Rock climbing is a popular sport now. Adrenaline junkies everywhere have taken this past time, and it is now done all over the world. There are even establishments that have indoor rock-climbing courses for you to try.
With this being an up and coming sport, the athletes are always looking for ways to get stronger rock climbing. This is a very demanding sport, so there are many areas to improve on. General resistance training is going to be of utmost importance.
This will prime the body to be able to handle the demands of rock climbing. For training the specifics of rock climbing, you are going to need to focus on grip strength. Grip strength is hands down the most critical factor for rock climbing.
When going for a climb, whether beginner or intermediate, you are going to need grip. Not being able to hold on may make this sport difficult.
Best way to do this? Hang from bars, hold heavyweights, and pick up heavy objects. Mobility is also going to need development. You may be required to get into some exciting positions so that you can progress the climb.
This could involve a lot of mobility in the joints. Mobility can be trained through the resistance training range of motion, or it can be improved upon with specific stretches and movements. You own body weight, and gravity is the only thing you are fighting against.
The best way to master your body weight is to strengthen your core. Doing this, along with the aforementioned qualities, will make you a pro at climbing in no time. Hitting the core with some compound movements and some isometric holds will prove very fruitful for you.
These are some ways that you can get more durable for rock climbing. If you are looking to improve your performance, these will help. However, let’s get a little more specific on how to get more durable for rock climbing.
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General Resistance Training
Every athlete should participate in just regular resistance training. This includes doing movements such as the squat, bench, deadlift, jumping, pressing, etc. Getting proficient and robust in these areas will make you a more resilient athlete.
You have to build yourself a foundation to build on further. If you are new to this sport, I suggest starting here.
You will be surprised at how much faster you can progress at climbing, just by getting more robust in the gym or weight room. Resistance training has been proven to help with sports (Source).
Begin with lighter weights to get the movements down, and then increase to heavier weights as you progress. Over time your non-sport specific strength will increase, thus making you a better climber.
It may seem that you would only need to work upper body movements. However, the legs are essential as well.
You are going to be using your legs to stabilize, propel yourself for a climb, and to shift body weight. This goes to show that you should be doing movements such as back squats and deadlifts that really work to tax the legs.
Resistance training will do more than train your muscles. It is also going to help increase the resilience of your tendons and ligaments. This is beneficial for rock climbing due to the fact that rock climbing can be very taxing on both ligaments and joints.
It is a widespread belief that lifting weights is what can cause pain in these areas; however, it is actually the opposite.
Lifting weights and doing load-bearing exercises helps to increase the strength of both tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments are among the most injured areas for rock climbers (Source). To improve injury prevention, using resistance training can help you out, especially if you are a rock climbing athlete.
Rock climbing can be a very grip intensive sport. There is a lot of hanging and pulling, which involves the hands. The hands have a considerable quantity of muscle in them that can be strengthened.
You can also enhance the forearms all the way up to the biceps and triceps. The entire arm plays a role in your level of grip strength.
Training your grip strength is easy. It really just involves holding on to heavy objects. This can be done with something such as a kettlebell. Ever tried carrying all the groceries into the house in one go around.
Try doing this with some kettlebells or dumbbells, except just walk a certain distance without stopping. This can be quite challenging, and you will feel it all the way up into your upper back.
Another strategy is to hang from a pull-up bar or other stationary fixture. Keeping the back and arms engaged, you can simulate some of the strain you would experience during climbing.
From here, you can build up strength by just using your own body weight. Over time you will adapt to the stress of holding on and feel more energetic during your climbs. You are also training your grip during regular resistance training.
For example, during a deadlift, you are very dependent on your grip strength. If you have a weak grip, it may limit the amount of weight you can pick up. Therefore, while training your deadlift and lifting those heavier weights, your grip will continue to get stronger.
There are many specialized tools that you can use to train grip strength as well. For example, you can use dedicated bars that have a thicker diameter grip. Having this thicker bar forces, you to use more grip to do the given exercise.
There are also tools such as Fat Grips. These are rubber handles that can be placed on any bar. They create a thicker handle, thus forcing more grip to be used. The Fat Gripz are fantastic when used for various pull-ups or deadlifts and you can easily buy them from Amazon.
Many people weaken their grip by always using supports such as grips. These grips are excellent for long workouts that may exhaust your grip. However, training with them is like having training wheels.
If you were to remove the grip and only with your bare hands, you might be able to get even stronger throughout.
Grip strength is an excellent tool for climbing but can also be used as a way of measuring your performance in the sport. It has been shown that grip strength directly correlates with sports performance (Source).
You can read more about grip training here (related article)
Mobility for Rock Climbing
If you’ve ever rock climbed, I’m sure you’ve noticed that this takes a great deal of mobility. Mobility is a combination of flexibility and strength in a specific range of motion. Sure, if you can get into that position, great, but can you do exercise throughout that range of motion (ROM)?
So how do you increase your ROM and mobility? It takes dedicated practice. The best way is to obtain the flexibility needed, and this can be done quickly. Use stretches that replicate the desired ROM. As a climber, a lot of the necessary flexibility will be in the thoracic spine. This region includes your traps, upper back, and rear deltoids.
If you don’t possess a great deal of mobility here, there may be issues. Hanging from a pull-up bar, just like we discussed for grip strength, is a great start. Work on accumulating up to five minutes of hanging, and you will almost feel your thoracic spine open up.
Once the desired flexibility is achieved, you can work on strengthening that ROM leading to better mobility. How do you do this? You use resistance training or isometrics in that ROM.
If you are working on that pull-up bar hang, we discussed, you could actually do pull-ups using this new flexibility. This would strengthen those small muscles through that new mobile space and create better mobility.
Just consider that you need to be functional throughout your ROM. Without functionality, flexibility alone isn’t going to help you out much.
Master Your Body Weight
When it comes to climbing, you can be your own worst enemy. If you are heavier, this could cause climbing to be more difficult. If you weigh less, it is often a lot easier. Or, you can learn to move and control the bodyweight you already have.
I’m sure you’ve seen people who are true masters of their body doing insane pushups and calisthenic movements. You don’t necessarily need to be at this level for rock claiming, but you get the idea.
You are going to have to work on a lot of bodyweight movements. This may include different pull-up variations, pushups, and lots of core work. Isometric holds while engaging the core seems to have a profound effect on bodyweight strength.
Holding various forms of planks, L-sits, and lying hollow bodies. Movements such as these really work to engage your core, giving you total body control.
With a stronger core, you gain the ability to practice more effective functional training (Source). This would include your climbing ability.
There is one secret method for getting better at rock climbing. It is actually participating in rock climbing. There is nothing better than actually practicing the sport you are attempting to master.
Sure, there are other things you can do to get better incrementally, but getting out there and actually getting in the reps is what will make the most difference.
This will help you with the skill acquisition that is required for this type of sport. A large one is a hand to eye coordination. You are continually working this as you practice climbing.
You need your hands to go where your eyes are looking, and let’s be honest, sometimes you can’t afford to miss. Therefore, get some practice and improve this skill (Source).
I would suggest that you begin by practicing at least three times a week indoors. This will ensure adequate practice to obtain the skill as well as strength. From there, you can venture out to some outdoor courses as you progress yourself.
I would like to provide some sample workouts for you that will benefit strength in regard to rock climbing.
- Beginner Rock Climbing Workout
- Barbell Deadlifts
- Five sets of 5 reps at a moderately heavyweight
- Kettlebell Russian Swings
- Four sets of 25 swings with a heavyweight
- Bodyweight Strict Pull-ups
- Five sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
- Double Kettlebell Farmers Carry
- Five sets of 100m carry using two heavy kettlebells
This is a great beginner workout to not only build strength but also build grip strength. A lot of core is going to be used while you are bearing those heavier weights with the deadlift, swings, and carries. Try this one out for a very well-rounded approach.
- Intermediate Rock Climbing Workout
- Barbell Front Squats
- Five sets of 8 reps at a moderate weight
- One Arm DB Bent Over Rows
- Five sets of 8 on each arm with a moderately heavyweight
- L-Sit Holds
- Five sets of 30 second hold 1 min of rest between
- Bar Muscle-ups
- Seven sets of 3 reps
- Clapping Pushups
- Five sets of 5 reps
This intermediate workout involves a lot of core work. It also includes a lot of gymnastics and calisthenics. The purpose of this is to learn how to have body awareness and control of your body weight. Doing so will allow you to move well while climbing without your body holding your back.
You can read about how to deadlift without getting injured here (related article)
Putting It All Together
Rock climbing is a growing sport that people are looking to get better at. This can be done in many ways. Some of these include strength training, grip training, working on mobility, master your body weight, and practice rock climbing.
If you focus on these different aspects, you will be able to perform rock climbing at a higher level. This should be treated like any other sport!
- Lesinski, M., Prieske, O., & Granacher, U. (2016). Effects and dose-response relationships of resistance training on physical performance in youth athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 50(13), 781-795. DOI:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095497
- TD, H. (2019). Elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand injuries among sport rock climbers. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8792052
- Toong T, e. (2019). Grip Strength in Youth Ice Hockey Players: Normative Values and Predictors of Performance. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30216250
- Hibbs AE, e. (2019). Optimizing performance by improving core stability and core strength. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19026017
- Vine SJ, e. (2019). Quiet eye training: the acquisition, refinement, and resilient performance of targeting skills. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24444212