5 Home Workout Moves to Improve Your Rock Climbing
Rock climbing will give you a great — and fun — workout. The trouble is, it can be tricky to get to a rock climbing gym or do an outdoor climb regularly throughout the week.
So how can you improve your rock climbing on those days when you can’t actually climb? These exercises can help you build the grip strength, upper body strength, lower body strength, flexibility, and endurance you’ll need for rock climbing — and you can do them all right at home.
Here are some of the best at-home workouts and exercises you can do to help you train for rock climbing.
While pull-ups are popular among rock climbers for building upper body strength, bodyweight hangs — simply hanging from a pull-up bar or hangboard for as long as you can — can be beneficial too, because it mimics the hanging you’ll do on a rock wall or climbing route.
“In climbing, you’re not necessarily doing pull-ups — you’re finding a hold with a straight-arm lock-off, and you’re holding on,” says Gavin Bridgeman, owner and head rock climbing guide at Dynamic Ascents in California.
Bodyweight hangs build grip strength — which is key for rock climbing — along with upper-body strength and endurance.
How to do a bodyweight hang
- Grip a bar or hangboard with your palms facing forward.
- Brace your core and allow yourself to hang with your arms straight.
- Hold for as long as you’re able before releasing your grip.
- Rest, switch up your grip (by changing your hand position on the pull-up bar or moving to a different type of hold on a hangboard), and repeat.
Leg strength is also crucial for rock climbing, since you use your legs to push yourself up the rock wall or rock face. Step-ups can help you build real-world leg strength, and you can perform them with bodyweight only or with added weight (like a weighted vest or pair of dumbbells).
How to do step-ups
- Stand facing a box or bench. If you’re incorporating dumbbells, hold them down by your sides with your palms facing in.
- Step your right foot on the box or bench and push through your foot to lift yourself up until your right leg is straight. If you can, keep your left foot elevated behind you.
- Pause for one count, and then lower yourself back to the starting position. Perform all reps on one side before switching to the other.
- To make the move more challenging, elevate the surface height of the box or bench, and/or add weight. To make it easier, lower the surface height.
Resistance Band Lat Pulldowns
Muscular endurance plays a key role in climbing, especially when you’re holding yourself in precarious positions for an extended length of time. “It’s not about being huge and strong while climbing — it’s about being able to stick the endurance part,” Bridgeman says.
For this reason, Bridgeman recommends improving muscular endurance by doing high-rep strength training exercises with a resistance band, as opposed to low-rep exercises with heavy weights. (And when we say “high-rep,” we’re talking 30 reps.)
One solid option: Lat pulldowns, which work your forarms, biceps, shoulders, and back.
How to do resistance band lat pulldowns
- Hang your resistance band securely from a door anchor. Stand facing the door, and grip the handles of your resistance band with your palms facing toward the floor.
- Kneel on one knee, a few feet away from the door, so your arms are extended overhead. Your back, head, and arms should be aligned.
- Bend your elbows and pull the resistance band down toward your shoulders, then slowly return them to the starting position.
Rock climbing also requires mental focus, and research suggests yoga may help improve cognitive functioning. Try an at-home yoga workout like Yoga52 to improve flexibility while also increasing strength.
Rock climbing requires a solid cardiovascular base, and the best cardio workouts for rock climbers are those that mimic the movements of outdoor sports — like running, cycling, and even the elliptical (which mimics hiking with trekking poles). Plyometrics, LIIT, HIIT, and jumping rope workouts can also help you improve your cardio at home.
If there are trails near your house, you can also boost your cardio by going for a hike: “Long hikes get that cardio [fitness] up there and teach you foot awareness on uneven terrain,” Bridgeman says.