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Core Strength for Climbers

Updated: Jan 20

core strength for climbers

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 how to incorporate core workouts into your gym climbing routine.

Beginner Exercises

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 trip to the climbing gym can easily incorporate these exercises. All of the following exercises can be easily accomplished laying on the carpet, turf, or a yoga mat.

Sit Up

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.

The Plank

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 will primarily strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.

Bicycle Kicks

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 rested 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.

Russian Twists

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.

Advanced Exercises

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 simply 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.

Windshield Wiper

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.

Core Work

Incorporating these core building exerci