Training for a High Strength-to-Weight Ratio for Rock Climbing

Get lighter and stronger to make climbing easier.

Get lighter and stronger to make climbing easier.

Looking like a rock star at the climbing gym isn't just about strength; it's also about carrying around as little extra weight as possible. An extra 5 or 10 pounds may make you feel like you're lugging around an extra sack of potatoes -- and that's not going to bode well when you're tackling a new bouldering problem or heading up a big ascent. To make it easier on yourself and become a better climber, focus on your strength-to-weight ratio by building muscle and burning fat.

Push yourself to burn more calories on a daily basis. Being lighter means it will be easier to make that ascent -- and on top of that, you may just fit back into that little cocktail dress you've been dreaming of wearing again. To lose 1 pound, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you're consuming. Several days a week, pick a high-calorie-burning exercise -- running, jumping rope, aerobics or the stair treadmill -- to shave off 300 to 500 calories an hour. And just in case you were wondering, rock climbing will help you burn calories -- more than 270 in a 30-minute session if you are a 150-pound person.

Start counting calories. You'll be trimming calories through exercise, but trimming them through food is going to help you get more nimble on the rock even faster. Start out keeping a diet diary for a week, writing down all of the foods and drinks you take in. Check out an online calorie calculator to tally your total daily calories, and then look for ways to cut 200 to 300 calories per day. Do it in little ways. Skip that double-shot extra foamy latte. Drink seltzer water instead of juice or alcohol when you go out with the girls. Resist the nightly chocolate craving with all your willpower. It all adds up.

Become not just a rock-climbing gym rat, but a strength-training gym rat as well. Counter to what you may have heard, you're probably not going to "bulk up" by lifting weights. Women just don't have the right mix of hormones -- namely testosterone -- to make that happen. Pullups strengthen almost all of the muscles of the upper body -- which is great for climbers. Use a set of dumbbells to do chest presses, bicep curls and triceps curls. Hold the dumbbells -- or get a barbell and weight plates -- to do sets of squats and lunges to strengthen your legs. For each exercise, do 12 to 15 repetitions, using an amount of weight that pushes you to the point of exhaustion at the end of each set. According to the Mayo Clinic, even a single set of repetitions can help your cause -- as long as you're pushing yourself enough so that you feel pretty wiped out at the end of the set.


  • Working out is good -- but so are regular a chill-out sessions. While you may be really motivated to train hard to become a better rock climber, don't overlook the importance of rest. In between your sessions in the rock gym or on the rock and your cardio and lifting sessions, give yourself at least one day a week of rest to allow your body time to recover and prevent injuries from overtraining.

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About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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