The best way to judge your improvement in the climbing gym (or lack of improvement) is usually by being able to climb increasingly difficult routes. This is how most people gauge their progress in the gym, and it’s a fairly simple way to stay on track to achieving your fitness goals. However, for those of us that have been climbing in the gym a long time, it’s nice to add variety into your fitness regimen.
In case you weren’t already aware, gym climbers are often masters of what appears (on the surface) to be super-human tricks. Many of these super-human fitness tricks might appear goofy on the surface, they can also be extremely beneficial for improving your climbing fitness. So, next time you’re in the climbing gym, consider mixing up your usual routine by giving some of these atypical challenges a try.
Try some of the challenges below:
100 Second Hang
This is the simplest challenge on our list. All you have to do is find a pull-up bar, hold onto the bar in a pull-up position, and don’t let go for 100 seconds.
Climbers are renowned for their impressive grip strength, and some advanced climbers can perform fingertip pull-ups to infinity. Just like the benefits of hangboarding, there are also benefits to hanging for 100 seconds on a traditional pull-up bar. Some individuals that can hang on tiny edges assume this is going to be easy, but oftentimes people are surprised by the endurance necessary for a long 100 hang (or longer).
Paper Bag Pick-Up
For this challenge, you place a paper bag on the ground and pick it up with your mouth. Here’s the caveat: you’re only allowed to stand on one foot. Essentially, this forces you to do a one-legged squat while leaning over to grab the bag with your mouth.
It’s fairly common to have to perform a pistol squat while simultaneously controlling your balance. Difficult climbing routes put individuals in awkward or off-balance positions that feel similar to this somewhat odd paper bag challenge. Therefore, accomplishing this challenge is actually extremely relevant for developing the core/leg strength necessary for some advanced climbs.
The “Front Lever” or “Forward Lean”
You’ve probably already seen some fit athletes perform these at your rock climbing gym. The trick itself has many names, but we most commonly hear the “front lever” or the “forward lean”. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Hang from a pull-up bar as if you were going to do a traditional pull-up; instead, pull your body up so that it’s parallel with the ground. If you’re performing this correctly, your body and arms should be at a 90-degree angle with each other.
This challenge requires an immense amount of core strength. If you can perform a forward lean properly, you’re going to be well equipped for cave climbing.
Perhaps this one is a bit obvious for climbers, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge. The one-arm pull-up is an oldie but a goodie. Despite its simplicity, you likely know few climbers that can pull it off. So, set yourself apart from the pack and see if you can accomplish a single arm pull-up. Doing so is a true testament to the upper-body strength of any climber.
This challenge requires a significant amount of teamwork, and it’s a ton of fun with the right climbing partner. Essentially, you and a friend work together to climb a route using just one hand each.
You and a friend each rope up and stand at the base of two different climbs that are located side-by-side. Then, you hold hands and climb your respective climbing route. If either climber falls, or if you ever stop holding hands, you fail the challenge. This challenge is a ton of fun, but it is also surprisingly demanding. You’ll notice it requires a lot of balance, core strength, and grip strength (of the one hand that’s in use). After you’ve climbed to the top of your routes together (if you ever make it that far), switch sides and give the other hand a workout.
All Work and No Play Makes for a Dull Climber
Working out doesn’t always have to feel like work. Climbing is a ton of fun, but if you’re consistently in the gym things might start to feel a little bit stale at times. Use the climbing challenges we’ve listed above not only as a means to gauge your fitness and show off to your friends, but also to break up the monotony of your usual workout. Besides, you might discover some weaknesses in your fitness that you need to work on.
While these exercises are fun and effective, it's important to Avoid Injury and Overtraining in Climbing.