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The Training Bible, Your Yearlong Guide To Climbing Success. Part 3: Strength

Welcome to the Climbing's yearlong training plan. This eight-phase series will present specific workouts based on the principles of periodization, a proven approach to training that results in peak performance. Each six-week segment will build upon the previous with the end result being a better, stronger climbing machine—you.


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Welcome to Climbing’s year-long training plan. If you stuck with the first two training plans in this ongoing series (Phase 1: Conditioning & Phase 2: Low-intensity Endurance), you should be feeling fit and ready to start strength training. If you’re just joining in, we recommend starting from the beginning, though you could alternatively do two weeks of the low-intensity endurance phase, then commence the strength phase outlined below. The plan will work for climbers of all levels.

PHASE THREE: STRENGTH TRAINING (6 weeks)

With spring in full swing, try to substitute sessions on the crag for indoor training. For example, boulder on rock or work the moves on a redpoint project. For an endurance session, simply go and tick off more moderate routes. If you go on a major climbing trip (for longer than five days), rest at least three full days before you leave and three days afterward before resuming training. Also, taper down seven to 10 days before the trip by gradually reducing the intensity and frequency of sessions. After your trip, build back up again over a week rather than jumping straight in with hard training.

OVERVIEW

The focus of this next phase is bouldering, with small amounts of supportive hangboard and endurance work to prevent performance losses. Take three or four rest days after the first three weeks and then resume. At the end of the phase, rest four days and move on to part 4. If you have limited access to a climbing gym, simply substitute bouldering sessions with hangboard sessions.

   Beginner       Intermediate       Advanced/Elite

1. Bouldering

2

2

3

2. Hangboard/Campus

0

1

1

3. Endurance

1

1

1

4. Conditioning & Flexibility     

1

1

1

5. Antagonists & Core

1

1

2

 

SESSION-PLAN DETAILS

1. Boulder Sessions (Intensity)

Time

  • 15-Minute Warm-up: Pulse raiser, mobility exercises and easy climbing
  • 45-Minute Progression of Boulder Problems: Alternate between vertical and overhanging, climbing at least two slabs

Project Bouldering

Intermediates and Elites: Try three different projects that you expect will take a minimum of two or three sessions to complete. Each individual move should take between two and five tries on the first attempt. All three problems should be
overhanging, but each should emphasize a different style and/or angle: e.g.: slopey/pinchy holds, crimpy/positive holds, gently overhanging, severely overhanging. Spend 30 minutes on each project and take 15 minutes’ rest after each projecting session.

Beginners: Try five boulder problems that you expect to complete in three or four tries. Spend no longer than 15 minutes on any problem. Move on and return to it next time. Rest 15 minutes after every 30 minutes of climbing. 

Intermediates and Elites: Finish with the arms and core exercises given for the hangboard routine, but NOT finger exercises.

Number of sets

   Beginner       Intermediate       Advanced/Elite   

1. Half crimp (fingers bent 90 degrees)     

3

4

5

2. Hang (open hand) 

3

4

5

3. Full crimp

0

2

3

Warm Down: Easy movement and stretches. Eat a protein- and carb-based snack within 30 minutes of training.

2. Hangboards & Campus Session

Warm up thoroughly, as for bouldering. If you don’t have access to a bouldering wall, do gentle warm-up sets of hangs and pull-ups with one foot on a chair. Give yourself less assistance each time. Rest two to three minutes between sets of all exercises. 

> Set 1:  Approx 6 – 8 reps

> Set 2:  Approx 3 – 4 reps

> Set 3:  Approx 1 – 2 reps

> Set 4:  Approx 3 – 4 reps

> Set 5:  Approx 6 – 8 reps

a) Deadhangs/Repeaters

A “repeater” set is where you hang to failure three times in a row, with a two-second rest between each hang. You should reach the failure point before 10 seconds on the first hang, so calibrate the exercise by adding weight, switching to a smaller hold or removing fingers. Make each set slightly harder every time you train.

b) Campus Ladders

Only do this exercise if you can boulder approximately V6. Use medium (first-joint) campus rungs with a half-crimp grip (fingers bent at 90 degrees). Lead with one arm, rest two or three minutes and repeat, leading with the other arm for one set.

Warm up set x 2

Submaximal set (e.g.: rung spacings you can just complete at your limit) x 1. Maximal set (spacings you can not complete) attempts x 3  Submaximal set x 1.

c) Fingertip Pull-Ups or Campus Offset Pull-Ups

Note: The rung spacings on the maximal set will be one greater than the submaximal set (e.g.: if the submaximal is 1>4>6, the maximal set will be 1>4>7). This is essentially a project, something you are trying to complete and are very close to, but can’t quite complete.) 

All sets are to failure, with a half-crimp grip using a campus rung or first-joint, flat hold. If your maximum capability for pull-ups is less than 15 reps, do standard pull-ups, with your hands level. Use a weight belt to increase intensity and conform to rep targets. If you can do more than 15 pull-ups, try offsets on a campus board with your hands at different heights. Vary the rung spacings to conform to the rep targets. Repeat a second time, leading with the other arm, to count as one set.

d) 90-Degree Lock-Offs  (on bar or hangboard jugs)

Beginners should use two arms. Intermediates use one arm with a knotted rope or a poor handhold or bungee stirrup for assistance. Elites use one arm. Do four sets, aiming to reach the failure point before eight seconds. Increase intensity each session by adding weight or using less assistance. 

e) Pull-Ups (on bar or jugs)

Use calibration guidelines as given for exercise d). Do four sets of six to eight reps to failure, or for better results, use the same rep/set structure as given for exercise three. Increase intensity each session. 

f) Straight Leg Raises or Front Lever

Intermediates should do straight-leg raises (hang from the bar with arms slightly bent, and raise legs using controlled form). Do four sets of 10. 10 to 15 reps to failure.If you can do 15 reps comfortably, then do front levers with one or both legs bent (hang from the bar with arms slightly bent, bend legs, bring your feet to bar level and hold torso horizontal using controlled form). Make four attempts or hold for four to six seconds (to failure).Elites should attempt a full front lever (torso horizontal with both legs as straight as possible): make four attempts, hold for four to six seconds.

3. Endurance 

Select your own endurance session to do once a week. Prioritize weaknesses or goals. For example, if you’re going trad climbing or if low intensity endurance is your weakness, train by doing routes in sets of three or four in a row, or circuits of 80 to 120 moves. If you’re going sport climbing or if power endurance is your weakness then do hard single routes (or two-in-a-row) or circuits of 20 to 50 move

4. Conditioning & Flexibility

a) Run [ 30 minutes ]

Running is preferable to cycling in order to avoid bulking up the leg muscles. Go at a slow steady pace to warm-up for the first 5 minutes. Then do 5 intervals of 1 min. on at 90 to 95 percent effort followed by 1 min. slow jog to recover.  Then run at a steady pace to finish. Make the intervals 10 seconds longer each session, until eventually you are doing 2 mins. on / 1 min. off x 5, then 5 mins. to warm down.

b) Burpee [ 10 minutes ] 

x 8 (on 1st session). 1 min. rest. Repeat x 4. Do 1 more rep per set each session (i.e., by session 10 you’ll be doing 18 reps per set).

c) Flexibility [ 15 minutes ]

Hold stretches for 20 seconds, release for 10 seconds, then repeat again for 20 seconds.

1. Hamstrings
2. Thigh / quadriceps
3. Calf
4. Groin
5. Lats
6. Shoulders
7. Chest
8. Forearms (flexors & extensors)

5. Antagonist & Core

This session remains the same. Refer to Phase One: Conditioning & Phase Two: low Intensity Endurance in this series for more information.

 

YOUR INDEX FOR THE COMPLETE YEAR-LONG TRAINING SERIES BY COACH NEIL GRESHAM

Phase One: General Conditioning

Phase Two: Low-Intensity Endurance

Phase Three: Strength Training

Phase Four: Power Endurance

Phase Five: Strength/Power

Phase Six: Endurance

Phase Seven: Power Endurance

Phase Eight: Peaking


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neil Gresham has been training climbers since 1993. Check out his training website climbingmasterclass.com.