The first 1.5 years I lived in Colorado, I worked as a fitness professional in a premiere rock climbing gym in Boulder. My main goal when I worked with these clients was to help them get in the best climbing shape possible.
These weren't just your general population gym-goers; these were folks with competitive spirits, persistence, and disciplined training. They were rock climbers.
Rock climbing — whether indoor or outdoor — is an incredible physical feat. It builds strength, endurance, and power.
Rock climbing requires upper body power and strength, core strength, and both cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. In fact, I specifically remember my forearms and hands begging for mercy at the top of my second climb, and feeling incredibly pumped when I got back down. The next day, my lats were reminding me of what I did the day before.
Clearly, one can accelerate their climbing game by, well, climbing. But you can get ahead of the game by training the muscle groups and movement patterns involved in climbing.
Chin up/band-assisted chin up: I would be so bold to say that the chin up and pull up are the best exercises one can do to improve their climbing skills. If you can't quite do a pull up yet, I recommend doing a band-assisted chin up, by looping one end around a high anchor point, and placing your knees or feet in the opposite end.
Fully extend your arms as you lower yourself down, and pull your shoulders away from the ears. Keeping a tight core, pull yourself up by driving your elbows to your ribcage.
Chin ups are also great for improving your grip strength!
Push press: Strength and power in one exercise. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right arm, bent to 90 degrees at your side. Dip slightly at the knees and boost the implement over your shoulder. Slowly return to starting and repeat.
Hanging Leg Raise: Grab a bar overhead and lower yourself down, fully extending your arms. Pull your shoulders down away from the ears, and bring the knees toward the chest, aiming your tailbone toward the ceiling as you do so. Slowly lower back without swinging, and repeat. Another one that's great for grip strength!
Inverted Row: Grab a TRX or bar that's about hip height, and recline back with your arms fully extended. Brace the abs and squeeze the glutes as you contract the upper back to pull your chest toward the implement.
Push Up: Assume a high plank position with your abs braced and glutes squeezed. Allow your elbows to flare out to the sides as you slowly lower down until your elbows reach 90 degrees. Push back to a high plank position with your chest, allowing your elbows to drive toward one another as you straighten the arms.
If your form is lacking depth, try hand-release push ups.
RKC Plank: Assume a forearm plank position with your elbows under your shoulders, abs super braced, and glutes contracted hard. Now, draw your elbows and your toes toward each other, like there's a magnetic pull between the two. Hold for :15, rest for :02, and repeat 2 more times.
Improve your grip and forearm strength even more with the farmer's carry, and if you're really a glutton for punishment, replace the dumbbells with weight plates, and only carry them with your fingers (plate pinches.)
**Paige is a regular contributor to the Sierra Social Hub as part of #TeamSierra. Check our her site for workouts, recipes, fitness tips, and inspiration: Your Trainer Paige.
Rock It! An Upper Body Workout to Step Up Your Climbing Game
By Paige Kumpf
November 05, 2014
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