Training for Climbing

You can climb rock or ice without any specialized training, but you'll get much more out of your climbing if you strengthen the specific muscles and tendons needed for harder moves. Our expert-written articles will help you get the most out of your training for climbing, whether it's at the climbing gym, in a weight room, or in your own home. Plus, we'll show you how to train safely, and even how to prevent climbing injuries.
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    Train Like A Guide

    “So many guides are active all the time,” says Sciolino. “They’re active during on-season guiding, and they’re active in the off-season because they’re doing their own climbing and activities.” Strength and mobility work are key, says Sciolino. Below are common exercises and stretches that Sciolino uses to keep her guides strong and injury-free.

  • Train Indoors For Ice and Mixed Climbing

    When it comes to training, rock climbers have it easy. Look online for countless articles on different ways to get stronger, and then work hard in the gym (and there seems to be a new one popping up on every corner) to get better on the rock. But ice and mixed climbers don’t get the same benefit from pulling on plastic, and training resources are harder to find.

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    Create-A-Crux: Strengthen Mind and Body at the Gym

    During winter, rock climbers experience a patience-testing stretch of inclement weather, making it difficult to climb outside consistently. Consequently, more climbers flock to the gym and recommit to a training regime to prepare for spring sending. Forget the treadwall, auto-belays, tedious lines for the lead wall, and campus and hangboards.

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    Stretch and Strengthen

    Stretching is an often-overlooked aspect of the pre-climbing routine. The following stretches pull double duty; not only do they lengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the approach—therefore preventing injury—but they also provide more mobility and flexibility on the wall so you can climb smarter and stronger.

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    Strong Circuits: Quick and Focused Workouts for Peak Performance

    As a full-time high school teacher, husband, pro climber, and father to two young boys, I don’t have a ton of time to devote to training for climbing. What matters most in a workout is getting the most bang for my buck—this means short but intense workouts that keep me strong.

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    Prepare for Battle: Training for Offwidths

    Shimmying up offwidths is grueling, physical punishment that can tax your entire body, and like the routes themselves, training is a completely different beast from running laps in the gym. Brad Jackson, a prominent Vedauwoo, Wyoming, offwidth climber, says, “All athletic movement starts at the hips and core; strong hips equal a strong athlete. Plus, shoulders are the most sophisticated joints in the body; they have a crazy-wide range of motion and need to be strong at any and all weird angles for the extreme movements required in offwidths.”

  • Training for the Fifty Classic Climbs

    Training for the Fifty Classic Climbs

    Routes like the North Ridge on the Grand Teton require covering a lot of ground with a heavy pack. These—and many other Classics—are not casual outings. We’ve devised a six-week training program—approach, mountaineering, mixed, aid, and free climbing— that will help add a new level of strength and endurance to your fitness. Tackle all workouts over the six weeks, or focus on your weakest category. Bonus: You can bust these out anywhere in the country—even at sea level—and see results on any terrain.

  • Offwidth Training Maintenance

    During the climbing season, it’s beneficial to follow a training program that keeps you at a high level of strength without burning you out mentally or making you overly fatigued. Perform the same exercises you did for offwidth training after the 13 weeks is over, but follow the intensity guidelines outlined below.

  • Climbing Hard Offwidths

    Long, vertical offwidths are physically grueling—even with impeccable technique. We’ve all heard the stories about making it mid-pitch only to hyperventilate and vomit on the belayer from being pushed to your physical limit. All climbing styles require a high level of fitness, but the full-body workout of climbing wide cracks is closer to alpinism than sport climbing. It’s not unusual to take more than an hour to climb a single pitch of 5.11 offwidth in Indian Creek, and with 10 to 20 pounds of gear, it feels even more strenuous.

  • Offwidth Training by Pamela Pack: Plyos

    In Climbing's May issue, we ran Part 1 of an offwidth training program devised by Pamela Pack. Here are plyo exercises to complement the program. In Phases 1 and 2, aim for 30-minute plyo sessions, then work up to an hour in Phases 3 and 4. Plyos are the most intense of the workout components and present the highest risk for over-training and injury, so start slowly and focus on proper form. The emphasis should always be quality over quantity for all exercises.

  • Offwidth Training by Pamela Pack: Stabilization Exercises

    In Climbing's May issue, we ran Part 1 of an offwidth training program devised by Pamela Pack. Here are stabilization exercises to practice throughout the program. There are multiple options for stabilization/core training. Choose at least two to three core workouts per week throughout each cycle. Ideas for core sessions include Pilates, CoreAlign, and core group fitness classes.

  • Offwidth Training by Pamela Pack: Stretching

    In Climbing's May issue, we ran Part 1 of an offwidth training program devised by Pamela Pack. Here are stretches to complement the program. Statically stretch major muscle groups (legs, arms, back, chest, etc.). Also, try dynamic stretching while hiking, so go down deep into lunges as you move up. Stretch out calves on rocks and other terrain. Do shoulder circles forward and backward. Twist right and left with your torso. Keep all your body parts moving in various directions.