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.
  • Climbing Nutrition: A Simple Tip for Breaking Plateaus

    Climbing Nutrition: A Simple Tip for Breaking Plateaus

    Every climber plateaus at some point in their career. This one easy nutrition tip can help you break through it.

  • Climbing Nutrition: Don't Be a Carb Hater

    Climbing Nutrition: Don't Be a Carb Hater

    The evidence that going low-carb benefits any athlete’s performance (let alone a climber’s) is weak, mostly anecdotal, and often driven by dogma. Here's why.

  • Climbing Nutrition: How Much Protein Does a Climber Need?

    Climbing Nutrition: How Much Protein Does a Climber Need?

    Most people think they understand their protein needs pretty well—just get as much as you can, right? Or maybe you’re in the camp that thinks "I’m a climber, not a bodybuilder, so I really don’t need much at all. I mean, the forearms are tiny little muscles, right? It doesn’t take much to maintain them…" Either way, I’ve met only a few people who weren’t afraid to admit they didn’t really understand protein and many, many more who had solidly wrong ideas about it.

  • HPOvergripping

    Learn This: The Over-Gripping Myth

    As you move ever higher above your last piece and further outside your comfort zone, you grip the rock for dear life, even though you know the route is well within your ability. Yet here you are, only halfway up and too pumped to continue—everything feels way harder than it should. Most climbers have experienced this unfortunate situation: When you get scared, you hold on too tight and waste precious energy. The perceived solution: Focus on relaxing your hands to stop over-gripping the rock, thus lasting longer. While this does seem to make logical sense, over-gripping is actually not a significant factor in this perceived fatigue. Studies in applied physiology, neuroscience, and sports medicine point to stress itself as the culprit for accelerated fatigue. Anxiety can trigger the release of a certain hormone that can make you feel more pumped and tired than you actually are. Here we’ve provided some tips and tricks to conquer your fears and prevent the dreaded pump.

  • Make Your Own Suspension Trainer on a Budget

    With a $199 price tag, the TRX Suspension Trainer is cheaper than most exercise equipment, but possibly outside the budget for many climbers. The system is so incredibly simple that it can be easily replicated with materials readily available to most climbers: webbing and biners. The homemade version won’t be nearly as adjustable, and the loops of webbing are not nearly as cushy as foam stirrups, but if you’re strapped for cash you won’t feel left out of the suspension training party (a pretty expensive party to attend).

  • HP10ExercisesCore

    Training: 10 Exercises for a Complete Core

    A strong core is crucial to progressing as a climber. Body tension, keeping your feet on, moving efficiently, toeing-in on overhangs—it all revolves around the core. Plus, a solid core helps prevent injury. You’ve probably heard a core-strength evangelist preach the benefits before, and you’ve probably been pointed toward endless crunches or even expensive programs like Pilates, TRX, or yoga. Get ready for a new approach: varied exercises that are specifically targeted to work multiple parts of your body at the same time—just like climbing does.

  • HPPlat

    Training: Never Plateau Again

    Climbing is addictive. One reason is that you can see massive strength gains and technique improvement from day one of your climbing career. But after a few months—or for the extremely lucky, a few years—a plateau can sneak up on you, slow your progress, and frustrate you beyond belief. During my own personal three-year-long plateau, I heard every kind of advice from doing more pull-ups to climbing every day despite the pain to even going vegetarian (not gonna happen). On a quest to find the one true way, I started to interview top climbers to see how they handled these annoying performance flatlines—both mentally and physically—and the answers I found were as diverse and interesting as the climbers themselves.

  • HPBrain

    Learn This: Mental Training for Climbers

    Years of personal climbing experience, countless climber surveys, and psychological research all point to mental strength as the most influential factor in whether a climber succeeds or not. Your body might be strong and willing, but if you don’t have an equally strong and willing mind, your body has nothing to guide it. The good news is that you can train your brain just like you train your body. We’ve developed a mental training plan that outlines the knowledge and skills you’ll need to improve your head game and thus, your overall climbing performance.

  • Cirque Traverse Training Exercises

  • HPFootworkSpot

    Training: 7 Simple Drills To Improve Footwork And Technique

    You’ve surely heard this once (if not a thousand times) before: Climbing is all about your feet. However, when a fellow climber recites that adage, it’s generally not followed with a detailed explanation about how and why your feet are important, so it can be confusing and frustrating and maybe not mean much at all in the end. So listen up, as that’s about to change.

  • FPAlpinism

    Strength for Alpinism: How to Train

    You might train your upper body endlessly for the demands of technical climbing, but getting to intense backcountry objectives demands a base strength in your lower body as well. Legs are the main propulsion you have in the mountains, and their large muscle mass requires special attention. We’ve developed a solid, structured training program that will help you build the necessary strength and endurance to achieve your goals, keeping you healthy and energized when you set off from high camp.

  • Breathing

    Climb Harder By Mastering This Breathing Technique

    It’s strangely easy to forget about something you do 20,000 times a day, but taking a minute to focus on maximizing your oxygen intake while climbing can offer a considerable performance boost. Coach and world-renowned climber Justen Sjong has developed a breathing style that supports a relaxed body and mind, even when you’re climbing at your physical limit.

  • FitHP2

    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.

  • Photo courtesy Boulder Rock Club

    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.

  • Bulgarian-Split-Squat-Offwidth-Training

    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.

  • Training: Maximize Your Endurance

    Training: Maximize Your Endurance

    By the very nature of our sport, there are two kinds of rock climbers: those who use a rope and those who don’t. And many climbers fall into two further categories: power or endurance climbers. Unless you’re Adam Ondra, you likely don’t have an equal balance between the two. Because most climbers don’t simultaneously focus on both sport climbing and bouldering training, their endurance-to-power ratio (and vice versa) is usually pretty skewed.

  • HPNewWorkouts

    New Workouts to Refresh Your Gym Training

    Thanks to your local climbing gym, rock climbing is a four-season, every-day-of-the-week sport. It’s always sunny in the plastic paradise, even during the dark, cold, and wet winter months. Easy and instant access should do wonders for your climbing, but there’s a fatal flaw to many climbers’ training regimen: monotony. It’s easy to fall into a blah routine or just hop on any 5.10 with the shortest line. But infusing your workout (and it is a workout) with purpose, variety, and motivation will yield big results in your strength, endurance, and power.

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    Pillar of Strength

    You’ve felt it countless times: the slow-burning, inevitable sensation that creeps up your forearms into your hands, affecting your grip and throwing you off the wall—the dreaded pump. In ice climbing, this affects the hold you have on your ice tools and your ability to swing for solid placements, and on vertical ice, that pump comes sooner rather than later.

  • Your Goal: Boulder Harder

    Being motivated and dedicated is the key to reaching any goal. This year-long program, geared toward intermediate and advanced climbers, will show you how to get stronger and more powerful, but you have to work for it. “Trying hard” is V15-climber Ian Dory crawling across the bouldering pads to get to his next problem, being determined to succeed and refusing to stop or give up.

  • Build Navy SEAL Strength

    Navy SEALs are, in recent years, best known as the group that found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011. But in addition to being members of the Navy’s special operations force, many SEALs are also climbers, and enjoy training similar to what civilian climbers perform every day. When not practicing mountaineering and lead climbing skills outside, SEAL “lead climbers” spend time in the gym to become stronger and faster.

  • Tom Randall works his endurance on his hand-sized crack machine. Photo by Richie Patterson/Wild Country

    Homemade Crack

    Unless you live near Indian Creek or Yosemite Valley, or your local gym has graciously included cracks in its wall plan, specific training for crack climbing can be hard to come by. Here, Tom Randall shares his pointers for how to build and make the most of a crack machine for at-home training.

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    Your Goal: Climb 5.12a

    This goal is attainable for most 5.11 climbers who are willing to work for it. Whether it’s strength or endurance or technique holding you back, the following plan provides guidelines to help you achieve your goal by June of next year. Because this plan goes through the winter, gym training comprises most of the climbing you’ll be doing, but it can be adapted to any time of the year. Your mental game could also be holding you back, so make a concerted effort to master those areas.

  • Beautiful but grueling mountain

    Staying Power: Prepare for Grueling Approaches

    Do you aspire to ascend beautiful, sweeping faces like the ones in California's Sierra Nevada? Are you also put off by long, taxing approaches? You may never be as fit as Galen Rowell was, but with proper training you can build up ample strength and endurance for mountain approaches.

  • Digit Dialing

    Any serious climber knows the value of training. And when it comes to tenuous pocket holds, it's especially important to prep the muscles and tendons that run through your fingers, hands, and forearms. Dave Wahl, a strength and conditioning coach in Denver, believes that a proper training program is crucial for developing strength.

  • Illustration by Jamie Givens

    Hangboarding 101

    Hangboard training is one of the most time-efficient ways to build hand and finger (or "contact") strength, especially if you can't train at a climbing gym. Two or three 30-minute workouts per week can deliver excellent results. All you need is a hangboard—many models are available for about $50—and a little motivation.

  • NLYoga

    Six Yoga Poses for Climbers

    My physical therapist, a triathlete, recently told me that climbing puts more intense stress on my body than any other sport does. "Your lats are overdeveloped, your shoulders pull forward, your neck is strained, your hamstrings are tight," she told me. "Just stop climbing." Of course, I won't stop climbing. So what to do? Yoga.

  • Thumbs Up!

    Climbing holds are like snowflakes—no two are identical—and clever use of the thumbs adds important diversity to your gripping arsenal. Here are four "thumb" techniques that could make the difference during your next tough climb.

  • Speak Up!

    Attitude affects your rock climbing, and the right attitude can be worth two letter grades or more. The solution to a performance plateau may be as simple as rephrasing the things you say—out loud or to yourself—so you apply energy toward your goal, instead of allowing your words to create doubt. Climb harder by “speaking up,” not down.

  • Avoid Finger Blowouts

    Avoid Finger Blowouts

    Taping to support finger tendons can help prevent injury, but studies show the most commonly used taping method doesn't do the job. Here's a better way. There are two main flexor tendons in each finger: one that flexes the middle phalanx, and one that flexes the fingertip.

  • Barry Blanchard, Canmore, Alberta; IFMGA guide; pioneer of countless Canadian ice classics

    Ice Climbing Skills Special

    The keys to confident ice climbing are the right techniques, systematic practice, and a modest amount of training. We asked seven of North America’s most experienced ice climbers to share their hard-won wisdom. Put their tips to work, and we guarantee you’ll be more comfortable—and safer—on steep ice.

  • Tales of Power

    You can train long or you can train hard, but not both - which is probably why so many of us train power so wrongly. (By “power,” we mean the product of strength and speed, i.e., the explosive force recruited any time you use momentum, or “go for it.”) Properly training power allows you to get stronger—to muckle through otherwise impossible cruxes.

  • Targeted Opposition

    Targeted Opposition

    If you’re an avid climber, at some point you’ll feel that deep, dull ache in your elbows or shoulders, a sign of inflamed tendons. The constant tugging is what does us in — using loads of pulling muscles (lats, shoulders, biceps, forearms) while neglecting the pushing muscles (pectorals, anterior deltoids, triceps), thus placing unidirectional strain on your tendons.

  • kneeHP

    Injury-Proof Your Climber Knees

    Climbers stress the knees, especially when heel hooking, kneebarring, and highstepping, or taking bouldering falls — in fact, a fall from five feet can tear an ACL just as easily as one from 20, especially onto an uneven surface. It’s possible to prevent tears with proper nutrition, conditioning, and strength building.

  • The Beat Down

    Directly linked to mental composure (hence technique) under duress, physical fitness, and your ability to recover, your heart rate is the engine driving your rock climbing. No surprise, then, that training with a heart-rate monitor (HRM) can be hugely beneficial.

  • Welcome to the Jungle (Gym)

    Welcome to the Jungle (Gym)

    Here are seven simple tips for repelling would-be boyfriends at the rock climbing gym.

  • The 10 Essentials of Sport Climbing

    If you’re a crusty old dinosaur like me then you probably remember being taught the importance of the 10 Essentials upon your introduction to rock climbing and the mountains. While these items (map, compass, food, water) are just as important to safe mountain travel as they ever were, the ultra-committing realm of modern sport climbing has yet to see the creation of its own list. Here it is, in no particular order.

  • Cheater's Banquet

    Cheater's Banquet

    Climbing holds in gyms have become more innovative, complex, and skin-friendly, with volumes, outsized holds, and macro features introducing a rock-like chaos. Gyms also feature a few semi-constants: movement is point-to-point, and the climbing surface is much more monolithic than your average rock route.

  • The Month

    During “The Month” training, I rock climb at least four days a week; I do approximately 6,000 moves, 550 minutes of stretching, at least 150 one-arm pull-ups, and several days of cardio. After The Month, I’ll rest briefly (a few days), and then work the project in earnest. By applying similar volume principles, at several letter grades below your redpoint ability (i.e., if you redpoint 5.12a, then train 5.11b/c), you’ll see similar results.

  • Redpoint Resting

    Redpoint Resting

    Sufficiently recovering at a rest on a rock climb often means the difference between success and failure. You have to rest to redpoint your project—no matter what. Here are some techniques.

  • Resting, the Strategic Way

    Resting, the Strategic Way

    Rest. How long, how much, how often—everyone has an opinion. To a climber with a strict training background, to whom more than one rest day is nearly unthinkable, three rest days could seem counter productive.

  • Climbing Pilates

    Climbing Pilates

    Look around the crag or climbing gym and you’ll notice all the people with forward-rolling shoulders, like those of the hunch-backed gargoyles atop Paris’ Cathedral of Notre Dame.