Climbing well isn’t all about time on the wall. If you can’t make it to the crag or climbing gym, there’s plenty you can do to strengthen your body and refine your movement from home—or anywhere! Try these four at-home exercises for climbers from physical therapist Daniel DeMoss.
(This article was originally published in April of 2020, during the height of the COVID lock-down—but these at-home exercises for climbers apply even out of quarantine!)
Want to climb your best? Think beyond the obvious. You likely already include plenty of climbing-specific supplementary exercises such as pull-ups, hangboarding, and campus board work. That’s a great start, so keep it up!
However, developing a balanced physique that can withstand the rigors of climbing on the whole is an essential piece of the puzzle in terms of climbing at your max and preventing injury all the while. Doing a variety of supplementary exercises that target the antagonist muscles, as well as the often-overlook muscle of the posterior chain, helps build a biomechanically sound and robust body for climbing.
Towards this end, here are four full-body at-home exercises for climbers that you can perform anywhere, anytime. Start with bodyweight, and feel free to progress to weighted options as your strength advances. Perform one set of each exercise, resting for about one minute between sets. Once you complete one round, rest for two to three minutes and then start over for a total of three sets. Don’t forget to begin your workout with ten minutes of warming up with some easy cardio and a few dynamic stretches to make sure your muscles are ready to work.
1. Pistol Squats
Pistol squats improve balance, body control, and joint mobility by engaging your entire body throughout a complete range of motion. As a unilateral exercise, the pistol squat increases mobility, strength, and stability for increased control during your climbs. This is one of the best at-home exercises for climbers because of the way it simulates high steps and unilateral movement on the wall.
How To Do It:
To perform a pistol squat, stand on one leg, with your feet pointed forward.
- Activate your core and hip flexors while keeping one foot planted securely on the floor and the front leg flexed outwards and pointed in front of you.
- Next, slowly lower yourself into a squat, making sure that your weight is distributed in your planted foot.
- Use one leg to press into the floor while locking your core to propel yourself upwards. Assume standing position on the working leg and repeat the process to start your next rep.
To get the most out of your pistol squats, I recommend two to three sets of 10 repetitions. Pretty hard!
2. Jump Lunges
This plyometric exercise will improve the strength and power in your posterior chain–important for powerful, jumpy, and steep climbing moves.
How To Do It:
- For this exercise, start in a standing position with your feet staggered and keep your body loose.
- Maintain an active stance by engaging your knees in a slight bend and tightening your core muscles. Then, push off the bottom of both of your feet into a jump.
- While in the air, switch the position of your feet to land in a basic lunge stance. Alternate legs and repeat this movement without resting between repetitions for optimum results.
Perform three sets of 20 repetitions.
3. Clap Push-Ups
This at-home exercise for climbers combines strength and power in your chest and upper back.
How To Do It:
- Start this exercise down on all fours with your palms down on the floor and in line with your shoulders.
- Engage your abdominals and glutes to form a straight line from the crown or your head to your ankles. Lower your body until you almost reach the floor and pause.
- Then, push yourself up and off the floor with enough force to propel yourself up and clap your hands in mid-air.
- Return your hands to the ground to resume starting position and begin your next rep.
For your first go at clap push-ups, try for five reps. Rest three minutes, then do a second set. As you gain strength and explosiveness, build up to 10 to 15 reps. Perform two sets per session.
4. Shoulder Tags
Shoulder tags are kind of a push-up and plank hybrid exercise. This at-home exercise for climbers offers a more engaging way to train the push muscles and core, all in one.
How To Do It:
- Begin this workout in the classic plank position with your arms and legs straight, and your palms flat and in line beneath your shoulders.
- Breathe in, and as you breathe out, lower your chest towards the ground with your by bending your elbows.
- Once your shoulders are in line with your elbows, inhale and straighten your arms. While in this position, lift one hand and tap the opposite shoulder.
- Place your hand back on the ground to resume starting position before repeating the process with your other hand to complete a single rep.
Begin with two sets of 10 reps, but build to three sets of 20 reps over several weeks or months.
About the Author
Daniel DeMoss is physical therapist, personal trainer, and owner of Dumbbellsreview.com.
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