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Sport Specific > Climbing-Rock > Post-Season Climbing

Post-Season Climbing Training Series
Part I

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How should climbers maintain their summer level of fitness to prevent having to start all over again in the spring? This compilation is the first of a series of Body Results newsletter articles that will provide you with some varied, challenging, and effective off-season workouts. Parts I and II will focus on post-season training, helping you strengthen particular areas of the body that may have been neglected during your hard summer of climbing (including hamstrings, rhomboids, and chest). This month's Part I features exercises that you can do anywhere, with minimal equipment other than your bodyweight and a backpack or hand weights (heavy gallon jugs or dictionaries can substitute -- no need to buy anything!) A perfect program to take with you on the road as we enter the holiday season. No more excuses! All exercises in December's Part II will be ones you can do with access to cables or free weights that you'd find in most gyms. January's Part III will introduce pre-season gym training to help you increase your upper body and finger strength for the upcoming summer of outdoor climbing.


In order to get ready to do any strength workout, we recommend you warm up somehow either by doing 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular activity or perhaps performing some yoga stretches to get the body prepared for more vigorous activity.

Two poses that help you stretch the lower back, shoulders, hamstrings, lats and obliques are the Triangle Pose, in the middle, and Side Angle Stretch, far right. Hold each for 30-60 seconds on each side. Perform against a wall until your balance improves, and reach hand up and back toward the wall. Reach arm along top ear for an even more complete stretch.

Once you are warmed up and stretched (see Climbing Essentials for other suggestions) continue with the strength workout in the order suggested below (largest muscles to smallest).

Lower Body

Heel Hook (1-leg Hamstring Curl) 2-3 sets, 6-8 reps each leg

To strengthen your hamstrings for heel hooking, (and balance out quads/hamstrings) lie flat on your back with both legs on a sturdy chair or bench, knees and hips at right angles, hands wide to keep you balanced (then narrower as you get stronger.) Lift one foot off the chair and bridge your hip up with the other, striving for a straight line from knee to shoulders. Be conscious of your pelvis -- make sure your body doesn't tilt or tip to one side as you lift. Keep the body squared off -- and you'll engage the lower back and obliques as well. Try this with weight in your lap or feet on a ball as ways to increase intensity.

1-Leg, 1-Arm Deadlifts 2-3 sets 4-6 each hand

This exercise enhances balance as well as strengthens the glutes, quads, ankles, and hips. Stand on 1 foot, other foot hovering just above the floor behind you for balance. Hold a dumbbell, dictionary, or gallon jug in one hand, and then squat down as low as you can toward the floor (as shown) before lifting back up to vertical standing position. Repeat 4-6 times with that hand, then switch hands for 4-6 more but remain on that leg. Shake out the leg, switch to the other, and repeat for 4-6 reps using each hand. To increase the difficulty, pause at the bottom, increase the weight, add repetitions, or drive yourself upward as though you were going to hop off the floor on one leg.

Forward Leaning Lunges 2-3 sets 10-12

This move is effective for ski season AND climbing! It will help you strengthen the glutes, the power horses in your body that propel you up alpine routes in order to reach your vertical climbs. Instead of taking the usual posture of vertical torso, lean forward at the hip (keeping back flat and extended) and out over the front toes. Press through the front foot to engage the gluteus maximus muscles in your buttocks. Exhale as you push back, and add dumbbells, a backpack, or a barbell across your shoulders to increase intensity as you get stronger.

Side Low Lunges 2-3 sets 10-12 each leg

A great way to stretch hips and strengthen quads for vertical wall climbing and balance is the side-to-side low lunge, pictured here. Keep torso vertical, toes turned out, and for added effect, do this while standing face in to a wall and avoid allowing your knees to touch the wall. An option is to reach up as though you were going for your next hold and use primarily the bent leg to lift you up -- a super quad-blaster. To make it even harder, add a pack on your back, books or dictionaries in each hand, or hold the pause longer in bent knee position.

Upper Body

Since most people I've had the pleasure to train do not have a pullup bar or squat rack (equipped with one) at their home, we're leaving pulling exercises until December. Besides, during off-season, it's important to give your body a bit of a rest and train the other muscles that haven't been used for a while -- in this section, the pushing muscles and rhomboids. Do them in the order presented.

Variable Surface Pushups 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions

This exercise strengthens the pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders) and triceps; we recommend that you incorporate some sort of pushing exercise to balance out an upper body that has been engaged in a pulling-dominated activity. Equipment needed: sturdy objects of various sizes. If you have trouble performing at 10 knee pushups, then stick with regular knee pushups until your muscle strength increases, as this variation is decidedly more challenging. Place various objects of different heights around you in a semi-circle--such as a low bench, dictionary, basketball, stool, or even a step--and assume the pushup position with hands on different level objects. Make sure the objects are secure and won�t slide. Perform a pushup (either on knees or toes) and then, keeping back flat and abs tight, maneuver yourself over to the next objects and do another pushup. Continue around until you are too tired to continue or have completed a set of 12.

Triceps Dips 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions

Triceps dips are one of our favorite exercises, and have direct carry-over into counter-pressure climbing moves such as stemming and manteling. Position yourself on the wide part of a flat bench, bed, bathtub or couch with your hands just outside of your thighs, fingers pointing forward and palms on the bench, with feet on the floor and knees slightly bent. Make sure the bench you are using is secure, so it won't slide. Start by retracting your shoulder blades (bring shoulders back and down so as to prevent forward rounding, which can cause strain). Keep your elbows going straight back and lower your butt toward the floor until your elbows are at right angles, then press yourself back up. You can make this more intense by 1) placing your feet farther from you, 2) putting your heels on another bench, 3) using a stability ball for your legs, and finally 4) adding weight to your lap.

Corner Reverse Pushups 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions

see Photo Archives for picture and explanation of this exercise.

Arm Balance 2-3 holds for 30-45 seconds

Another exercise borrowed from yoga; excellent for increasing abdominal strength (particularly obliques) and medial deltoids (middle shoulders) for stemming. To get into position, sit on one hip, extend legs straight, and prop yourself on your hand. Use your obliques to lift the hip upward. Until you are strong enough to hold this position, leave your arm by your side and both feet on the floor, neck neutral. As you get stronger, extend the top arm over head and then continue until you can hold the top leg up in the air above the bottom leg.

For questions or comments, feel free to contact us. Remember, with any program, it's important to vary what you're doing every 3-6 weeks or so in order to prevent reaching a plateau and keep you motivated, interested, and working out. The workout above should take you anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on how many sets you choose to do, how long it takes to do each set, and how quickly you move from set to set. Enjoy!

This sample climbing strength program is an example of the individualized type of program available to you through your Outdoor Conditioning Coaches at Body Results. Remember, however, that everyone has different needs depending on training age, body type, individual goals, exercise history, and time available. To find out how to get your own personalized program, contact your local Body Results Conditioning Coach.


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