Circuit Training for Climbers
Updated: Aug 4
High-intensity circuit style training has become popular in recent years, and circuit training is utilized in a variety of gyms and fitness classes across the world. When performed correctly, conditioning circuits can be an excellent tool for training a variety of different athletes. However, if you’re not careful, there are some risks also associated with this style of training.
For climbers interested in training for mountaineering, mixing in some circuits can be a great way to improve your fitness and prepare for long days of adventure. However, the introduction of high-intensity-styled training must be done carefully. Below, we 1) list a few pros and cons of using high-intensity interval training, and 2) provide several circuit-style workouts designed for athletes in a climbing gym.
The Pros of Circuit Training
Interval training is a great way to squeeze in a short workout, but still feel like you’ve done some excellent conditioning. If you’re short on time, this can be a great way to squeeze in a full-body workout. Short circuits force you to cut out unnecessary exercises and focus on the most critical full-body movements. For climbers that like to spend most of their time climbing, circuits are a quick way to include other functional exercises.
Climbing is often an endurance event that also includes short bursts of more intense physical activity. Mountaineers tend to focus on endurance training, and forget to include high-intensity conditioning. If you want to be a well-rounded mountain athlete, you will need to perform a mix of aerobic and anaerobic training in your workout regime. Mixing in some circuit training is an easy way to spice up the endurance training, and add some high-intensity elements to your workout.
For some of us, training in the gym can be rather dull. Sometimes it feels like hitting the gym is a necessary evil so that we can live longer and be healthy. Circuit training is often viewed as a “fun” way to work out, and this makes it a more appealing way to train. It’s effortless to turn circuits into competitions among your friends and workout partners.
The Cons of Circuit Training
Easy to Over-Train
If you’re consistently performing a high-intensity exercise, you’re going to over-train. Regardless of the sport (running, swimming, lifting, climbing, etc.), the risk of over-training is a genuine concern. Most individuals can consistently perform high-intensity circuits for 2-3 weeks before they experience fatigue or injury from over-training. If you’re going to perform high-intensity interval workouts, you have to be sure to balance it out with moderate exercises and low-intensity “rest days.” Don’t expect to perform “metabolic finishers” every day of the week.
Increased Risk of Injury
This is true for athletes of all ages and experiences, but it’s especially important for older individuals and unconditioned “new athletes.”
Due to the nature of circuit training, you’re more likely to become fatigued and perform an exercise with poor form. Performing reps with poor form, especially at a heavyweight, can predispose you to catastrophic injuries. Similarly, circuits can become a competition among friends, and the rush of competition can encourage you to take risks you wouldn’t otherwise consider. So be cautious, and pick exercises that won’t be hard on your joints.
Circuits are usually designed to be whole-body workouts, and in theory, this can be a great thing, especially if your fitness goals are very generic. However, if you’re specifically training for climbing, you’re not going to become a better climber by performing circuits inherently. Sure, cross-training might help your overall fitness and indirectly improve your climbing, but you still need to incorporate sport-specific training.
Climber’s Circuit Training
Keep those pros and cons in mind when you’re planning your next workout routine. Circuit training can be an excellent tool for mixing up your workouts and improving your overall fitness. However, it can also cause you to become over-trained or injured if you’re not careful. You still have to climb if you want to be a better climber; being remarkably fit for circuit workouts will not inherently translate into you being a stronger climber.
If you’re interested in trying some climber-specific conditioning circuits, we’ve listed a few circuit workouts for you to try out next time you’re in the climbing gym (feel free to personalize the climbing grades for your workout):
Workout 1: ●Warm-up with easy climbing and a short core workout of your choice ●1st Round: Climb a V5, perform five burpees ●2nd Round: Climb a V4, perform ten burpees ●3rd Round: Climb a V3, perform 15 burpees ●4th Round: Climb a V2, perform 20 burpees ●5th Round: Climb a V1, perform 25 burpees ●Take 10 seconds rest in between rounds
Workout 2: ●Warm-up with easy climbing and a short core workout of your choice ●30 seconds on the tread-wall ●10 Kettle-Bell swings ●25 seconds on the tread-wall ●10 Kettle-Bell swings ●20 seconds on the tread-wall ●10 Kettle-Bell swings ●10 seconds on the tread-wall ●Take 2 minutes rest and repeat
Workout 3: ●Warm-up with easy climbing and a short core workout of your choice ●Perform as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes: ●Climb a V2 or 5.9 ●Five push-ups ●Five squats
Circuit training not your thing? Check out Weight Training for Climbers.