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,

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