In the climbing world, there is sometimes an overemphasis on grip strength as a means to improve your climbing ability.
For example, take a look around any major climbing gym, and you’ll notice campus boards, hang boards, and other devices specifically designed to improve your grip strength. Admittedly, improving your grip strength is important for climbing more difficult routes; however, improving core strength is at least equally important for climbers.
It’s sometimes overlooked by novice and intermediate climbers, but there is a dire need to have rock-solid core strength. Many advanced climbing routes/techniques (such as overhanging climbs, heel-hooks, off-width squeezes, flagging, etc.) actually require a huge amount of core strength. If you feel that you’ve reached a plateau in your climbing ability, it might be time to up your core fitness.
Below, we’ve listed beginner as well as advanced exercises to improve your core strength. We conclude this article by providing a few examples of incorporating core workouts into your gym climbing routine.
All of the following exercises are fairly common/basic approaches to training your core strength. That being said, “common” doesn’t necessarily mean easy. If you practice strict form, all of the following exercises provide a great workout – regardless of your fitness level. Even advanced athletes should take the time to include these types of simple core exercises into their fitness routine, and any climbing gym trip can easily incorporate them. All of the following exercises can be easily accomplished by laying on the carpet, turf, or a yoga mat.
Hopefully, this article isn’t the first time you’ve heard of a sit-up. Lay flat on your back, cross your arms over your chest and sit up. It’s a simple yet effective core exercise and can double as a warm-up exercise.
This common core exercise is similar to a push-up, although it’s usually done from your forearms and involves placing all of your weight on your forearms, toes, and elbows. The plank is an isometric core exercise that primarily strengthens your back and abdominal muscles.
This exercise is much like riding a bike (as the name implies). Just lie on your back and pretend to be peddling up the longest hill of your life. Be sure to extend your legs all the way out and keep your hands gently resting on the back of your head.
Imagine holding half a sit-up while extending your legs in/out. That’s the gist of a suitcase.
Now imagine holding half a sit-up while twisting side to side. If you’d like to increase the suffering, you’re experiencing, just hold a medicine ball.
There are a number of options for advanced core exercises. For climbers, we recommend a progression of core exercises that all involve hanging on the pull-up bar. If you’ve never performed any core work whilst hanging from a pull-up bar, you’re in for a treat (and extreme soreness). Many of these exercises are reminiscent of introductory gymnastics workouts, and that same type of strength/stability is what you’re looking for. Climbing an overhanging route is basically one long abdominal/back workout.
The L Hang
Simply hang from a bar pull-up bar while keeping your abdomen and knees at a 90-degree angle with each other. If you want to make things more intense, stick your legs straight out in front of you, making a perfect L.
Toes to Bar (or knees to bar)
The name is pretty self-explanatory. Hang from a pull-up bar, and then repeatedly touch your toes to the bar.
Hang from the pull-up bar with straight legs. Now use your straight legs to wipe an imaginary windshield in front of your face. Be prepared to suffer.
Incorporating these core-building exercises into your training regimen is the real challenge. Core work is easy to skip when you’re tired or on a time crunch, but it’s essential if you want to climb difficult routes – especially overhanging routes. The more advanced exercises are particularly useful for building up the strength necessary to survive long overhanging routes. There are many ways to incorporate core strength into your climbing gym routine. For example, try performing 5-10 minutes of “easier” core exercises before climbing in the gym. This will help warm you up for climbing and guarantee you start your gym session by building on your core strength. Save the more difficult exercises for the end of your workout after you’ve climbed. This way, the more difficult exercises serve as a way to go out on a big finish and leave you feeling exhausted as you depart the gym. Also, remember that you never need to go to the gym to work on your core. Core workouts are a great way to spend your “rest” days.
As you try out some core exercises, here are 3 Things You Need To Know About At-Home Workouts For Climbers.