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Sport Specific > Climbing-Rock > Post-Season Climbing

Post-Season Climbing Training Series
Part II

This compilation is the second of a series of Body Results newsletter articles that provide you with some varied, challenging, and effective off-season workouts. Part I provided post-season training exercises that you can do anywhere, with minimal equipment other than your bodyweight and a backpack or hand weights (heavy gallon jugs or dictionaries can substitute -- no need to buy anything!) This month's Part II will include exercises you can do if you have access to cable weight stacks or free weights that are common in most gyms. January's Part III will introduce pre-season gym training to help you increase your upper body, and finger strength for the upcoming summer of outdoor climbing.

Optimizing Time through Super Sets

Once you are warmed up and stretched (see Climbing Essentials and Part I for other suggestions) continue with the strength workout in the order suggested below (largest muscles to smallest). Here we've changed things slightly in order for you to get the most amount of work into the least amount of time, while still allowing worked muscle groups to rest sufficiently. This workout takes advantage of super sets. For example, in the first super set (pullups and bench press) while the lats and biceps recover from the pullups, you will be working chest and triceps in the bench press before you return again to do your second set of pullups, and so forth. Whereas before you might have done straight sets and recovered anywhere between 1-2 minutes between sets before going to the next exercise, this technique allows you to complete two different exercises (with adequate rest for all muscle groups) in the same time it previously took you to complete just one exercise. As always, when first starting a new program, take a week or two to figure out what the appropriate weights will be and work up toward the desired numbers of sets as you have time.


1a) Pullups

Pullups are one of the best exercises climbers can do in the off season to help develop forearm, lat, bicep, and finger strength for the climbing season. If you have difficulty doing bodyweight pullups, try the floor assisted version or the Gravitron (machine assisted pullups) rather than lat pull downs, so that you are lifting your bodyweight, rather than simply pulling something down to you. Work up to 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Advanced techniques including negatives, wave loading, and added weight strategies are beyond the scope of this basic off-season program, but we'd be happy to discuss them with you on an individual basis if you'd like to contact us. If you have difficulty performing this exercise with a wider grip, try palms facing each other or pronated (facing forward) with a narrow grip first.

1b) Dumbbell Chest Press

You'll compound this exercise with pullups, above. Lie flat on a sturdy bench with a dumbbell in each hand, feet flat on the floor (or propped on weight plates or a bench if your legs are short) and palms facing forward. Exhale and press hands straight up to the ceiling directly above shoulders, then lower back down, allowing a full stretch through the chest. Complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

2a) Wide Barbell Deadlifts

We suggest this exercise for climbers because of the need to have flexibility in the hips as well as a strong core; deadlift performed with a wide stance more closely mimics the movement you'll be doing against a vertical wall. In order to avoid putting on excessive mass in the legs but maximizing strength, consider doing 3-4 sets of 5-8 repetitions with an explosive leg drive, as though you were springing up in a dyno. You can even use a backpack at home (making this a squat) to more closely simulate climbing with a pack. Keep torso as vertical as possible, and try to lead with the shoulders rather than letting the butt pop up first. Keep hands underneath shoulders and knees pressing out wide to prevent scraping against the knees. (Sweat pants are handy.)

2b) Hanging Knee Raises to Chest

Great for developing endurance in fingers and forearms while also strengthening abdominals and hip flexors for overhanging routes. To increase difficulty, add ankle weights to legs or a dumbbell between knees. Avoid developing a lot of momentum by keeping movement controlled and only lower legs to parallel to floor. Try 2-3 sets of as many reps as you can do, building up to 10-12. Other variations include straightening legs and lifting as high as possible or alternating one leg at a time.

3a) Cable Rope Rows to Face

Sit at a seated row or low pulley system with a rope attachment. Grasp knot in rope with thumbs and forefingers, rather than heel of hands. Keep wrists neutral, shoulders relaxed, and elbows high as you pull rope and hands toward your face. Choose a fairly light weight (much lighter than you can use on a seated row). Great exercise to develop the rear deltoids, rhomboids, and other upper back (rowing) muscles that tend to get neglected during the climbing season from all the down-pulling. Perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions to build endurance in the upper back and shoulder muscles.

3b) Narrow Grip Dumbbell Triceps Press

Another good exercise for triceps besides Triceps Dips (see Part I) is similar to Dumbbell Bench Presses, above, except you will keep palms parallel (neutral grip) and bring the weights down close to your ribs. Complete this as a compound set with cable rope rows, 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. It's not necessary to have your feet up on the bench as shown, just enough to prevent hyperextension of the lower back. Great for developing the muscles used in stemming and mantling.

4a) 1-leg Squat

Great for developing single limb strength in the quadriceps (for mantle moves where you have to hoist yourself up primarily with one leg!) and for stretching hip flexors and quads of the leg behind you. Remember that if you have an office job during the week, it's likely that your hip flexors get fairly tight; this exercise will help you stretch and strengthen at the same time. Do 2-3 sets of 8-12 each leg, with a full pause for 1-2 seconds at the bottom.

4b) Weighted Back Raises

This is a variation on the back extension which allows you to increase the intensity -- simply add a plate or dumbbell across your chest or behind the head for even more difficulty. Exhale as you lift up, inhale and lower under control. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Remember to cool down and stretch following completion of the workout. Cardio exercise can be done before, after, or separately, depending on your unique goals, time table, and training schedule. If you feel your 'weakness' is strength training, put that first while you are fresh. If you hate doing cardio but really need it, you might consider starting with THAT while you are fresh.

For questions or comments, feel free to contact us. Remember, with any program, it's important to vary what you're doing every 3-6 weeks or so in order to prevent reaching a plateau and keep you motivated, interested, and working out. The workout above should take you anywhere from 45-60 minutes, depending on how many sets you choose to do, how long it takes to do each set, and how quickly you move from set to set. Enjoy!

This sample climbing strength program is an example of the individualized type of program available to you through your Outdoor Conditioning Coaches at Body Results. Remember, however, that everyone has different needs depending on training age, body type, individual goals, exercise history, and time available. To find out how to get your own personalized program, contact your local Body Results Conditioning Coach.Pictures courtesy of Physigraphe.


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