Alex Beale of 99Boulders, a site focusing on climbing gear and training, has written a guest post details ten easy and effective off-the-wall exercises you can do to complement your current training regimen.
You want to know something?
You don’t need to spend all your time training for climbing on a climbing wall. In fact, there are many off-the-wall exercises that can complement your climbing training efforts.
There’s no need to get fancy with these off-the-wall exercises, either. Common exercises that you are likely familiar with and that use minimal or no equipment can help you strengthen muscles that are important for climbing.
They can be done from the comfort of your own home or in the gym after a climbing session. This article covers 10 of them which target either the upper body, core, forearms, or legs.
Let’s take a look.
Climbing is a great upper body exercise in and of itself. However, it can be supplemented with these off-the-wall exercises when need be — especially, as you’ll see, as a way to balance out your body.
Alex Megos, one of the strongest climbers in the world right now, was once asked what his top three training tips are for other climbers. His response? “Antagonist training, antagonist training, antagonist training.”
Push-ups are one of the most basic forms of antagonist training. They work the pushing muscles, as opposed to regular climbing which mainly works the pulling muscles. Working both of these muscle groups helps your body stay balanced which, in turn, can help prevent injuries.
I said there was no need to get fancy with these exercises, didn’t I?
The pull-up is one of the most popular off-the-wall climbing exercises for good reason. It strengthens many of the muscles that you use when climbing, making it a great exercise to do in place of or in addition to on-the-wall climbing.
3. Tricep Dips
To do tricep dips, place your hands shoulder-width apart on a chair or bench with your legs extended out straight in front of you. Bend your elbows to lower your body to the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Then press down to straighten your elbows and return to the starting position.
Like push-ups, tricep dips are a simple exercise which target some of the antagonist muscles.
Improving your core strength is an integral part of improving your climbing. Core strength helps you be more precise with your footwork and more controlled with your body.
The plank is one of the most straightforward core exercises. To the uninitiated, to do a plank first assume push-up position. Then, bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. Hold this position for as long as you want.
However, let’s be honest: most of you are surely quite familiar with regular planks already.
So, for a challenge, try lifting and extending your opposite arm and leg while in plank position. Try planking for one minute with your left leg and right arm off the ground, for example. Then, plank for one minute with your right leg and left arm off the ground. You’ll find it’s much more difficult!
5. Six Inches
Call me a masochist, but this is my favourite core exercise. To do it, lie on your back with your legs extended and hands by your sides. Lift your legs six inches (about 15 cm) off the ground and hold them there for as long as you can.
If this position puts a lot of strain on your lower back, try placing your hands underneath your butt before lifting your legs into the air. This will place more of the strain on your core muscles.
Is normal six inches too easy for you? Call a friend over and have them push on your legs and chest while your legs are off the ground. You’ll have to fight extra hard to keep your legs suspended.
6. Hanging Leg Lift
Hang with straight arms from a pull-up bar. Then lift your legs so your hips are at a 90-degree angle, trying to keep your legs as straight as possible at all times. Slowly drop your legs back down to complete one rep.
This exercise can be difficult to beginner climbers. To make it easier, bend your knees while lifting your legs.
On the other hand, some people might find this exercise easy. To make it harder, hang from the bar with your elbows at 90-degree angles while doing your leg lifts. Don’t forget to breathe!
7. Wrist Curls
The forearms are an important part of the body when it comes to climbing. On-the-wall climbing is a great way to work them out, and wrist curls are a good forearm exercise for days when you just can’t make it to the gym. They help strengthen the wrists, too.
To do a wrist curl, while sitting in a chair, take a small dumbbell in each hand (you can use a soup can if you don’t have a dumbbell). Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front and palms facing up. Curl your wrists upwards towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down to complete one rep.
8. Reverse Wrist Curls
Remember that a balanced body can help you prevent injuries. Forearms, especially the areas around the elbows, are notorious potential hotspots for pain and injury. For that reason, don’t just curl your wrists one way — curl them in reverse, too, so you strengthen the muscles on both sides of your forearms.
While sitting in a chair, take a small dumbbell in each hand. Place your forearms against your legs with your wrists hanging off the front, palms facing the ground. Curl your wrists upwards towards your body. Then slowly lower them back down to complete one rep.
Climbers often overlook leg exercises in lieu of upper body exercises. The legs are an important source of strength when climbing, though, and deserve attention when training. Try out these simple exercises to build strength in your legs.
9. Bodyweight Squats
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down by bending your knees and hips. Go down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Then press up, reversing the motion and returning to the standing position.
An obvious way to make squats harder is to add weight. Or, you can add a cardio aspect to the exercise by doing jump squats.
Here’s another basic yet fundamental exercise to strengthen your legs. Start by standing comfortably. Step ahead with one foot and then lean forward until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle and your back leg is parallel to the ground. Return to the standing position and repeat with your other leg. As with squats, lunges can be made more difficult by adding weight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while lunging to make things more challenging.
More information to help you improve your climbing
There is a plenty more articles on this site that will help your improve your climbing:
Symmetry and Climbing discuss how important it is to work on movements on both sides.
How to Dyno takes you through all the various types of dynamic movement, with video examples.
Ten tips for Climbing Indoors is ideal for total beginners.
Ten tips for Bouldering Outdoors will be very useful for anyone thinking of venturing outdoors to boulder.
You can also download our free 42 page Bouldering for Beginners ebook.