Strength Training for Climbing – Learn What and What Not to Do
Let’s get into to some strength training for climbing.
Do you wanna get sick strong? Yes.
Good well you’ve come to the right place. We at strength training for climbing are going to show you what works!
Now I am sure that you realize that climbing and strength training go hand in hand.
From the first time I climbed I knew it. I couldn’t believe at how sore I was for the next few days…you know what I mean.
So why get stronger?
Here are a few great reasons…
- To be any good at rock climbing you’ll need to develop strength in some key areas
- More strength breeds confidence and the more confident you are the better you’ll climb
- Some types of climbing and some routes just need brut strength
So we realize that strength training for climbing is important, right.
Yes it is important, but focus on developing technique and tactics first. Strength training for climbing should be second.
Time For The Basics
First things first we need to talk about some fitness training.
For beginner to intermediate climbers it is advised that you do some fitness training for climbing. Advanced climbers should as well however they will gain more from much more specific strength training for climbing.
Fitness training can be broken up into 4 areas, you’ll want to focus on all four.
- Reducing your body weight
- Increasing your flexibility
- Muscle conditioning
- Increasing your strength in your pull muscles
What is the best way for you to reduce body weight?
It all starts with your diet. You need to be eating a high quality diet and have regular aerobic activity. It is as simple as that. We would recommend that you check out the book Eating For Life. This excellent book by Bill Phillips it will show you the essentials to eating right.
Check out the Eating for Life Review The exercises that we like to do to strip away excess body fat is running. We like to run 3 times a week for 25-40 minutes. Make sure to stretch before and after you run.
I hate stretching…but flexibility is very important in climbing. So let’s get flexible.
Stretching is probably one of the most overlooked things by climbers. And if they do stretch it is for about a minute. However, it does help you climb better and also prevents injury which is why you need to make it a habit before and after you climb.
Get a partner to stretch with make sure they will keep you accountable.
Check out our warm up guide
Alright now that we took care of that let’s get into some real training.
Do you remember the most important thing about strength training for climbing?
The Most important thing is to make your exercises as specific to climbing as possible.
Strength Training Exercises
This exercise is a must for climbers. You can either use a pull up bar or a hangboard to do pull ups. We recommend that you do them on a hangboard either on jugs or the slopers.
Some key points about pull ups…focus on isolating your pull muscles and make an effort to go down as slow as you can. You’ll want to shoot for being able to do 4-5 sets of 15-20 with about a 2 minute break in between each set.
Just starting out aim for 4-5 sets of 5-6 pull ups.
Still struggling? Don’t worry about it too much remember technique is more important.
Here is what to do use a partner to assist you or a chair in doing 6 pull ups per set. And if you can’t do one pull up yet focus on doing just the negative part of the exercise.Also get in the gym and do some lat pulldowns.
Do your pull ups 3 days a week with at least one day of rest between workouts.
These babies are going to burn your pull muscles. You only need to do these 2 times a week. Ok so here is what you do. Do a pull up and hold it at the top for 5 seconds. Lower to the bottom and do another pull up but this time when you lower down hold it at 90 degrees for 5 seconds. Lower to the bottom and do another pull up when you lower down hold it at roughly 120 degrees for 5 seconds. Lower to the bottom.
Congratulations! You just completed one sequence of Frenchies now do as many as you can until you can’t do no more. You’ll want to do 3 sets of these bad boys with a rest of 3-5 minutes in between each set. Make sure you are holding the positions for 5 seconds, don’t cheat. We like to crank these out on some pretty good slopers on a hangboard.
Uneven Pull Ups
You have two options use a hangboard of a pull up bar. If you use a pull up bar through a towel over it. Grab the pull up bar with one hand and the towel with the other make sure your hand is 6-8 inches below the bar. Do as many as you can, rest for 2 minutes and switch sides. Do 2 sets of uneven pull ups.
These are great exercises that will fry those pull muscles. If you are a beginner or intermediate climber focus on building this pull strength before going to advanced training exercises.
Core strength is crucial
Here are some different options for training your abdominal muscles. Pick what you like and what works for you. We suggest that you pick one of the 3 options.
Perform your crunches lying down on the floor with your lower legs and feet in the air. Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle. Place your hands behind your head and make sure not to cross your fingers. Make sure to exhale with each ‘up’ position hold for 2 seconds and lower slowly back to the floor, repeat until failure. Rest for 60 seconds and do 3-4 sets.
Grab onto a pull up bar or hangboard with your hands shoulder with apart. Point your toes and keeping your legs straight lift them to head height and slowly lower them back to the starting position, repeat until failure. We suggest that you do 3-5 sets resting 60 seconds in between each set. Make sure to really focus on the lowering portion of the exercise. You can also do this exercise with your knees bent if you would like.
This baby is one of our favorites. Lay flat on your back with your arms over your head or at your sides. Use your abs to bring your legs and chest together making a V. The closer you are to bringing your head to your knees the better. Now lower back to the floor and do it over and over again. Try to do 5 sets of 40-50 with a 1-2 minute break between each set. This is more of an advanced move so don’t worry if you can’t crank out a ton of these babies. Just starting with these try and do 5 sets of 20 and increase it every week until you can do 40-50.
Balance Your Body
These training for climbing exercises will help to balance you out.
Reverse Wrist Curls
Grab a light dumbbell somewhere between 5 and 20 pounds or so and place your arm on your leg or on a bench. Start with your hand in the straight position and lift it up and then lower it back to the straight position. Do about 20-25 reps with 1-2 sets after you’ve climbed.
Do them on your knuckles if you can. Get into a normal push up position and lower down slowly and push up all the way to the top and repeat. We recommend that you either do 2 sets until failure or 5 sets of 25-30 with a 1 minute break in between each set. Enjoy.
Using a dip machine or bar grab with your arms a little more than shoulder width apart. Lower slowly and push all the way to the top. Do 2 sets to failure with a rest of 60 seconds in between each set twice per week.
Advanced Strength Training For Climbing
Ok now you should have a foundation of climbing specific strength. We highly recommend that you don’t move on to the advanced strength training for climbing exercises to soon.
If you don’t have the proper strength you can hurt yourself.
Do these training for climbing exercises with caution. Listen to your body, if something hurts stop doing it.
Also, remember the best thing to get your climbing strength up is to actually climb. Intense bouldering sessions especially.
Here is a picture of campus wall, including campus rungs.
Campus training will give you brute power and great contact strength. This form of strength training for climbing is very stressful on the joints and should not be done by beginning climbers or climbers with finger or joint injuries.
Here are a couple of great campusing exercises.
This is pretty simple it is just as it sounds. You are going to start at the bottom of the campus rungs or at the bottom of a boulder problem you set specifically for campusing. You will then ladder pulling up with just your arms to the next rung/hold and then continuing to the next rung/hold with the other arm.
Here are some examples…Say you have 5 rungs you could 1-2-3-4-5 or you could skip rungs and go 1-3-5. Make sure to do these exercises controlled and that you go up and down.
Campusing is a great way to train your lock off strength. Here is a great exercise to hit those lock offs. Be careful on this one I have seen many intermediate climbers get hurt doing this because they were not ready to do them.
Hang from the bottom of your campus rungs, pull up with both hands and reach for the highest campus rung you can (probably the 3rd or 4th). Hold it there for about 4 seconds and then lower ith back down to the bottom rung. As soon as your hand is back on the bottom rung pull up and reach with the opposite hand. Again hold for about 4 seconds and come back to the bottom rung.
Do this for a total of 4 touches on each hand.
Campus Training Tips
- Don’t campus train until you have built a solid foundation of climbing specific strength. You should be able to do 20 pull ups flat out.
- Don’t campus train when you are very fatigued. It’s a bad idea to try to campus after climbing for 4 hours.
- If you have any injuries don’t campus train until you are fully recovered. If anything hurts while you are campusing stop immediately.
- You should campus train in cycles. Such as a couple weeks on and a couple off. Over training is a bad thing and can be unproductive.
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