Calisthenics & Strength Training For Rock Climbing

Calisthenics and strength training are like secret weapons for rock climbers and campus board climbers. 

If you’re into climbing, you know how important it is to have a strong body. But you don’t need fancy gym equipment or heavy weights to get there. Calisthenics, which are exercises using your own body weight, can help you build the muscles and endurance needed for rock climbing.

In this guide, we’ll explore how calisthenics training and strength training can improve your climbing skills. We’ll also talk about how these workouts can boost your grip strength and balance, which are crucial for scaling those tough rocks.

So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber looking to up your game, join us on this journey to harness the power of calisthenics exercises and strength training for rock climbing.

Four Training Routines For Rock Climbing

1. Finger Training

When it comes to rock climbing, having strong fingers is like having a superpower. Your fingers are your main connection to the rock, so it’s crucial to give them some special attention in your training routine.

In this section, we’ll explore three effective finger-strengthening exercises that can take your climbing skills to new heights.

A. Finger Push-Ups

Finger push-ups are a great way to start building hand and finger strength, along with hand-eye coordination. These are suited for any difficulty level, including beginners. Here’s how to do them:

  • Find a flat surface or the edge of a table to place your hands on.
  • Instead of using your whole hand, focus on using just your fingertips to push yourself up.
  • Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then increase the time as your fingers get stronger.
  • Aim to perform eight reps of finger push-ups in each session.

These push-ups work wonders in targeting your finger muscles, helping you build the necessary strength for rock climbing.

B. Finger Pull-Ups

Finger pull-ups are a more advanced exercise that can significantly improve your finger strength. At the beginner level, perform this exercise with band assistance. Progress without resistance bands once you advance sufficiently. Here’s how to do them:

For beginners:

  • Secure a resistance band above a pull-up bar and loop it around your foot.
  • Hang from the bar with the band assisting your weight.
  • Focus on using your fingers to pull yourself up.
  • Aim to complete five repetitions with the band’s assistance.

For advanced climbers:

  • Unassisted hanging from a pull-up bar
  • Use only your fingers to pull your body up.
  • Aim for ten reps without any bands.

These pull-ups are like a finger-specific challenge that will help you develop the finger strength needed to tackle even the toughest climbs.

C. Finger Hangs

Finger hangs are an excellent exercise to develop finger endurance. Here’s how to do them:

  • Find a sturdy pull-up bar or hangboard.
  • Hang from the bar using just your fingertips, keeping your arms slightly bent.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can.
  • Aim to gradually increase your hang time over multiple sessions.

Finger hangs will not only build strength for your fingers but also improve your grip endurance, allowing you to hang on to those challenging holds for longer periods.

2. Calisthenics Forearm and Arm Workout

Strong forearms and arms are essential for rock climbers, providing the strength and stability needed to grip and control your body tension on the rock wall. This calisthenics workout focuses on building your forearm and arm strength, and it’s suitable for climbers of all levels.

A. Over/Under Hold

This exercise targets your forearms and arms, which can improve grip strength. It is suited for both beginners and advanced climbers, making it a great part of your regular workout routine.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a sturdy pull-up bar or any horizontal bar at chest or shoulder height.
  • Grip the bar as if you were going to do a chin-up, with your palms facing you.
  • Keep your arms between a 90º and 180º angle.
  • Change the grip on one hand to a pull-up grip, then do the same with the other hand.
  • Alternate between the overhand (pull-up grip) and underhand (chin-up grip) positions

For beginners, start with a comfortable number of repetitions, such as 5-10 switches. Advanced climbers can aim for more switches and longer hold times to challenge themselves.

B. Pull-ups With Towels And Balls

Suited for advanced climbers, beginners should master regular pull-ups first.

This advanced exercise takes regular pull-ups to the next level by incorporating towels and balls to increase forearm and arm engagement. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hang a pair of towels or ropes over a pull-up bar and attach balls or weights to the ends.
  • Grip the towels with both hands, ensuring your palms are facing each other.
  • Hang from the towels, allowing your body to fully extend.
  • Perform pull-ups while maintaining your grip on the towels and keeping them stable.
  • Aim to complete ten reps or more, depending on your strength level.

This exercise requires a high level of forearm and grip strength, making it ideal for advanced climbers looking to challenge themselves further.

3. Upper Body Exercises for Climbers

Having a strong upper body is crucial for rock climbers. It helps you pull yourself up, hold onto tricky holds, and manoeuvre through challenging routes. Here, we’ll explore two upper body exercises that can benefit climbers at different skill levels: muscle-up sets and clapping pull-ups.

A. Muscle-Ups

Muscle-up exercises are an advanced upper body exercise and are considered to be the pinnacle of upper-body strength exercises. They target your arms, chest, and back muscles, making them a fantastic choice for advanced climbers looking to boost their strength. 

Here’s how to do them:

  • Start by hanging from a pull-up bar or gymnastic rings with both palms facing away
  • Pull your body up until your chest is level with the bar or rings.
  • Push yourself up even further and over the bar until your arms are fully extended.
  • Lower yourself back down and repeat the process.

For beginners and intermediate climbers, it’s best to focus on building strength with regular pull-ups and dips before attempting muscle-ups. These exercises will help you develop the necessary muscle power to eventually tackle muscle-up sets.

B. Clapping Pull-Ups

Clapping pull-ups are an explosive upper body exercise that can improve your strength and agility. Here’s how to do them:

  • Use a pull-up bar to hang from with both palms facing away from you.
  • Perform a pull-up as you normally would.
  • As you reach the top of the pull-up, explode upward and release your false grip.
  • Quickly clap your hands together before grabbing the bar again.
  • Lower yourself down and repeat.

For beginners, you can start by practising explosive pull-ups without the clap and gradually work your way up to clapping pull-ups. Intermediate climbers can attempt clapping pull-ups with less height and intensity before progressing to full claps.

4. Core Workouts For Rock Climbers

A strong core helps you maintain balance, control your calisthenics movements, and reach for those tough holds. Here, we’ll explore three exercises that cater to climbers of different skill levels: the L-sit, planks and flags, and dips.

A. L-Sit

The L-sit is a fantastic core tension exercise that also works your arms and hip flexors. Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit on the ground with legs extended up front.
  • Place both hands on the ground beside your hips with fingers pointing straight forward.
  • Lift the body above the ground, keeping your legs straight and forming an “L” shape with your body.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can.

For beginners, you can start with one knee bent and gradually progress to both legs straight. More advanced climbers can attempt L-sits with straight legs and lift them higher for an added challenge.

B. Planks And Flags

Planks and flags are superb exercises to build core strength and stability:

I. Planks

Lean forward into a push-up position with your forearms on the ground. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels. Hold this position for as long as you can before returning to a standing position.

II. Flags

Begin by hanging from a pull-up bar or similar structure. Lift your legs up in front, keeping them straight while your upper body stays still. Hold this position.

For beginners, aim to hold these positions for 20-30 seconds and gradually increase the time. Intermediate and advanced climbers can challenge themselves with longer holds or by adding variations like side planks.

C. Dips

Dips are excellent for strengthening your core, triceps, and shoulder stability. Here’s how to do them:

  • Find parallel bars or a sturdy surface, like the edge of a bench or two chairs.
  • Place both hands on the bars and slowly lower your body by bending your arms.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.

For beginners, you can start with bench dips or use assistance from a resistance band. Intermediate and advanced climbers can perform dips with parallel bars or rings for added difficulty.

Final Words

Calisthenics exercises, pure strength training, and targeted exercises like those for fingers, upper body, and core are essential for rock climbers. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced climber, these exercises can enhance your climbing abilities by building the necessary strength, endurance, and balance. With dedication and a well-rounded training regimen, you’ll be better equipped to conquer the toughest rock faces and reach new heights in your climbing training. 

So, gear up, train smart, and keep climbing!

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