Rock climbing is a thrilling, challenging, and fun activity enjoyed by many people across the globe. This activity is not for the faint-hearted. It requires dedicated, passionate, and focused souls. Just like other sporting activities, rock climbing requires regular exercise to stay fit and healthy. It is usually said that climbing itself is the best training for rock climbing. Physical fitness and emotional health are vital to becoming a competent rock climber. Rock climbers of all levels, whether beginners, intermediate or experienced, need to consistently train to remain in excellent condition.
While practicing your climbing, it is essential to ensure that you give enough attention to the aspects of your climbing where you feel the weakest. Depending on the type of climbing you prefer, whether it’s bouldering or sport climbing, it’s important to prioritize your training. This will help you in maintaining overall balance and fitness to avoid common injuries. Some of the areas requiring attention include flexibility, core strength, and grip strength.
Various rock climbing training exercises are suitable for climbers of different levels. A climber should seek the advice of a qualified and experienced rock climbing coach to determine the best exercises suited for them.
Ramping up too quickly with hard exercises may result in serious injuries, making it important to find an appropriate training regimen. The best thing about rock climbing training is that there are numerous options for doing this. Climbers can visit climbing gyms which have most of the necessary equipment from hangboards to pegboards. Other exercises can be done at home without any special equipment by doing calisthenics. Climbers can also watch the many videos guiding them on how to perform exercises safely.
Improving Core Strength
The core muscles are responsible for supporting the entire body, making them very important in climbing. The core provides a connection between the upper body and the lower body. The muscles in the core include obliques, abdominals, lower back, and spine muscles. Training for improved core strength results in increased balance, stability, more endurance, and improved body posture.
Strengthening the core is necessary because a weak core can result in placing lots of strain on the limbs instead of allowing power to flow through the body, which can put a climber at risk of injuries.
Rock climbers should consider performing core strength and conditioning training several days per week. Some of our favorite exercises for improved core strength include V-ups, leg lifts, and the plank.
The Plank exercise is one of our main core exercises and it resembles push-ups but involves using the forearms such that the body's weight rests on the forearms, elbows, and toes. The plank strengthens the entire core including the abdominals, obliques, and back muscles.
Flexibility is paramount to rock climbing. Stretching is a great way to ensure proper flexibility. By stretching, climbers reduce the tension in the muscles, and increase their range of motion. Flexibility reduces the effect of fatigue by creating longer muscles that don’t strain when performing awkward movements. Additionally, flexibility improves posture, energy levels, muscle coordination, and relaxation. Concentrating on flexibility allows muscles to move more freely.
Tight muscles could limit the range of motion preventing you from performing certain moves on the wall or on the crag. By neglecting your flexibility, climbers are at risk of getting injuries by placing too much strain on your muscles especially for those difficult moves. Both beginners and advanced rock climbers should stretch out before doing any climbing. And also be sure to stretch after climbing to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness.
Antagonistic Training for Climbers
Climbers are typically training specific muscles that play a crucial role in climbing such as the forearms, biceps, and lats. Paying close attention to these muscles makes them strong and consequently makes the climber stronger. However, putting too much emphasis on the climbing muscles may cause imbalances in the long run. Although you become stronger, you could find yourself at risk of injuries and not improving your performance if you only train climbing specific muscles.
Antagonistic training is effective in preventing imbalances and improving performance for climbers. It involves exercising groups of muscles that are antagonistic to those used regularly while climbing.
Climbers should take time to train even the antagonistic muscles that are not essential to climbing since this results in overall stronger performance. Climbers gain stability, and strength throughout the body. Underdeveloped or tight tissues usually limit the strength and mobility muscles during certain movements and can cause strain. Below are some of the exercises for antagonistic training.
- Wrist extensor-ups/Reverse Curl. These exercises are meant to strengthen the wrist extensors, which are antagonistic to the wrist flexors. This exercise results in increased grip strength, lower chances of finger injuries, and improve forearm stability.
- Push-ups. Climbing involves pulling yourself up, and push-ups offer excellent antagonistic training as they involve pushing. Doing push-ups puts your chest, triceps, and anterior delts to work which directly works opposite of your pulling muscles.
- Standing rows in cactus position exercises engage the external rotator cuffs and upper back muscles. By using these exercises, climbers increase shoulder stability and support.
- Farmer's carry exercises involve lifting up, unlike the pulling down normally done when climbing. The exercises strengthen the core and provide support for the shoulder girdle. They also strengthen your posture, which will be helpful in climbing.
It first needs to be said that hangboarding should be reserved for climbers that have been climbing for at least 6 months. Hangboarding can put a lot of strain on your fingers therefore it is crucial to let your tendons adapt to the type of load they will experience while hangboarding.
It goes without saying that fingers and hands are among the most crucial aspects of rock climbing. Rock climbers need to train their fingers for increased grip strength and endurance. Hangboarding is a perfect exercise to increase finger and hand strength. It also strengthens the core and upper body.
Hangboards come in all shapes and sizes so depending on what you’re looking to improve on whether they’re pinches and slopers or you may be advancing to crimps and pockets. It will dictate the type of hangboard you will want to get.
Climbing is a challenging but rewarding sport. You will need to be consistent in your training to continuously improve. With these training tips, you’ll improve your climbing consistently. And always remember to keep sending!
About The Author
John Victorino is the owner of Climbing Quest. He’s an avid climber and that’s been tracking different strategies for his training to see how to best improve his bouldering. He frequently climbs around the Lake Tahoe area and loves to make climbing trips to Bishop and Joshua Tree.