

Single-leg Lever
Sets: 2
Reps: 8
While in the bottom of a pullup position with your arms extended, lean back and raise your body up to a horizontal position with one leg extended and the other leg bent in to your chest. Slowly lower back to the ground. Alternate legs each rep. Keep hips as high as you can.

Swiss Ball Pressup
Sets: 2
Reps: 14
Get into a plank position with legs straight and forearms on a Swiss Ball. Raise hips and lean back into your heels while you press up onto your hands so you’re standing with your palms on the ball. Slowly roll back out to a plank position so your forearms return to the ball.

Toe to Heel Leg Raise
Sets: 2
Reps: 14 (each side)
While lying on your back, stack your right foot on top of your left so the heel of your right foot is on top of the toe of your left foot. Keeping your legs straight, raise both legs quickly pressing toward the ceiling and twisting to the left, then slowly bring your legs down with a five-count. Complete one side then alternate legs.

Single-leg Plank
Sets: 2
Reps: Hold for 1 minute
In a regular plank position lift one leg a foot off the ground for 10 seconds and alternate legs for 1 minute.

Slow-motion Bicycle
Sets: 3
Reps: 20
Lying on your back with hands behind your head look at the ceiling while slowly bringing your right elbow to your left knee and fully extend your right leg parallel with the floor, hold for 5 seconds, then alternate sides.

The Next Generation Climbing Gym >>>

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Rock Climbing Exercise

GENERAL. During exercise, your muscles will use up stored carbohydrates (glycogen) that need to be replenished by sugar from the blood. The liver supplies sugar by providing a store of glycogen. When the liver runs out of glycogen, you will get that heavy, no-energy feeling. You can prevent this simply by eating about 500 calories from fruits (simple carbohydrates – but avoid processed sugar as a source of simple carbs). Do this about an hour before your rock climbing exercise session. If you run out of steam during your training session, drink a sports drink or eat something with carbohydrates. Whatever you choose, it should have a high carbohydrate content.

Fluids. Rock climbing exercises are strenuous. During exercise your body will lose water due to sweat. Replacing fluids during and after climbing exercise is absolutely essential. Drink before you feel thirsty. If you are thirsty, it is because you already have started dehydrating. Lack of water in your muscles will decrease contractile strength by up to 30%. Drink water during exercise to keep your strength and endurance up. Water weight is minimal compared to what you lose in strength. Fluids must be in your system ready to replace what is lost through sweat before your body signals thirst, so drink ahead of your thirst.

Recovery. After the rock climbing exercise session, eat complex carbs – (bread, potatoes, rice, fruits, pasta) and avoid fatty and oily foods. You need to replenish your glycogen stores. Carbohydrates will do that for you. Eat spaghetti (without the sauce), potatoes (no sour cream or butter), lots of fruit and vegetables, rice (no gravy or butter). This type of eating is not that appealing, but is the most effective way to replenish the depleted glycogen in your liver and speed your recovery. If you don’t get enough carbohydrate calories in the first two days, your recovery time will take longer. See carbohydrates.

Get rest. Along with carbohydrates and fluids, rest is essential for a speedy recovery and the rebuilding of muscle glycogen. Take time to put your feet up and relax. Stretching, sports massage, or even a soothing bath can help rebuild your muscles for the next strenuous workout. See muscle stretching and overtraining.

Rock Climbing Workout.

Forearms. You have probably noticed that your grip goes before anything else. Generally speaking, improving a climber’s grip strength is the quickest way to improve climbing, and again, generally speaking this is true at all climbing levels. How long does a typical route at a comp take? – four minutes or so… can you static-hang that long? Probably not. Of course you don’t climb with your forearms exclusively. The point is, when your forearms are gone, you are done climbing. Add the forearm workout for rock climbers to your rock climbing workout and extend your climbing by improving your forearm strength. This forearm training is one the best for rock climbing exercises. See Forearm Exercise for climbing.

Shoulders. Several variations on the pull-up will improve strength in your arms and shoulders. This is a key element to your climbing workout. Climbers can improve dead point and smoothness by working shoulder muscles in a way complimenting climbing moves. Side and upward movements where your feet are not directly under you require strong arms and shoulders.

Pull Ups. Muscles in upper body are worked and developed in a way needed by climbers. Read more about chin ups for your rock climbing workout. Pull ups are key to developing shoulder, back, stomach, forearms, grip all needed for climbing. The pull up or chin ups are an important exercise for your climbing workout routine. See Chin Ups.

Hanging side crunch/twist. For climbing, the obliques add the necessary body tension and stability to climbing moves. Obliques get a good workout by doing twists and crunches while hanging from a bar. The obliques control twisting and body tension. There are two layers of obliques. The internal and external obliques wrap around the sides of your waist and allow you to twist the torso. Also see chin up bar rock climbing exercises for how to workout this set.

What not to do in a climbing workout: In short, don’t workout muscle groups that have less contribution to climbing movement. Climbers do not need extra weight. Muscle density is about 18% more than the same volume of fat. There’s no need to replace the volume with more weight. For example, pushups and bench press work the Pectoralis Major muscles located on the upper front of the rib cage. While these muscles are important for general movement, highly developed pecs (like body builders) are not really needed for climbing. They get plenty of development from actual climbing. Another example is the anterior thigh and leg. These muscles can get huge from doing leg press, but it’s not value added for what the climber needs from muscular performance. These are examples. What muscles do you need for climbing? Think about it– While climbing, be conscious of what muscles you are using. Add exercises into your workout that target these muscles, but not exercises that do not add value.

Climbing for Exercise. There’s nothing like a workout for climbing than by climbing. Gym climbing lets you work the specific muscles used for specific moves, and gain muscle memory at the same time. However you can’t always make it to the gym. These rock climbing exercises should be used in a robust scheduled rock climbing workout. Forearms, arms and shoulders are important muscles to target. By doing these exercises you can workout the most important muscles for rock climbing and improve your climbing ability.

Chart your progress with a graph. This is the best way to see how you are doing and keep yourself interested. A graph will help you set goals and work toward and achieve your objectives. A good forearm workout plan will result in steady incremental progress.

Books about Exercise and Rock Climbing Exercise:

  • Maximum Sports Performance
  • Youth Strength Training
  • Conditioning for Climbers
  • Training for Climbing
  • Hands-strength Training for Climbers ($5.00 Kindle download)

Strength Training for Rock Climbing (Part 2)

By Steve Bechtel

In part one of this article, I talked about why many climbers should consider supplementing their climbing-specific training with resistance training. In this article, I’ll talk about how. First, let me say that I think resistance training is terribly misunderstood and misused by climbers. When we talk about strength training with weights we are not talking about bodybuilding and we are not talking about conditioning. When we train for strength we want to:

  • address sport-specific motor patterns
  • address sport-specific metabolic pathways
  • progressively overload the system to cause an improvement in force generation
  • avoid doing anything that will negatively affect our climbing

There are several popular group training programs available today that utilize many of the strength training exercises you’ll end up using as a climber. While the exercises might be similar, the framework in which they are used differs. Understand that developing a high level of non-specific work capacity will not help most climbers. This kind of workout may be appropriate for novices who are unfit and in need of general conditioning and for expert-level climbers that have maximally developed their climbing technique. For most of us, the damage done by random, high-intensity “workout of the day” efforts is huge; you might not get injured, but you are likely diminishing your ability to train effectively for climbing.

If you elect to do training directed by someone else, check their qualifications. A weekend seminar does not make a good strength coach. Ask some questions. Make sure the training they are asking you to do is tailored to your goals. Ask them to explain how their program is going to help you develop strength specific to rock climbing. Anyone who talks “elite fitness” or scalability within a general plan as a method of improving your climbing should be fired immediately.

End of rant.

Getting back to specificity, we like to use movement patterns similar to what a climber might experience on the rock. This is called motor specificity. We also want to use exercise durations, muscle actions, and loads that lead toward our end goal of strength. This is called metabolic specificity. Exercises can be either motor specific, metabolic specific, or both. The more of both you have, the better.

To develop appropriate strength for climbing we want to use complex, multi-joint movements at loads high enough that the body will adapt by getting stronger rather than getting bigger. Remember that there is a huge misconception that heavy training leads to bulk. Not so. It is high-volume, medium-load training that is most effective for building size (i.e. 8 sets of 12 reps).

There is a clear and incontrovertible relationship between increases in body mass and a reduction in relative strength. Since climbing is all about relative strength, we need to be obsessive about staying as light as possible. Once we get you good and strong, we need to focus on fat loss and ideal body composition, so we can work on the other side of the equation.

I mentioned progressive overload. Don’t skimp on this. Strength training does not happen one session at a time, but rather over a prolonged period of weeks and months. The more advanced you are in your athleticism, the longer it will take you to see an improvement in strength.

As a general outline, our athletes train strength on this kind of schedule:

Pre-Season: (in the 4-6 weeks before a “peaking” time): 2 sessions per week, 2-4 exercises, 3 sets each, 1-3 reps (85%+ of 1RM)

In-Season: (during a peak climbing time): 1-2 sessions per week, 2-4 exercises, 2-3 sets each, 1-6 reps (75%+ of 1RM)

Often, these sessions take less than 30 minutes, which seems like a very short time to spend in the gym. We usually combine this training with a climbing gym session, as we have both a weight room and a climbing gym in our facility. I understand that this is not always the case.

We pick the specific exercises based on movement patterns rather than “muscle groups.” In general, we opt for ground-based exercises using free weights. When setting up the workouts, we always look for the bare minimum of weight-training time that will still yield results; unless you love weightlifting, gym time runs counter to what most climbers really enjoy.

The movements we pick are pretty simple. We look for 4 basic patterns in each of our sessions:

  1. Upper Body Pull – This is usually a rowing motion. Pull-up type exercises also qualify for this group, but I think they are inferior to the row for rock climbers.
  2. Upper Body Press – This can be a bench press, push-up variation, or an overhead press.
  3. Lower Body Multi-Joint – For climbers we like lunges, step-ups, and single-leg squats. Bilateral exercises such as squats and front squats are fine, but harder to do correctly and are somewhat less specific; you very rarely press with both legs on the same plane at the same time.
  4. Hip Hinge or Posterior Chain – These exercises help balance the strength of the quadriceps, as well as developing the strength of the low back and hamstrings. We like deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and even some kettlebell movements for this part of the workout.

To make things efficient, we set up a typical 4-exercise session, doing bi-sets (supersets).

An example:

Do 3 sets each of the following pairs:

A1: 4-6 1-arm inverted rows

A2: 4-6 1-leg squat

B1: 4-6 dumbbell bench press

B2: 2-4 deadlift

Rest 30-60 seconds between exercises and 2-3 minutes between groups.

When we set up strength programs, we are looking at what gives us the greatest return per unit of training time. Many people look at a plan like the one I’ve listed above and comment that it looks easy, that the sets are too short to be very hard. Any climber that’s tried a V-double-digit boulder problem knows that the “short=easy” mentality is flawed.

The training ideas listed above are designed to help climbers create greater full-body strength, which can then lead to better technical execution of specific climbing movements. This style of session is not a replacement for climbing movements.

Rock climbing has a reputation of being this crazy and dangerous sport that draws adrenaline junkies and masochists like moths to a flame. But, do you know how to strength train for rock climbing? .

Did you know that the first guy to climb half-dome in Yosemite used sap on his bare feet for friction and wooden sticks drilled into the wall to hold himself up? Think about that next time you find yourself at the top of a route wondering if your anchor that’s made of two 25kn stainless steel bolts will hold.

With the help of modern day engineering, climbers have greatly increased the safety and accessibility of rock climbing, both indoors and out. Alas, the era of homemade rope and monkey’s fist trad gear has passed!

The time of standardized and rigorously tested climbing gear is upon us. This has opened the sport up to an increasingly immense number of serious athletes that want a great workout without the danger of sketchy gear. As a result, more athletes are pushing the boundaries of what climbers previously thought was impossible.

To make your life easier as a climber, whether you’re new to the sport or are a seasoned athlete, I have compiled my favorite training tips formed through years of experience both competing, researching, and coaching the sport.

Downclimbing

This seems counterintuitive and crazy. Why on earth would you practice climbing up a wall by climbing down it? Isn’t downclimbing reserved for scared newbies and people who don’t trust their spouse to belay them? (talk about trust issues!). No and no.

Downclimbing is part of old school rock climbing. This is when you essentially free-soloed up a route then back down. You downclimb when you didn’t want to trust some hemp rope and a hip-belayer to catch you even though you had gear on.

Downclimbing is great for many reasons:

Endurance: To downclimb a route, you must climb it first. That means before you even start to downclimb, you are already at least a little bit tired.

Priming your muscles during the climb up is important because downclimbing forces your body to perform the “negative” movement involved in climbing. These “negative” movements are the controlled eccentric loading of your arms and legs as you lower yourself down.

Downclimbing actually is more strenuous on the muscle fibers than concentric motions, so take it easy at first!

Technique: If you haven’t figured this out yet, rock climbing requires a ridiculous amount of technique.

Downclimbing is to climbing as backstroke is to freestyle. There are many general principles you can take from one and apply to the other. It teaches you the importance of center of mass, accurate foot placements, and looking ahead (or below) for complex sequences.

Confidence: Whether you’re a boulderer, sport climber, trad climber, or top-rope tough guy, the day will come when something goes wrong and you’re put in an uncomfortable situation while on the wall.

Your rope could get snagged, you may drop your gear, your belayer could get hit with a fallen rock, or you might just boulder way too high by accident. Always have a plan so you aren’t completely freaking out on the wall.

Downclimbing requires different techniques that every solid rock climber needs to know. Do yourself a favor and practice this skill while you have complete control over your environment. So when s*#& hits the fan, you have the confidence and experience to get yourself out safe.

Doubles

I’m not talking about that double shot of whiskey you pounded right before that tinder date in hopes of making it any less awkward. I’m talking about rapid fire climbing the same route – or two routes next to each other – back to back without rest.

Not only will doubles chisel your forearms and turn them into those of a Greek god’s (or goddess’s), but it‘s a great time saver too!

You get a greater pump on and you get adequate rest while belaying two routes in a row for your partner. You can do the same route back to back or two routes that are next to each other.

Sport Climbing “Shuttle Runs”

Have you ever played basketball or have been in any gym class where you were forced into a modern-day form of torture known as “Suicide Runs?”

Sport climbing shuttle runs are their vertical counterpart.

It is the mother of all endurance exercises for climbers. Choose an easy route (5.6-5.9). Climb up to the first bolt, clip it, then downclimb to the starting holds without touching the ground. Immediately climb up to the second bolt, clip it, then return to the starting hold. Repeat this for every bolt on the route without touching the ground.

You can do this on top rope if you choose 4 or 5 points on the route to act as your checkpoints. Throw one of these into your program on endurance days and watch your endurance improve dramatically.

Don’t Ignore The Core

Core training is essential in strength training for rock climbing. Not only will it strengthen your abs, but it could also help increase your endurance.

Here are some exercises you may follow:

Hanging Pike-Ups: Hopefully, after looking at this exercise, you can see why they are important for climbers to master.

Imagine hanging from an overhung wall and you lose your feet. Hanging pike-ups make it much easier to get your feet back up there!

Remember: ALWAYS engage your shoulders when hanging from a climbing hold or a bar! This will build a strong foundation of muscle for your shoulders and reduce the chance of a shoulder impingement.

Begin by hanging on a bar with your shoulders engaged. You shouldn’t look like you are “shrugging”. Squeeze your abs and raise your legs straight up towards your face. If you have any history of low back-pain or disc herniation, I suggest only bringing your feet up parallel to the floor at first (as shown below). Repeat for five sets of 10.

Hanging Hold Touches: These are a great way to build dynamic core strength.

Below, I show how to perform these in a gym setting with a partner and a foam roller. You can also do this on an overhung bouldering wall by tapping each foot on a hold instead!

Hanging from the bar with your shoulders engaged, have your partner hold up a foam roller in different locations in front of you while you tap the end of it with each foot. A good pattern for your partner to move the foam roller is either in clockwise or counterclockwise circles. Your partner can also follow a “Z” pattern. Either way, make sure you evenly work both sides of your body.

Push-Ups: In a sport that involves pulling motions over and over, it’s important to work the antagonist muscles to reduce the chance of injury caused by imbalance and instability.

Start in a straight-arm plank position with your abs and glutes squeezed tight. Make sure your hands are right below your shoulder and slightly wider.

Lower your chest toward the ground WITHOUT ARCHING YOUR BACK INWARDS!!!! This is perhaps the most common mistake I witness in athletes –even strong ones. Repeatedly arching your back towards your belly button puts a tremendous amount of stress on your intervertebral discs. Force yourself to keep your abs braced and lower back rounded slightly out.

Pull-Ups: This one should be somewhat obvious. Pull-ups help you strengthen the muscles required to pull yourself up a wall, and can be done in countless ways. Wide, narrow, offset, single-arm, and towel pull-ups are all great variations to try on a pull-up bar.

Make sure to use a variety of methods to attack as many small muscle groups as possible. Additionally, you can try hopping on that hangboard to get pockets of varying depths involved.

Plank Knee-To-Elbow: If planks are becoming stale for you, try out this variation. It engages your obliques and builds isometric core strength and endurance.

Doing this from an elbow plank is the more difficult version, so I recommend that you start in a straight-arm plank as shown below. Your hands (or elbows) should be directly below your shoulders, your entire core should be squeezed, and your glutes should be tight.

Remember to keep your lower-back rounded slightly outwards, like you’re trying to push your bellybutton through your back. Now, bring your right knee to your left elbow and hold it without letting your feet touch the ground. Keep your hips low and try not to round your spine too far outwards. Hold this for 15-30 seconds then switch knees.

Weight Strength Training for Rock Climbing

Weight training can help build and strengthen your muscles, which you need for climbing. Try following these exercises and see what they can do to your performance.

Single Leg Heel Raises: This one is great if you plan to jump on some outdoor routes with long pitches.

Start with no additional weight at high reps. Balance with one foot on a raised platform (I like using a 35 lb plate) with just the balls of your feet on the surface and your heel hanging off. You may need a wall or rack next to you for support. Lower your heel towards the ground then raise it as high as you can into the air. Do this slowly for about 20 repetitions per set. When this becomes easy, add weight!

Remember, climbing long routes takes endurance, not brute strength, so don’t hold a ton of weight and bust out only after a couple of reps. Five sets of 20 is a good amount per session.

Shoulder Press: This is a great complementary exercise for pull-ups. Once again, we are looking to strengthen climbing’s antagonist muscles.

Grab a dumbbell for each hand and lift them so they’re in line with your shoulders. Make sure your palms are facing forward and your elbows are out wide. This is your starting point.

Keep your core braced as you extend your arms above your head until the dumbbells are directly above the shoulders and your arms are (almost) straight. Go back down to you starting position to finish the rep.

You can do these either standing or sitting. My preferred method is to sit on a stability ball and alternate one arm up at a time while the other stays at the shoulder.

Bulgarian Split Squat: Bulgarian split squats are amazing because they incorporate so much of your body into a single exercise.

Not only is it a hamstring workout, but it hits your quads and core as well! Your quads are what help you keep your feet on the wall on those tough overhung routes when you have to dig your toe into the holds.

Begin by placing a dumbbell on either shoulder and supporting them with your hands to keep them from falling. Alternatively, you can hold them at your sides. Place the top of one of your feet on a raised surface like a bench, then hop the other foot forward.

Bend your back knee to bring it closer to the ground as you keep your weight in your front foot’s heel. Lower yourself down until your front foot is about 90 degrees then return up. Do eight on one leg before switching to the other. Perform five sets of 8 on each leg.

Proprioception Training

Proprioception is how your body knows where it’s at. It’s how you can send your hand away from your body to catch a ball or grab a climbing hold with precision.

This is important in climbing because being precise with hand and foot placements saves energy. As we all know, our muscles have a finite amount of energy before it starts to shut down and get difficult to hold on to the wall.

Watch some of the beasts like Puccio or Sharma and see how accurate their placements are. By not being sloppy, they are saving their energy for when it really matters. This is what separates the beginners from the advanced climbers.

Blinking: Try this as you climb up or down a route. As you are climbing, look at your next foot hold. Before moving your foot to that hold, try closing your eyes all the way until the foot is on the new hold. Repeat this for every foot hold up a route. Next, try it with the hands.

A climber typically only looks at a hold for a split second before moving pass it or throwing a limb onto it. This training technique forces your body to pay attention to the location of the hold and how the muscles move to find it in space.

Foot Stabbing: Stand on the ground, about an arm’s length away from the climbing wall. Make sure there are plenty of low foot chips to use.

Slowly begin leaning forward until you get to your tipping point and feel like you’re falling over. Immediately stick a foot out to any of the foot chips on the wall to catch yourself. Pay attention to how close your foot was to landing right on top of the foot chip. You will be surprised by how difficult it is to consistently get your foot to the right position on the hold.

My father once said “If you don’t use your brain, you use your back.” That is a funny way of saying work smart not hard. To perform at a high level, you need to train for it.

Football players don’t just scrimmage all day for practice, they go through drills and strengthen specific skills that improve their overall gameplay. Rock climbing is not an exception!

Add these training tips to your workout program and become a more conscious athlete. Rock climbing is an incredibly challenging sport –both mentally and physically. These tools will help you become stronger, safer, and more confident climber.

Exercises for rock climbers

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