Smart climbers never neglect their core. Prioritize core strength with this simple but effective ab-killer exercise: windshield wipers!

(This article was originally published in February of 2019, but windshield wipers never go out of style!)

This is a fantastic—if difficult—exercise that targets the abdominals, obliques, and all the muscles of the upper torso and shoulders. It may take you a few tries to get the hang of it, but motor learning and technique gains will come quickly! After a few workouts, you’ll notice a real difference in your climbing-specific core strength.

How to Perform Windshield Wipers

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with palms facing away. Lift your legs upward until your back is nearly parallel to the ground and your mid-shins are near the level of the bar.
  2. Now lower your legs to one side and immediately return to the top position. Then lower your legs to the other side. This side-to-side motion is like windshield wipers tracking from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock and back again. Keep your movement slow and controlled all the way down on each side. Relying on gravity to pull your legs down takes away from the core activation we’re looking to achieve.
  3. Continue for six to twelve repetitions, aiming to maintain a flat back position that’s roughly parallel to the ground throughout.
  4. Do two or three sets with three minutes rest in between.
windshield wipers core training for climbers.

Begin with your shins near the bar and your back roughly parallel to the floor (left), then lower your legs to one side (right). Then come back past 12 o’clock to lower leg on the other side (not shown).

Tip: It helps to bend your arms slightly and think about “bending the bar” with your hands throughout the entire exercise. This will better activate your rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers, making the exercise a bit easier and less stressful on the shoulders.

Learn dozen more exercises for training the core and shoulder muscles in the 3rd edition of Training For Climbing.

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