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.
If your goal is to become a healthy and well-rounded climber, then the ability to maintain composure through a difficult sequence on an endurance-based sport route is just as vital as the ability to muscle through a powerful move. To help boost your endurance, supplement your gym training sessions with these four exercises. If you can integrate at least one or two of these exercises into your weekly regimen, you should be well on your way to clipping the chains on those enduro-fest projects.
Fingerboard Moving Hangs
Induce a pump while building finger strength
Moving hangs involve working your hands around a fingerboard to produce a pump while working your finger strength. Using all holds on the fingerboard, create and follow a pattern, moving one hand at a time, for several minutes— include holds that exploit your weaknesses, like slopers or pinches. You won’t be dead-hanging; instead, your feet will support you while you’re moving your hands. Mount a few foot jibs or wooden beams below the fingerboard, or position a chair or stool several feet behind the board, depending on your setup.
Begin on comfortable starting holds—usually the largest jugs—and move your hands around the fingerboard, holding each hand position for three to five seconds. Your goal is to stay on for at least five to ten minutes. Once you begin to feel the pump, move back to the large holds and shake out each arm for about 30 seconds. When rested, begin moving around the board again. When you’ve reached your time goal, rest for five to ten minutes before proceeding with a second and third set. Aim for three sets per workout, twice a week.
Do laps to get the forearms burning
This exercise involves doing laps on a moderately difficult boulder problem or route. The ideal climb is steep and strenuous, yet not so technically difficult that you’re unable to climb three complete laps. Alternate climbing burns with rest intervals; the rest phase should be roughly proportional to the length of the climbing phase. I.e., if you climb for one minute, rest for one minute. (Use a stopwatch to stay within these guidelines.) Continue with these intervals until you’re too pumped to complete the climb. Do at least three laps, and move on to another similarly difficult problem or route. If you can successfully perform more than five intervals, then select a slightly more strenuous climb for your next workout. It’s helpful to select routes that are void of tweaky holds or severe moves that might cause injury when climbed repeatedly and in an increasing state of fatigue. Do two to three sets per session twice a week.
Increase lock-off strength
Use a pull-up bar or fingerboard (using the largest holds) with your hands about shoulderwidth apart. Pull up to the apex, with hands against your chest, and lock off for five seconds (A), and then lower yourself to a straight-armed position. Pull up again immediately, but this time lower yourself to the halfway position (elbows at 90 degrees), and hold for five seconds (B). Move to straight arms again, and then pull up a third time, lowering this time about two-thirds of the way (elbows at 120 degrees) for five seconds (C). Lower to the bottom position to complete one cycle. Without stopping or dismounting to rest, immediately begin a second cycle of Frenchies, holding all lockoffs for a full five-second count. Continue for a third, fourth, and fifth cycle if you’re able. Stop when you can no longer perform a full pull-up or hold the lock-off. Rest for five minutes before your next set.
Aim for five sets of this per workout. Beginners should use Olympic rings, a pull-up bar, or jugs on a hangboard. Advanced climbers should use flat, full-pad edges on a hangboard.
Refresh your pull-up routine with this workout
Tired of doing pull-ups? So are we. However, we can’t deny their positive effect on climbing. Solution: pull-up intervals. Your goal is to complete 20 one-minute pull-up intervals, each comprising a set number of pull-ups and a rest period taken within that one minute. Use a stopwatch so that you can stay on an exact timetable. Start the stopwatch and start with five pull-ups—you can do more or less depending on your strength level. Strive for a smooth, steady pace with perfect posture for each pull-up. After doing the five, dismount and rest for the remainder of the one-minute interval. At the start of the next minute, begin another set of five pull-ups. Upon completion, rest again for the remainder of the minute. Continue these intervals for 10 to 20 minutes. If you make it to ten minutes, you will have completed 50 pull-ups in total—a great intermediate- level pull-up workout. If you make it the full 20 minutes, congratulate yourself for doing 100 pull-ups!
If you struggle to complete the 10 minutes, then reduce the number of pull-ups per set to three or four. Conversely, increase the number of pull-ups to six or seven if the full 20-minute routine feels anything less than grueling.
Eric Hörst has been climbing for more than 30 years, and is author to such books as Training for Climbing, How to Climb 5.12, Maximum Climbing, and the newly released Learning to Climb Indoors. See trainingforclimbing.com.