All you need for your “climbing training at home” is a mat and a door frame.
- If you want to train even more climbing-specific, I recommend investing in a “hangboard or pull-up bar.”
This will ultimately help you improve your finger strength and change up your exercise routine when training.
What should you train?
This article is split up into the following 5 sub-categories:
- Finger strength
- Pulling and Lock-Off strength
- Legs and gluteal muscles
- Antagonist and stability training
How should you train?
Circuit training is the best and easiest way to train at home.
For more information on how to accurately perform your circuits and to read up on 2 training plans, make sure to keep on scrolling.
1. Core | Training for Climbers – At Home
Honestly, I hate planks just as much as I hate any exercise that targets our core and abdominal muscles – BUT…there is not a single exercise that is simpler and more effective when it comes to building up more body tension.
- Starting position: plank
- Slowly move your knee upwards towards your “outer” elbow – and hold this position.
- Slowly move your knee underneath your body and towards your “inner” elbow – and hold this position.
- Move back to your starting position – be sure to change legs.
– Keep your entire core activated.
– Straight back – You should refrain from allowing your hips to dip and pushing your buttocks too far upwards.
Maybe the old Bible verse has some truth to it after all: “He who sows planks, will reap body tension”.
Rotating your upper body
This exercise will help to train the shoulder girdle muscles additionally.
- Slowly raise your arm along the side of your body until it is completely and vertically outstretched.
- Let your gaze follow the movement of your arm.
- Hold this position for 2 seconds and then change arms.
An exercise for advanced climbers – to perform the giga plank, you need to work your entire body.
- Simultaneously move your left leg and your right arm upwards
- Hold this position for 5 seconds
- Lower your limbs and swap over
The boat pose… just better
Well-known in the world of yoga – but slightly modified to be more dynamic and tailored to your climbing training.
Your starting position is the “boat pose” – from there you move your left knee to your right elbow and vice versa.
This exercise will help strengthen the lateral core muscles. Alongside static movements, you can also intensify the exercise by raising and lowering your hips.
- Lower and raise your hips – hold the raised position for 2 seconds.
- Your body must form a straight line, so don’t bend your hips.
The best exercise for your whole back.
- Raise your right arm and left leg (or vice versa) and hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
- Consciously focus on building and maintaining your body tension.
Alternative position: Raise both arms and both legs at the same time.
The more you lower your legs, the more you activate your hip flexors. To isolate your core and abdominal muscles, do not lower your legs too far.
- Lower and raise your legs once more – hold the raised position and then repeat.
Knee rolls – Knees to elbows
This exercise additionally trains the shoulder girdle as well as parts of your latissimus dorsi muscle.
- “Roll” Knees up to your elbows
- Make sure you are performing the exercise as precisely as you can. Aim not to swing or “see-saw”.
- Slowly come down.
To make the exercise a little more difficult, you can perform it with outstretched legs.
- Starting position: Make sure you are using your shoulders to hang firmly in place, don’t slouch.
- Pull knees upwards (maintain this position) and twist your lower body sideways.
Mega Core 2000
Starting position: On your knees with outstretched arms – if you are using rings or training straps, keep them around bellybutton height.
- Only go as far as you can maintain body tension – if your pelvis starts to dip, you are at risk of exerting too much pressure on your lower back.
This is a variation of the “knee raises” mentioned above.
- Starting position: Put your feet through the straps as per the picture – keep your back straight! (Don’t let your hips dip!)
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2. Finger strength | Training for climbing at home
To really focus on building up finger strength specifically for climbing, you need to find a space to hang freely.
You can apply a few alternative methods in conjunction with weights and other equipment – HOWEVER, if you want to train effectively, you need to find something you can safely hang from using only your fingers.
An ideal solution would be a hangboard – but a door frame, a door, or even a pull-up bar works to the same effect.
I used a door frame to build up my finger strength many years ago, which really helped. I have since purchased a hangboard – because it offers a more comprehensive training experience.
2 easy (and effective) training methods when using a hangboard
1. Finger Training – Maximum strength
- The goal is to hang for 12 seconds on the crimp.
- Make sure that you can hang from your chosen area for 12 seconds, leading to exhaustion (Total Exhaustion should be at around 15 seconds).
- After 12 seconds of hanging, make sure to rest for exactly 3 minutes.
- Repeat 5 times in a row and you will have completed a set.
- Do 2-5 sets (with a 5-minute rest between sets)
– 12 seconds of hanging + 3 minutes of rest = 1 rep
– 5 reps = 1 set
2. Training method for achieving maximum endurance
- 7 seconds of hanging + 3 seconds of rest
- Do this 6 times in a row (adding up to 1 minute exactly)
- Make sure to rest for 5 minutes afterward
- Do 5 sets
6 times: 7 seconds of hanging + 3 seconds of rest = 1 set
Whether you’re using a hangboard or a door frame, there is no better exercise when it comes to building up finger strength at home.
These are NOT finger strength exercises for climbers:
Training equipment such as the Fingermaster, Gripmaster, Gripsaver, Power-ball, Chinese Baoding balls, Rubber rings, etc., are excellent for antagonist training and warming up. When attempting to train the muscles in your fingers in a climbing-specific manner, however, I wouldn’t advise using them.
Finger Strength Training
- 3 Protocols for Maximum Finger Strength.
- 1 Protocol for Power Endurance.
3. Pulling and Lock-Off Strength
You will need: a Door frame, pull-up bar, hanging board, or something else to execute a pull-up motion.
If you are looking for a relatively good pull-up bar, you can find one for around $40 (Amazon Price Comparison) – If you haven’t already made this provision, I would seriously consider doing so.
Besides the classic “pull-up”, you could also do a few alternate exercises to give a bit of variety to your training.
This exercise is otherwise known as the “square pull-up”. Given the fact that we don’t often pull ourselves upwards in a perfectly straight manner, this exercise is perfectly suited for climbing-specific training
- Start in the middle and try and move your body in a “square-like motion”.
- The bigger the square, the more challenging the exercise.
- Change direction (clockwise/counterclockwise).
“Uneven grip” pull-ups
Tie a rope, a runner or something similar around the pull-up bar or hanging board. Tie a knot in it for better grip.
Pull-ups with added weight
It makes sense to add extra weight when aiming to achieve maximum strength during your training.
As soon as you are able to manage 10 or more controlled pull-ups, you should think about adding extra weight.
To train your explosive strength, do your pull-ups as explosively as you possibly can. Pull yourself up as quickly as you possibly can – but make sure to control your movement when you lower yourself back down the bar.
Variation – Air Time
Try and pull yourself up the bar as quickly as you can and in a way that ultimately leads to you letting go of the bar. Those strong enough could even try and clap their hands together as they do so.
Training for climbing at home – Main focus: Lock-Off Strength
Improve your Lock-Off Strength – “Frenchies” are normal pull-ups that are held in three different positions for 4 seconds, respectively.
These are similar to the square pull-ups mentioned above, but here you stay in a straight line and move from one side to the other. The starting grip position for this exercise is considerably wider than it would be for normal pull-ups.
- Make sure you hold each rep for 1-2 seconds.
One Arm Lock-Off – and lowering down slowly
- Pull yourself up with both arms, then let go with one hand and Lock-Off your position with one arm as long as possible.
- Then lower yourself back down to your starting position as slowly as you can (negative). Change arms.
Pull-ups for beginners – assisted pull-ups
Pull-ups and their many variations are indispensable when “training for climbing at home” and when training in general. If you aren’t yet able to perform pull-ups properly, you can perform so-called “assisted” pull-ups using two different aids for support:
a.) Reduce weight by supporting your legs (on a chair, for example.)
b.) Resistance bands – you can purchase specially-made resistance bands (Amazon price*) available to help you practice.
A good climbing harness is:
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4. Legs | Climbing workout at home
Having strong leg muscles doesn’t only come in handy when climbing, but it also prevents common back problems.
It is the lower back that causes many climbers a lot of distress. This can be due to many things; however, one of the most frequent causes is what is known as “muscular imbalance”.
Due to weak gluteal and biceps femoris muscles, climbers can develop problems in the pelvic region (hyperlordosis or “anterior pelvic tilt”). The following exercises will help you to strengthen your posterior muscles.
Raise your leg upwards towards the end of the exercise.
- Make sure you keep your knees at a 90° angle.
- Try and target the posterior leg and gluteal muscles.
- Raise your leg upwards towards the end of the exercise.
- If you have dumbbells or other weighted equipment at home, you can use these to enhance your training.
- Rest your back leg on a chair.
- Make sure you keep your knees at a 90° angle – wide lunge.
- Focus on isolating your posterior muscles.
A great exercise to help increase pelvic mobility. It is also great as a warm-up exercise when climbing/bouldering.
- Make sure you stay low – to maintain muscle tension.
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5. Antagonist and stability training
Here are a few of my absolute favorite exercises – to find more balance and stretching exercises, make sure to check out this article: “Antagonist training –the 20 best exercises”.
Push-ups and their variations
Push-ups are the BEST! They help work out your shoulder and pectoral muscles.
Alongside conventional push-ups, I have listed 3 variations.
This type of push-up is considerably more difficult because it targets both the abdominal and hip flexor muscles.
This push-up works out your shoulder girdle muscles as well as lateral abdominal muscles.
Push-ups using Rings or Slingtrainer
The “unstable” starting position of this push-up makes them considerably more difficult than conventional ones. Additionally strengthens your shoulder girdle muscles – which are otherwise seldom activated during training.
Bouldering and climbing involve all kinds of different pulling techniques – the handstand is the perfect “pushing” countermovement. Besides this, you can work on further stabilizing your shoulder girdle muscles.
If you have problems with your wrists (like I do), I would recommend investing in a set of “parallettes” or “push-up bars” (Amazon price). Using these, you can work on your handstands for hours without damaging your wrists.
For good posture and stable shoulders:
T Y I
One of my absolute favorite exercises – this exercise is certainly worth doing as part of your Antagonist training if you are an avid boulderer/climber.
It pulls your shoulder blades backward and straightens your upper body. It also helps to counteract “climber’s back”.
- Keep your arms outstretched.
- Pull your arms back as far as you can – try to push your shoulder blades together when doing so.
- Adjust the difficulty of this exercise by changing the positioning of your legs.
Shoulder blade pull-ups
- Keep your arms outstretched and pull yourself upwards by pulling your shoulder blades closer together.
- The range of movement only spans a few centimeters and works out the rotator cuffs in your shoulder girdle.
- Despite a shorter range of movement, this exercise is still remarkably effective.
Both of the exercises specified in the above (T, Y, I & shoulder blade pull-ups) counteract the so-called “climber’s back” – they stabilize and strengthen the muscles responsible for pulling the shoulder blades together (and improving general posture). For this reason, these exercises are imperative for every climber.
Forearm extensors are the opposing muscles of the forearm flexors, which are way more worked out when climbing. Have a look at the following exercises to help avoid muscular imbalances.
This exercise is great if you’re experiencing pain in your elbow.
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Training plans for climbers – circuit training
Training plan #1
30 minutes = 6 exercises & 5 repetitions
30 seconds of exercise – 30 seconds of rest
Training plan #2
30 minutes = 6 exercises & 5 repetitions
30 seconds of exercise – 30 seconds of rest
With the 30 exercises outlined in “training for your climb at home,” you can put together your personal training plan.
How often should I train?
Make sure you perform the exercises regularly (3 times a week) and I can assure you that you’ll start to see the results. When you train is completely up to you.
Ideally, having one day of rest between training days is beneficial for muscle repair. Make sure you plan to train 3 times a week and persevere!
When training for climbing at home, you’ll find that mustering up the dedication to do so is considerably more difficult than when you are in the climbing hall. The best way to be persistent in your training at home is to put together a clear and easy training plan.