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Exercises for developing climbing muscles

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I started indoor climbing a few months ago and I love it so much! I'm not in a very bad shape but I'm not progressing that fast. I get tired really fast during my climbing classes and I know that part of it is because of bad technique and me not using my energy efficiently, but I'm sure it has also to to with me lacking strength and endurance in the muscles involved in climbing.

So I was wondering what kind of exercises I can do in the gym and at home (considering that I own a couple of 3kg dumbbells and a pull-up bar) to strengthen those muscles? The main muscles involved are shoulders, biceps, forearms, lats, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. And fingers of course.

I've heard that pull-up are one of the most effective exercises for climbing, but I can't even make a single pull-up yet...

Any advice on the best exercises I should focus on?

Replies

  • debrakgoogins
    debrakgoogins Posts: 2,033 Member
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    My son is a climber. I go with him when he’s home for a visit. It’s a challenging sport! There could be many things contributing to your fatigue. Are you eating enough to fuel your workouts? Are you hydrated? How is your cardio vascular health?

    Push ups (start on your knees or a bench, against the wall if you have to) and pull ups (try assisted pull ups using bands) are a good start but total body conditioning will do you more good. Planks, step ups, box jumps, leg lifts, and squats are good to help you build overall strength and a solid core. Add some cardio as well to help you increase stamina. Don’t be afraid to ask the experienced climbers in the gym for advice.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    You should mostly be using your legs. And your balance. I guess try single leg deadlifts.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,865 Member
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    A good chunk of your issue is technique...you should be using your legs way more than your upper body.
  • scorpio516
    scorpio516 Posts: 955 Member
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    If your using your arms, your doing it wrong. Practice, practice, practice. With better technique, you'll barely use your arms
  • RhiAnLewis17
    RhiAnLewis17 Posts: 2,299 Member
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    I always found that when I did bouldering they said to use the legs more, your arms should only be doing a minimal amount of support and stabilising. And also building the core for stability.
  • oat_bran
    oat_bran Posts: 370 Member
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    My son is a climber. I go with him when he’s home for a visit. It’s a challenging sport! There could be many things contributing to your fatigue. Are you eating enough to fuel your workouts? Are you hydrated? How is your cardio vascular health?

    Push ups (start on your knees or a bench, against the wall if you have to) and pull ups (try assisted pull ups using bands) are a good start but total body conditioning will do you more good. Planks, step ups, box jumps, leg lifts, and squats are good to help you build overall strength and a solid core. Add some cardio as well to help you increase stamina. Don’t be afraid to ask the experienced climbers in the gym for advice.

    I would say that I'm not in bad shape. I run 3-4 times a week, so my cardio vascular health should be okay, I guess. I'm eating in a small to (rarely) moderate deficit, so I'd say enough. Ditto for hydration. I'm guess my fatigue stems mostly from bad technique like everyone here says.

    Thanks for the advice on the exercises! Especially the idea of using bands to do pull-ups! I tried it today already and it works! I can now actually do a few pull- ups and train these muscles!
    You should mostly be using your legs. And your balance. I guess try single leg deadlifts.
    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    A good chunk of your issue is technique...you should be using your legs way more than your upper body.
    scorpio516 wrote: »
    If your using your arms, your doing it wrong. Practice, practice, practice. With better technique, you'll barely use your arms
    I always found that when I did bouldering they said to use the legs more, your arms should only be doing a minimal amount of support and stabilising. And also building the core for stability.

    Yeah, a lot of people are telling me that. That's the problem of all beginners, from what I gather. I understand that I should be using legs more, especially for pushing myself upwards, instead of pulling myself using the arms. But I still don't get it how my arms are not supposed to be doing any work. Even when I'm just static on the wall, in a good position, with my legs weighed and all, center of gravity close to the wall, and my arms straight - still my arms are tense because I'm holding the weight of my body on my arms. And especially on overhangs, even if I use my legs to push, I'm still supposed to use my arms to keep myself on the well. And that's when I get super tired.
  • KBClimber
    KBClimber Posts: 20 Member
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    The more overhanging the route, the more you will use your arms, but you should still keep your entire body tense in order to use your larger muscles to stay on the wall. One of the things you can do to use your legs more, is when you step on each hold, think about really grinding your feet onto the hold and pulling yourself into the wall with your feet. This will teach you to actively use your leg muscles instead of just hanging on with your arms. Focusing on technique is going to be far better in the long run as you can always use it no matter how in/out of shape you are at the moment.

    I think that the gym suggestions above are all good, but additionally you can focus on grip strength and stamina. Farmer's walks with a weight plate, wrist curls and extensions, or even just dead hangs on a pull up bar will help with that.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    Do you have the opportunity to climb outside? Slab routes are really fantastic teachers because there are no hand holds.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    edited December 2018
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    You also need to be using your core to help you keep your body close to the wall.

    Edit - I used to rock climb competitively as a kid. One of the many things that was drummed into our brains was that bone is stronger than muscle. By that, what was meant was that it takes less energy to keep at least one of your arms straight than bend both of them and use the muscles in your arm to bear the weight of your body.

    Here's a picture of someone bouldering. Note how her hips are very close to the rock and both arms are straight.
  • _nikkiwolf_
    _nikkiwolf_ Posts: 1,380 Member
    edited December 2018
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    I started climbing (bouldering, indoors) about a year ago. Sadly, I'm not very good, but I can repeat what other people tell me ;-)

    What most people told me is that you get the right muscles for climbing by climbing more. Seems kind of obvious, but in my case the climbing gym is far enough away that I need a car, and the entrance fee isn't exactly cheap. So I'm already happy if I make it once per week, and that really doesn't seem to be enough to develop all those climbing muscles. So I'm hoping that extra strength training at home can help somewhat.

    A lot of climbing is also core strength - being able to hold your body stable, bringing your hips close to the wall.
    On flat walls, you shouldn't need your arms to hold you up.

    A lot of the walls in my gym are more or less overhang-y. A huge part of getting to the next higher grip is technique. Often it helps to turn your body into the wall, rather than facing it straight. And then kind of twisting to get the arm up higher. (I can't describe it at all, have a look e.g. at "Neil Greshams Masterclass" videos on youtube).

    Also, try to keep your arms straight when you can, rather than at a 90° angle, then you will need less muscle strength to stay in place e.g. while thinking about your next move.

    That being said, in my opinion you still need strength in the upper body. While I cannot do a single pull-up with both arms, a lot of the people that are telling me I shouldn't need any strength in my arms/shoulders/back to climb also happen to be people that can do sets of 10 single-arm pull-ups without blinking!
    So if you have the opportunity to train pull-ups, or just hanging on it to train finger strength, definitely go for it.
    (for hang training, see the technique instructions halfway through this video )

    P.S.: and I'm so jealous you have a pull-up bar at home! I cannot install one, my doorways have no trim and I'm not allowed to drill holes in the frames. I tried making it a habit to walk to a park that has a bar where I could practice. But 25min walk (there and back) - it's really kind of inconvenient, so I haven't actually done it in quite a while... I really should, but now that it's freezing outside and dark when I get home after work, it's even less attractive. In the same 30 minutes I could also do a lot of dumbbell exercises at home...
  • jflongo
    jflongo Posts: 289 Member
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    Google or youtube Goblet Squats, those are great as well, and easy to do anywhere. Same with Lunges.
  • oat_bran
    oat_bran Posts: 370 Member
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    KBClimber wrote: »
    The more overhanging the route, the more you will use your arms, but you should still keep your entire body tense in order to use your larger muscles to stay on the wall. One of the things you can do to use your legs more, is when you step on each hold, think about really grinding your feet onto the hold and pulling yourself into the wall with your feet. This will teach you to actively use your leg muscles instead of just hanging on with your arms. Focusing on technique is going to be far better in the long run as you can always use it no matter how in/out of shape you are at the moment.

    I think that the gym suggestions above are all good, but additionally you can focus on grip strength and stamina. Farmer's walks with a weight plate, wrist curls and extensions, or even just dead hangs on a pull up bar will help with that.

    Thanks so much for the all the tips! I actually always forget that my core and legs should be tens eon overhangs to help the arms to hold my weight! I guess my fatigue on overhangs has a lot to do with that! I'll try to keep tat in mind next time. Same thing about pushing with the legs: I know that's one of the basic rules of climbing, but once I'm on the wall, it goes out of my head. I'll try the grinding-your-your-feet-onto-holds yechnique next time. It's sounds like a good way to keep the importance of pushing with legs in mind!

    Oh and I didn't know there's such exercise as a dead hand! It's a great idea! Thanks!
    jflongo wrote: »
    Google or youtube Goblet Squats, those are great as well, and easy to do anywhere. Same with Lunges.

    Sadly, no. I live in a big city with no car with no mountains for hundreds of miles around, so climbing outside regularly is out of the question...
    aokoye wrote: »
    You also need to be using your core to help you keep your body close to the wall.

    Edit - I used to rock climb competitively as a kid. One of the many things that was drummed into our brains was that bone is stronger than muscle. By that, what was meant was that it takes less energy to keep at least one of your arms straight than bend both of them and use the muscles in your arm to bear the weight of your body.

    Here's a picture of someone bouldering. Note how her hips are very close to the rock and both arms are straight.

    Thanks for the advice! I keep forgetting these basic rules once I'm on the wall. I'll try to keep that in mind next time!
  • oat_bran
    oat_bran Posts: 370 Member
    edited December 2018
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    I started climbing (bouldering, indoors) about a year ago. Sadly, I'm not very good, but I can repeat what other people tell me ;-)

    What most people told me is that you get the right muscles for climbing by climbing more. Seems kind of obvious, but in my case the climbing gym is far enough away that I need a car, and the entrance fee isn't exactly cheap. So I'm already happy if I make it once per week, and that really doesn't seem to be enough to develop all those climbing muscles. So I'm hoping that extra strength training at home can help somewhat.

    I have the same problem! I get free climbing classes with my university, but it's only once a week. I'm planning to incorporate trips to the climbing gym 1-3 times a month on top of that next semester, but that's as much as I can afford to climb at at the moment time-wise and money-wise. So I really want to do something in between my classes to maintain and improve my strength and stamina. Hence my question about gym exercises. Plus I go to the gym anyway to maintain my muscle mass and get stronger, so I might as well use this time to work on my climbing muscles as well.
    A lot of climbing is also core strength - being able to hold your body stable, bringing your hips close to the wall.
    On flat walls, you shouldn't need your arms to hold you up.

    A lot of the walls in my gym are more or less overhang-y. A huge part of getting to the next higher grip is technique. Often it helps to turn your body into the wall, rather than facing it straight. And then kind of twisting to get the arm up higher. (I can't describe it at all, have a look e.g. at "Neil Greshams Masterclass" videos on youtube).

    Also, try to keep your arms straight when you can, rather than at a 90° angle, then you will need less muscle strength to stay in place e.g. while thinking about your next move.
    So if you have the opportunity to train pull-ups, or just hanging on it to train finger strength, definitely go for it.
    (for hang training, see the technique instructions halfway through this video )

    Thanks for all the tips and links! It's really helpful!
    That being said, in my opinion you still need strength in the upper body. While I cannot do a single pull-up with both arms, a lot of the people that are telling me I shouldn't need any strength in my arms/shoulders/back to climb also happen to be people that can do sets of 10 single-arm pull-ups without blinking!

    THIS!! It's so frustrating when people who tell me I don't need muscle strength at all are those that have super muscle-y arms and can easily pull their entire body on just one arm! Makes me think that after climbing for years, they don't realize how much stronger their upper body is compared to an average person.
    P.S.: and I'm so jealous you have a pull-up bar at home! I cannot install one, my doorways have no trim and I'm not allowed to drill holes in the frames. I tried making it a habit to walk to a park that has a bar where I could practice. But 25min walk (there and back) - it's really kind of inconvenient, so I haven't actually done it in quite a while... I really should, but now that it's freezing outside and dark when I get home after work, it's even less attractive. In the same 30 minutes I could also do a lot of dumbbell exercises at home...

    When the pull-up bar that I ordered online arrived, I realized that it's not possible to use it on the doors in my bedroom and living room because of how they are positioned. Thankfully it works with the door in my bathroom, but I have to install and take it down every time I want to use it. I'm also constantly afraid to break the door frame, since I'm renting this apartment. But it's still cool to be able to do that relatively easily. I can't do a single pull-up or chin-up yet. This is why I am currently doing the lat pulldowns at the gym and chin-ups on the pull-up using bands to support me. Hopefully with time I can do pull-ups for real! Also, experienced climbers admit that the lighteryou are, the easier it is for your arms muscles to hold your weight. So I hope that losing those last 15-20 lbs will help, too.