Training Tips for Chicks – #3 Core Movements

Written by: Carolyn Parker

This next installment is the first in a series specifically for climbing, although not limited to climbers! The specific strength required for climbing that can be gained in the gym environment can enhance any athlete’s performance.

Last post, we began to delve into how to gain strength without gaining mass, vital to all mountain athletes. The concept of more sets with fewer, more demanding reps was introduced. Today I’ll begin a four part series of movements that I have found particularly beneficial to climbers.

Series 1:  “Core” movements and static holds

If you are already training and in mid-climbing season you still have a few more months till rock season is over and winter training begins (or ice season!). When I train climbers and they ask about “core” work there are almost an infinite number of combinations of things that can be done. Climbing is a demanding sport requiring complex movements and stabilization. If an individual has adequate overall strength and can do basic movements, sit ups, plank, and has the grip strength to hang body weight we can begin more advanced movements. Climbing is a sport that requires stability in both the vertical and horizontal plane while griping the rock or an object.

Here are variations of two movements you can use to begin advancing your core strength for climbing. As far as sets and reps, if these movements are challenging try 5 x 5, if not make it harder then advance to doing more reps to build the strength endurance required for the sport.

Horizontal Plane

Leg Lower and Raise

In the video you can see the basic movement: begin with legs straight 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) on the floor. This movement allows you to stabilize the mass of the lower body while learning to incorporate the strength of the back, shoulders and arms while grasping the KB. 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 all! If you feel strain in your low back the movement is too hard or being done in correctly.

Vertical Plane

Hanging Core Work: As climbers we must hold on the the surface we are climbing, then raise our legs and position our feet to generate the next movement. Hanging movements are vital to climbing core strength.

In the video, I demonstrate two repetitions of a series of possible movements from most difficult to least difficult:
KTE – knees to elbows: hold a 90-degree lock off and raise knees to elbows, if this is too hard try
L-seats – raise knees, straighten legs to an L-position, try to hold the L for a second or two before lowering and repeating.
Knee raise – raise knees all the way to armpits if possible.

Static Holds

Front Leaning Rest

Front Leaning Rest

The following movements the Front Leaning Rest and the Ring Support begin to build a foundation of deep shoulder strength and stability. As climbers (and athletes) our shoulders are a vital to performance and need to be strong. Stabilizing in an unstable environment is key to developing strength and ultimately protecting us from injury of our shoulders.

Front Leaning Rest (FLR): This is basically a plank posting with your hands on the rings. Begin by building the ability to hold this position for 60 secs. If you can do that then do multiple holds for 60secs with 60 secs rest between. If this is easy…try doing a push up every 10 secs while holding.

Ring Support

Ring Support

Ring Support:
This hold is much harder than the FLR. Grip the rings in your hands, hold hands at your sides and lift or support your weight off the the rings. If you cannot yet stabilize this hold place a toe on the ground and begin. Begin to build up time… 30 secs, then 45 secs, then 60secs. Eventually you’ll want to do sets of these hold with measured rest between. rest is 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 installment in the series will target pulling and pushing movements also specific to climbing though all athletes should try!

We are just scratching the surface of strength training. There are many, many elements to cover, frequency of workouts, what type of workout to do when, strength vs. power, what is power endurance. I will continue to cover these topics in the Chicks training newsletters & blog.  For more detailed information regarding programming of this nature you can contact me at or via e-mail.

Signing off for now,

Training Tips for Chicks – #2 Stronger Not Bigger

Written by: Carolyn Parker

Here it is the awaited next installment, as promised I’ll add a few more basic movements and begin a discussion of the positive effects of strength conditioning and how to get stronger without getting bigger.

But first, let’s discuss the tools you will gain the most benefit from using during your strength training. Two types: #1 your own body #2 external objects that are unstable (i.e. not a machine that will stabilize and control the movement of the weight for you).

GSquatWe are all mountain athletes, climbers, skiers, runners, cyclists…. all of these sports require us to move our bodies over land, up cliffs, you name it…it’s moving the body. Therefore, to be more efficient we: a) want to increase our strength to weight ratio and b) gain fitness that applies to experiencing our sport in what can often be an unpredictable environment.

Let’s discuss a) strength to weight ratio. The first thing that pops into most peoples minds is: I need to loose weight. Well, not necessarily, but if you do then that would be the first step. However, the process of getting stronger will likely create that outcome. and b) external object control is a profound and genuine test of fitness. Control of an object while it is being swung or thrown, or pressed or pulled, creates a unique force on our body.  The heavier the mass that can be manipulated (properly), the stronger and more effective the athlete will be at managing their own weight or possibly the weight of a pack, an ice tool, climbing gear, a bicycle, in addition to their own body weight. So let’s talk strength!

First, I must stress that all strength training should be done after an athlete has a good solid foundation, is injury free, and be done under the supervision of a trusted professional if the athlete lacks the knowledge of the proper form for lifts and body weight movements.

So, Chicks: after you’ve done your wall squats, shoulder openers, cuban press (see Chicks Training Tip #1) try a few goblet squats and push ups for warm up.

The Goblet Squat: this is a squat done with a KB held at your chest. I prefer to cup the bell of the KB in my palms to take stress off my thumbs. There are a number of methods for holding the KB. The important aspect of the position of the weight is that it is above your center of gravity creating a greater challenge on the back/core/posterior chain when squatting. Your goal is to not allow the weight to round your shoulders or pull you forward, squat to quads parallel and try to mimic the alignment you learned during the wall squat. Do 3 sets of 6

Push ups: Yes the good ol’ push up. The number one exercise avoided by most women, because either they can’t do them or they feel they are not good at them. From this point forward, if that is your mind set I want you to discard those silly notions and begin to understand that you only have to make up your mind that you can do them, then start training properly and you will.  And, that applies to all strength and sport, find your weaknesses, face them and overcome them by practice and hard effort.

Lay on the floor, place your hands next to your chest, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Elbows point back, activate your core, back, glutes, legs and get ready to push. Perform your push-ups on your knees, or lower on your toes and push on your knees if knees is too easy but toes is still too hard or on your toes, with perfect form and ROM no matter what. Be patient, do them properly and you will gain strength.  Do 2 sets of  5 (warm up).

Now to the meat of the matter: how does one gain strength without mass. Gaining muscle mass is called muscle hypertrophy. Simply stated, most gym routines that people are familiar with suggest things like working muscle groups and body areas, focusing on 3-4 sets of 10 – 12 reps. This old formula is from the days of Body Building and not Athletic Training. Body building is designed to do just that build and shape the body. This is not what you want, mountain athletes want to gain strength with as little mass gain as possible and lean down. Utilizing body weight movements and external object’s.

Let’s discuss just one facet of this goal. Strength. Once the athlete understands the lift, the movement, the skill to be performed and the athlete is properly warmed up. We want to focus on a total rep count for that movement of (12 – 25reps) this can be done in sets and reps as such: 5 x 5, 5 x 3, 8 x 3, 6 x 2. The goal is to find a body weight movement, and external object movement or lift that requires a high muscle output from the athlete where finishing this low number of reps causes near failure (but not failure) on the last rep or two. Failure is that of strength or form, do not let your form go!

Next time you are training try this: I’m going to pick a movement that is often a challenge for women (if this is not a challenge for you, try adding weight to your pull up to effect the same challenge). Instead of doing your pull ups as 3 x 10 using assistance (for example) try to do 2 or 3 without assistance or reduce the assistance so you can barely do 4 or 5. Then complete 6 x 3, or 5 x 5 with at least a minute of rest between sets. If you are fit and have a good work capacity you can do sit ups, step ups, something in between sets as long as your heart rate recovers (before your next set of pull ups) and you are not overly taxing the upper body.

You can use this approach for all strength and power based movements.

We are just scratching the surface of strength training. There are many many elements to cover, frequency of workouts, what type of workout to do when, strength vs. power, what is power endurance. I will begin to cover these topics in the Chicks training newsletters and for more detailed information regarding programming of this nature you can contact me at or

Signing off for now,
Carolyn Parker
Athlete Representative For: