According to recent studies, nearly 1 in 5 climbers are involved in some sort of an accident or injury.
Most of these accidents occur during the weekend when people climb mountains or rocks as a hobby. Although these accidents are not life-threatening, you can do so much to avoid an injury and improve your climbing performance.
You just need to do some climbing training!
Luckily, there are numerous ways you can train for that and make your body more athletic. Certain gym workouts can train specific muscles which help you stay on a wall or rock longer as well as climb higher each day.
Keep reading to find out exactly what you have to do in the gym to improve your climbing performance. Some of these exercises can also help you become a better skier or snowboarder too!
Climbing Training – Exercises To Do In The Gym
Climbing a wall, rock or mountain is not an easy feat.
On top of having excellent coordination in your muscles and joints, you also need to work on your strength conditioning as well as endurance. Here are the best exercises that can do that.
1. Start With A Proper Warmup
This is mandatory and not a joke!
Warming up the muscles is one of the most important things you can do for your body. It helps to bring more blood into the muscles and joints which prevents injury.
Start with a simple run in place for one or two minutes. You can also do some jumping jacks to warm up your shoulders and increase your heart rate.
Doing a few squats and pushups is also a good idea as this accommodates the muscles with handling your own weight. A warmup session shouldn?t be longer than 10 minutes and it should make you feel invigorated. Once you feel that you?re warmed up and your heart rate is a bit higher, you?re ready for other exercises.
2. Train Your Fingers
Few sports or exercise routines out there require you to have excellent finger strength. This will drastically improve your grip and help you stay on rocks or walls for a longer period of time.
There are special types of rocks installed on walls in rock climbing gyms. The idea is for you to hang on these rocks for about 5-10 seconds, supporting most of your weight or all your weight, if possible.
This exercise works your hands, fingers and the little joints and ligaments which make up your grip strength. Although you?ll find this exercise pretty uncomfortable at first, soon enough you?ll become more advanced and able to hold on for more than 10 seconds.
3. Strengthen Your Forearms
Your forearms also contribute to your grip strength. They work the small muscles in your hands directly and help you stay on walls for longer.
Next time you go to the gym, look for a pull-up bar or something similar you can hold on. Grab that bar and leave yourself hanging freely, holding tightly on the bar for as long as you can.
If your fitness level is not that good, you?ll eventually be able to support your weight for about 10-15 seconds. Once you become more experienced, you?ll be able to stay in this position for 30 or even 60 seconds.
When you’re done, put your feet on the ground and slowly unclench your fists. Your fingers and forearms might feel a little painful, but it’s normal to be so. The next step would be to shake your hands for a while and do it again when you’re ready. Aim for 3-4 sets per day.
This doesn?t only improve your forearm strength, but it also helps stretching your shoulders. It also takes pressure from your lower back since you?re just hanging and letting gravity to elongate your spine. In the long run, any lower back pain you might have will eventually dissipate.
4. Do Pull-Ups
Since you?re already at the gym and you found a pull-up bar to improve grip strength, it?s time to also use the same equipment to make your upper body more muscular.
You’re going to need a strong upper body, even if you’re a girl, to become better at rock and wall climbing. A pull-up bar helps you work your shoulders, chest, back, biceps, and triceps.
Pull-ups primarily work your back. Do sets of 10-12 reps a few times a week. You can do even more, depending on your fitness level. If you?re really advanced, consider doing weighted pull-ups.
In a similar fashion, you can use this bar to do chin-ups. The difference between a chin-up and a pull-up consists of the way you grab the bar. For example, if the palm is directed away from you when you grab the bar, that?s a pull-up. If the palm faces you when you grab the bar, that?s a chin-up.
This simple change in the way you grab the bar can impact the muscles differently. A chin-up works your chest and your biceps and you?ll need to strengthen these muscles to become better at rock climbing.
5. Do Squats
In rock climbing, experts say that if your hands get tired then you?re doing it the wrong way.
There is a lot of truth in this statement and that?s because you need to do most of the heavy work using your legs, not your arms. To improve leg strength, you?ll have to do squats.
Again, it really depends on your fitness level how you approach this exercise. There are several types of squats you can do:
- Regular squats – this is the simplest exercise, you just do a normal squat with your hands in front of you or behind your back. Make sure that you keep your back straight
- Plyometric squats– plyometrics is an entire branch in the fitness industry. It involves jumping exercises or explosive movements. When applied squats, you lower your body and then you explode upwards, jumping and being in the air for a few seconds. This takes your body to a whole new fitness level and significantly enhances leg power.
- Barbell squats– if you?re really advanced, you can safely lift heavy for improve leg strength. This means doing weighted squats, preferably using a barbell. If you?re new to this exercise, don?t use a lot of weight first. Make sure you keep proper form when doing the squat and go all the way down when you lower your body, for optimal range of motion
6. Work Your Shoulders
Your shoulders are more important than you might think, especially when it comes to rock climbing.
They make the connection between your trunk and arm muscles. They also help with flexibility, range of motion and your ability to hold on to walls or rocks when climbing.
There are a few shoulder exercises you can do and several pieces of equipment you can use. For example, athletes use dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells in the gym.
The list of shoulder exercise is comprehensive, but we?ll try to keep it simple here. You can do sets of lateral shoulder raise to make your deltoids pop out. Make sure that you do warm up by rotating your arms in the air for a few minutes.
When you?re done with the lateral raise, go for the front raise. This means lifting a kettlebell or dumbbells in front of you for a few reps. It?s better to do these exercises slowly than at a rapid pace, to ensure that you keep proper form.
Lastly, you should also do shoulder presses when you?re more advanced. This can be done seated or standing. A shoulder press should be done after you have thoroughly warmed up your shoulders with the other exercises mentioned in this section to avoid injuries.
Shoulder presses involve grabbing a barbell with weights and lifting it above your head. It?s important to keep proper form and work with smaller weights at first.
7. Do Core Exercises
Core exercises help you work on your torso which includes your abs and oblique muscles.
Core strength it’s important because it helps to keep your body in a correct position while you climb from one rock to the other. A weak core predisposes you to injuries and drastically limits your endurance and range of motion.
Luckily, developing your core doesn?t necessarily involve getting on the floor and doing crunches all day long. This exercise is quite outdated and puts a lot of strain on your neck muscles.
A better way to work your core involves doing burpees. A burpee is a fun exercise which increases your stamina and strengthens your abs.
Start in a standing position. Quickly go to the floor in the plank position. Then get back to the standing position and do a small jump in the air. When you?re done, repeat the exercise for 10-12 times.
This rapid movement through the plank and standing positions makes you tighten up your abs. Incorporating this exercise in your gym routine several times a week will definitely add core strength to your body and help you stay longer on the wall or rock when climbing.
On top of that, you should also do lateral pillar bridges for your oblique muscles. This involves standing on your left or right side on your elbow, keeping your obliques tightened up. Stay in this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
8. Do Cardio Routines
Cardio is also an important part of the game for various reasons.
First of all, cardio exercises help to build your stamina, a thing you’ll need to stay on the wall or rock for a longer period of time.
Cardio exercises also train your heart and make it more efficient. When your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood, any type of exercise you do will feel easier, including rock climbing. A classic cardio workout plan involves running for 20-30 minutes a day, dancing or even hitting a bag. If you love to run in nature, you can put some water bottles and a few snacks in your backpack and go for a run in the forest or nearest park.
Just make sure that you go easy on yourself if you?re new to cardio, to give your body time to adapt and adjust. If you want, you can also start with swimming since it?s easier and also an excellent cardio routine.
9. Work On Your Mental Game
Training your body is good enough, but you can become even better!
Your mental game is also important when it comes to rock climbing. Facing such challenges such as climbing a rock or a wall puts a lot of stress on your cognitive performance, so you need to learn how to relax and be cool when doing this.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your mental game is to visualize your climbing routine. Plan ahead where you’re going to put your hands and feet. Imagine the perfect, shortest and simplest route to the top and put that plan into practice when you open your eyes. This is what top athletes do and it will definitely help you too!
Putting It All Together
As you can see, there are quite a few exercises explained in this article. This doesn?t mean that you have to do them all at once or every day. Be strategic and train for 5-6 days a week. Leave one day for rest, preferably at the end of the week.
You could create an exercise regimen with 2-3 days of cardio and 2-3 days of strength training. Work only one or two major muscle groups at a time (such as your back and biceps) and never train both your legs and upper body on the same day. To improve your climbing performance even more, go for a pair of climbing shoes which give you a better grip and stability while on a rock or wall.
Don?t Wait Any Longer and Start Training Today!
Climbing training is not that complicated if you know how to train smart. Start today and keep a journal with the exercises you have performed. Also, check out our article on 5 excellent rock climbing locations in the US to discover the best places to climb with your friends!