Home weight training for rock climbing


Climbing loves consistency. But since the coronavirus pandemic closed gyms across the country, and climb outside is now discouraged, how do you stay strong while stuck at home?

“Maintaining the strength of your fingers and large muscles is the number one priority,” says tyler nelson, a Utah climber, exercise scientist, and strength and conditioning specialist. The key is to find safe ways to continue charging your fingers at home without increasing your pre-pandemic volume or intensity. “If we spend all of our time in quarantine doing random new types of workouts, that’s a recipe for injury, and it’s not necessarily going to translate to escalation,” he says.

According to Nelson, the best tool to help mimic previous climbing habits is the hangboard. Professional climbers like Kyra Condie and Sarah Hay make good use of their hanging boards while social distancing, but you don’t have to be an experienced climber to take advantage of this device. That’s because it lends itself to customization: you can easily control the difficulty of your workout by using different sized handles and adding or removing resistance. And in a time when experts are telling outdoor enthusiasts to minimize their risk to avoid injury, hang boarding is a convenient way to train. because we have more control over individual variables such as velocity and force vectors,” Nelson explains. In other words, you’re not going to make big, dynamic movements like you do while bouldering, or run the risk of a foot jumping off and sending a shock load through your tendons and pulleys.

Follow this Nelson-recommended all-levels home workout routine to help you maintain your climbing strength and prepare for a return to the gym or crag climbing. Experienced climbers can use a board to train maximum finger strength, while exercises such as Density and blockage of recruitment are good for beginners, says Nelson. “Even if a beginner grabs onto a board and pulls hard, they don’t put as much pressure on their fingers, because their fingers aren’t that strong,” he says. If you don’t have a board to hang at home, you can use the top edge of a door frame (check if it’s strong enough first) or the top floor landing in a cage. staircase, or get creative and create your own. Any finger-friendly edge will do, but it’s good to have a variety of size options.


Hanging board climbing simulation

What he does: Mimics the finger stresses of rock climbing and serves as a good warm-up for strength-specific finger exercises.

How to do: Place a sturdy chair or stool on the floor just behind the hanging board (the further it is, the harder it will be, as it simulates a steeper climb). Grab the jugs or large holds, place your feet on the chair, then “climb” onto the suspended board as you would on a rock climbing wall: let go with one hand, reach for the ceiling or the side, and return to a different grip. Try to imitate the climbing movement as best you can. Repeat with the other hand, aiming for 60-80% effort. Use different grip types and edge depths to vary and change the intensity.

Volume: Complete sets of 10 to 15 movements, with two to three minutes of rest between each set. Continue for 45 to 60 minutes in total. “It’s not as fun as rock climbing, but if you’re stuck at home and bored, it’s a very efficient use of time,” Nelson says. “With short sessions, more experienced climbers can also retrain their fingers later in the day.”

Lockout repeaters

What theyre doing: Strengthen the body’s large pulling muscles – lats, biceps, shoulders and upper back – with isometric grips.

How to make them: Grab a pull-up bar or the jugs on a hanging board, palms facing out. Engage your shoulders and core, then pull up until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Hold for five seconds, then lower until your arms are straight, keeping your shoulders engaged to protect the joints. Complete another set with your arms bent at 120 degrees. If that’s too difficult, use a resistance band to help: wrap one end around the pull-up bar and place your knee at the bottom of the loop to take the weight off your arms. If that’s too easy, wear a weighted vest or your harness with hanging weights.

Volume: Two sets (one 90 degrees, one 120 degrees) of five reps (five seconds on, three seconds off), with one to three minutes rest between sets.

One-arm recruitment

What theyre doing: Train maximum finger strength by forcing the motor units to pull in unison.

How to make them: Find a brim size on the hanging board that will work for your finger strength. Beginners should aim for around 20 millimeters; experts, 15 to 10 millimeters. Stand under the hanging board, reach one arm overhead to grab the edge using either a open hand or one half crimp grab, then pull down with 100% effort for three to five seconds. It’s okay if your feet stay on the ground, Nelson says, as long as you’re pulling with maximum effort. Keep your elbow bent at a wide angle (120-150 degrees) and not fully extended during the pull. Repeat with the other arm.

If that’s too easy, do a one-arm hang with your feet off the ground: find a depth of edge that allows you to hang for about five seconds before breaking down. Wear your harness and hang extra weight from it if needed.

Volume: Three (beginners) to five (expert) repetitions for each grip (open hand and half crimp) on each hand. Rest for a minute or two. For expert climbers, complete a second set.

Density hangs

What theyre doing: Strengthen the flexor tendons and finger muscles to make them more resistant to injury and allow you to climb and train at higher intensity.

How to make them: Find an edge size on the hangboard that you can hold on to with both hands for about 20-40 seconds, then do it, keeping your shoulders engaged, until failure. Beginners should use two grip positions: open hand and half crimp. Experts should use three positions: open hand, half crimp and full crimp. (Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, you may need to use different edges for each hand position.)

Once you can easily hold on for 30 seconds, progress to a smaller edge. For advanced climbers without a smaller option, strap on and add weight to a harness.

Volume: One (beginners) to two (expert) sets of two to three reps per hold. Rest for three to five minutes between suspensions.

Front Lever Progression

What he does: Trains climbing-specific core strength, targeting deep muscles, abdominals, back, obliques and hip flexors.

How to do: Grab a pull-up bar or the jugs on a hanging board, palms facing out. Engage your shoulders and core, then pull up until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Keep your body completely straight from heel to head, then lean back as you raise your legs to come into a partial forward lever. Go as far as you can while maintaining a stiff board shape, whether that’s just a few degrees back or full forward leverage with your body parallel to the ground. Focus on breathing in this position. Hold for five seconds, then lower and rest for three seconds.

Volume: One to two sets of five seconds on, three seconds off, for five to seven reps.


Allow time for at least 15-20 minutes of warm-up before diving into the workout. Try to match the volume and intensity of your gym routine as much as possible, starting with problem or easy bouldering routes, resting between each and gradually increasing the difficulty until you are ready to roll. Run or jump rope to get your heart rate up, then do a set or two of pull-ups and burpees to challenge your large muscle groups. Then do short, easy suspensions (five seconds, ten seconds) to warm your fingers.

Once you’ve warmed up, move on to training. If you’re a sport climber, aim for shorter rests between sets (about 15 seconds to a minute) to emphasize endurance and capacity training. If you’re a boulderer, take longer breaks (two to four minutes, or as long as you need to achieve full recovery) to focus on maximum strength and power. If you normally have a mobility or stretching routine, feel free to add that to the mix as well.

Beginner climbers should aim to do four workouts per week. Split recruitment draws and density blocks between different days, separated by at least two days. Experienced climbers can realistically knock out eight workouts a week, splitting the climbing and fingering sessions between morning and evening.

Virginia F. Goins