Everywhere Edge

Ask the Expert: Strength training for climbers

October 19, 2007

Q: I am 35 and started rock climbing in January, are there any specific stretches or other training which would be beneficial to climbing? I go to the climbing gym twice a week and do my best to climb outside as much as possible. I want to increase my strength and flexibility to benefit my climbing. Sara D., Elk River, MN


Congratulations on getting into the gym twice a week as well as venturing out to the crags. If you want to increase your strength & flexibility for climbing, you should try to climb three times per week and increase the difficulty, volume or duration of those climbing sessions. The best training for climbing is climbing! Your strength and power will improve quickly with more climbing.

Injury prevention in climbing, especially as climbers age, is all about maintaining your athletic flexibly, strength and recovery (rest days). Integrate a regular stretching before and after your climbing sessions. Climbers bodies must be able to contort into all sorts of unexpected positions, so stretch deeply and remember to get into those little places (esp. groin, quads, shoulders, neck, fingers/ forearms). Try yoga as a rest day activity, it is a great crossover for strength, flexibility and mental focus.

Integrating a weight workout into your climbing routine will accelerate results while reducing the risk of injury. To keep those common shoulder injuries at bay, use a combination of resistance bands and dead weights to work the shoulder muscles. These bar-bell & band shoulder routines also work smaller stabilizing muscles and allow you to train positions far outside those that machines may miss. Strengthen your legs so that you can eventually stand up on one leg through a wide range of motion. And finally, don’t forget about those abs, as they’re key to keeping your feet on the wall for those overhanging climbs!