Climbing is a demanding sport requiring complex, core movement and stabilization.
If you have adequate, overall strength, including the ability to do basic movements like sit-ups and plank and enough grip strength to hang your body weight, it’s time to add a core movement series designed specifically for climbing.
More about FITNESS | HOW TO BUILD A SOLID FITNESS FOUNDATION here.
Although, the benefits of a strong core are not limited to climbers. Climbing strength gained in a gym can enhance any athlete’s performance.
When it comes to “core work” there is an almost infinite combination of exercises that you can do..
However, I’ve found the following core-movement series particularly beneficial to climbers.
Throughout the series, try to do 5 sets x 5 reps. If that is too easy, make the exercise harder before advancing to more reps.
I explained the concept of doing more sets, and fewer, more demanding reps in HOW TO GET STRONGER WITHOUT GETTING BIGGER. Doing fewer, more demanding reps helps you gain strength without gaining mass, which is vital to all mountain athletes.
When climbing, you need to be able to hold your body in both the vertical and horizontal plane while you grip the rock.
Core Movement – Horizontal Plane
Leg Lower and Raise Exercise
Begin with straight legs over hips, spine neutral. Lower legs while stabilizing torso/spine (do not allow lumbar spine to move). Lower legs almost to the floor, then raise back up till over the hips.Then press feet upward toward ceiling while pulling on the kettle ball (KB). This movement allows you to stabilize your lower-body mass while learning to incorporate the strength of your back, shoulders and arms. To make this movement more difficult, squeeze a medicine ball between your feet. Make sure your lumbar spine does not arch! A gentle, natural, neutral curve is what you want! If you feel strain in your lower back, the movement is too hard for you or you’re doing it incorrectly.
Core Movement – Vertical Plane
Hanging Exercise –
Climbers must be able to hold onto the rock while they raise their legs and position their feet in order to generate the next movement.
Hanging movements are vital to climbing strength.
Here are three hanging exercises from most difficult to least difficult:
Knees-to-Elbows (KTE): Hold a 90-degree lock-off and raise your knees to your elbows.
L-Sits: Raise your knees and then straighten your legs to an L-position.Try to hold the L for a second or two before lowering and repeating.
Knee-Raise: Raise your knees as high as you can––all the way to armpits if possible.
Core Movement – Static Holds
The Front Leaning Rest and the Ring Support build a foundation of deep shoulder strength and stability. Our shoulders are vital to our performance. They need to be strong. Stabilizing in an unstable environment is key to developing shoulder strength and ultimately protecting us from injury.
Front Leaning Rest (FLR):
Hold a plank position, but with your hands on rings. Begin by building the ability to hold this position for 60 secs. Then work up to multiple holds for 60 secs with 60 secs of rest in between. If this is easy, try doing a push up every 10 secs while holding!
This is much harder than the FLR. Grip rings in your hands and hold your hands at your sides as you lift your feet to support your weight from the rings. Start with a toe on the ground and begin to build up time… 30 secs, then 45 secs, then 60 secs. Eventually you’ll want to do sets of these holds with measured rests in between. Rest a similar time to the length of hold.
Try adding these movements to your new strength training goals for overall fitness and mountain athlete performance. The second instalment in the series will target pushing movements also specific to climbing though all athletes should try!
Signing off for now,