Thanks to Kelsey Kerridge’s indoor climbing wall, human mountain goats can now climb any time, any day and any season. It is always sunny, warm weather on the boulders of the wall, so there is no reason for you not to get your regular fix of this high octane, high fitness-demanding sport.
But, as even the most enthusiastic bouldering aficionado knows, climbing every day can become monotonous, so it is good for both your fitness and motivation levels if you mix up your technical climbing sessions with a little pure strength and endurance training.
We know you didn’t come into climbing with the aim of building those rippling muscles, but by increasing your strength and endurance you will be able to climb better, for longer.
These are the key areas that climbing fitness sessions will improve:
Power – being able to combine strength with speed will allow you to make those big, dynamic moves effectively. Think lunging for a foothold or powering through the legs to gain a high handhold.
Endurance – maintaining a low intensity work rate over a long time will help you stay on the wall for longer.
Power-endurance – This fitness element will help you sustain high-intensity movements for longer, meaning you can do several hard moves in a row.
The following work outs are not for the faint-hearted. The first work out uses the wall and is all about developing power: the second is gym-based and works and activates muscle groups that are specific for climbing.
Power push ups/pull-ups – fitness training incorporating the wall
Work on the wall for 15 minutes, climbing sections that will put your body under pressure, i.e. routes that are 8/10-9/10 difficulty levels. Now do 50 push-ups, 20 pull-ups, 50 deep squats and 20 jumping lunges. You have five minutes to complete these.
Back on the wall, complete another 15 minutes of climbing, again working on routes that are at the edge of your ability. At the completion of 15 minutes do another 50 push-ups, 20 pull-ups, 50 deep squats and 20 jumping lunges.
Repeat this four times. By the end, you arms will be shot and you will be exhausted, but your upper body will have been pushed to its limits and your power will have increased.
In the gym – activating specific muscle groups
Pull-up retractions. Hang from a bar as if you are about to do a wide-grip pull-up. Keep your arms straight, focus on your scapula and pull from the middle of your back. Your shoulders should raise just a few inches. Lower slowly and with control. Repeat 10 times.
Push-ups with protraction. Like a normal push-up but add a shoulder protraction at the top. Keep your back flat throughout the motion, at the top of the push-up, protract from the middle of your back – feels like you are making a hump in your back. Repeat 15 times.
Prone ‘Y’s. Lying face down on a stability ball, hold a light weight with your arm straight out in front of you and dropped to the floor. Grip weight with thumb up and lift arm as far as it will go. Lower and repeat for 20 repetitions on each side.
Rotations. Sit on the ground with a platform at shoulder height tucked into your elbow. A gym ball works well for this. Hold a weight with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle from the elbow so the weight is in front of you with your palm facing down. Now keep your elbow firmly on the platform and raise the weight to head height. Lower and raise 15 times. Check you are doing this correctly by placing other hand on your shoulder – you should feel your deltoid (shoulder muscle) working then releasing.
Wall angels. Sit with your back flat against a wall. You may need to use some force to ensure your lower back is also flat against the wall. Your arms should start out to your side, slightly bent and flat against the wall. Your head should also be against the wall. Now raise your arms above your head. You will come to a sticking point where you can go no further. Hold here for 5-10 seconds resisting the temptation to move away from the wall to move the arms further. Reverse and relax. Repeat five times.
As a keen climber, you will want to spend the majority of your time testing your climbing ability, but regular gym and fitness sessions will help you scale new heights.