If you have dreams of Everest, you'll need to start on a smaller scale -- much smaller, in fact. Rock climbers -- both indoor and outdoor -- need proper strength training before they're able to scale their respective walls. By adding some conditioning exercise to your gym routine, you should be able to see a difference on the wall. Weights, yoga and cardio all add up to a better, more stable climb.
Rock climbing requires heavy use of the arms and legs, which means that the stronger they are, the better you'll climb. Body-weight resistance exercises like pullups and pushups should help condition the arms for a stable climb, while lunges and squats can help condition the lower body. Plan on adding two weight-training workouts per week, working each muscle group but focusing on the arms, chest, back and lower body for the most benefit.
Rock climbing requires a high degree of cardio endurance, particularly when climbing on outdoor surfaces and experiencing a change in altitude. Don't let rock climbing be your only cardio workout. Three days per week, add running, cycling, dancing, aerobics or another form of cardiovascular exercise to your workout routine so you're not caught out of breath when ascending a wall.
Balance and Flexibility
When you're climbing, your body needs to be perfectly balanced or you could risk a strong foothold. Make sure balance and flexibility are part of your off-wall exercise routine and it'll make for a more stable climb. Yoga is an excellent way to create a more balanced, flexible body, but you can also try wall exercises that help you focus on your balance, such as using fewer footholds than usual or climbing a slab wall instead of a vertical wall. As your balance and flexibility improves, you'll feel more confident in your climbing abilities.
When it comes to exercise, rock climbing is a fairly functional workout. It uses your body in natural ways and, therefore, daily conditioning works best to achieve better skill. Climbing conditioning, such as mock climbs while wearing a backpack, hiking outdoor trails or training on an inclined treadmill, can help condition the muscles used when actually ascending a rock climbing wall. If you plan on ascending a specific elevation, you'll also need to add elevation training as part of your conditioning program, where you ascend higher elevations incrementally until your body is conditioned to higher heights.
- Wellness.Massachusetts: Conditioning for Rock Climbing and Hiking
- Strengths and Conditioning Journal: Optimizing Rock Climbing Performance Through Sport-Specific Strength and Conditioning; Kevin C. Phillips, et al.
- Conditioning for Climbers: The Complete Exercise Guide; Eric J. Horst, Globe Pequot
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.