Lock-Off Training for Mixed Climbing

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing.

Carolyn Parker lock-off training for mixed climbing. Begin with tools (dowels) at the same height.  © Carolyn Parker.

Winter is ice and mixed climbing season in Colorado.

If you haven’t tried it, mixed climbing is a blast!

Tools that you’d normally apply by swinging and kicking into ice are now placed carefully onto rock. Then you balance on front points and move around your placement in an entirely new way.

Mixed climbing requires a new set of abilities and one that’s particularly helpful is lock-off ability.

Learn more about mixed climbing here.

However, all climbing requires strong, stable shoulders, not just mixed climbing. So, before you train lock-off strength, make sure your shoulders are strong. Find out more about Shoulder Strength.

Now, if you’re all set with strong shoulders, we’re going to add in some lock-off practice. 

Remember, we always want to take as much load as possible with our feet, legs and core. For more about lock-off technique and another great lock-off strength training exercise called The Hover, go to my previous post Lock-Off Strength.

But sometimes we need to hold our body with a single arm (plus the aforementioned) for a few moments while we find just the right crack or edge to set our tool securely.  In which case we may need to “lock-off” at different angles while in a pulling position.

Lock-Off Training for Mixed Climbing

Ideally use ice climbing tools. However, dowels (or something similar) that allow you to hang with your hand, wrist and grip in a position that mimics holding an ice climbing tool also works. (If using tools, prep them by wrapping the pick in cardboard and tape so it doesn’t chew up your gym’s pull-up bar, rings or climbing holds.)

Warm Up First:

Do a few minutes of light aerobic work to get your blood flowing.

Then follow my Strong Shoulders workout for a perfect warm-up before lock-off training for mixed climbing. 

Add a few push ups and pull ups (can be assisted) 3 sets of 5 of each.

Lock-Off Drills:

Begin with tools (dowels) at the same height. (See above.)

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing in position one

Pull up and hold for three seconds at the top of the pull up.

Then lower to 45 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Carolyn Parker lock off training for mixed climbing in position three

Lower to 90 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Lower to 120 degrees and hold for three seconds.

Lower almost all the way (back to first photo position at top) but keep a slight bend in your elbows and your shoulder blades stable with back muscles engaged. Hold for three seconds. 

Rest for 60 seconds and then repeat 2 more times for 3 total reps.

Now try the same thing with your arms offset. 

Place one tool higher than the other.

Now do the same drill: three reps of three lock-off positions with right tool higher, three reps with left tool higher. The lower arm will take the most load in the offset position.

Total rep count for the entire series is only nine but this is difficult.

Have no fear. If you cannot do pull-ups, you can try all of this with a band for some assistance. 

Over time you can add reps or sets as your body adapts.


Carolyn Parker

Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide

970-773-3317 work cell

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Coach for Uphill Athlete

AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor