Limited Resources to climb? Training Tips to Preserve Climbing Fitness

This question came to me from Facebook and I thought it warranted a permanent response location. Here it is:

Question: Not all of us are fortunate enough to climb everyday, some of us are only able to climb twice a month. For training purposes, how would you tailor your training? Would your rest day be the day before a day at the crag? What advice would you give to us?

Response: Your question leaves a lot of open questions in terms of what devices and means you have for training for climbing. I will assume when you said “not able to climb everyday” that you are limited on a gym as well as the outdoors.

Some of my friends who find themselves barricaded in remote places like do some things to help stay in climbing shape. Staying fit is a priority. I always travel with an assortment of training equipment such as a Theraband, Freestyle Trainer, Grip Stick, gymnastic rings, and/or Metolius Rock Rings. That way I have many options for fingers, core, push and pull exercises — all I need is a load bearing bar and some clearance underneath to make it all work. Be creative here! Keep your overall fitness up to make the most of the days you can climb.

For finger strength:

Finger Rows

Finger Rows: make sure the pinky is on, do not crimp, this is an open hand position

Door frames make great edges to hang from, but in lieu of that, anything you can hang from (pull-up bar like, be sure that it’s safe to hang from), you can train 4-fingers, 3-fingers, 2-fingers, 1-finger dead-hangs and pull-ups. This will help with hand and tendon strength, though you will want to devote time to finger tip hangs if you continually find yourself devoid of ‘door jam’ type edges. Also, instead of wrapping your hands around a bar for a pull-up, try to use just the edge to hang and do hangs with an open hand grip (no thumb).

Another trick, if you have a weight with a rim on it, the rim can act as an edge. Put a runner(sling) through the bar hole on the weight and secure it over your pull-up contraption or some other load bearing structure and do finger hangs from that. You can also use the weight (lighter than you imagine) to close grip your fingers and train the tendons that way. This would require you start with your fingers extended, arm at your side and just squeeze the fingers closed, gently release (aim for lighter weight, higher reps).  Use the weight for fingertip rows, to continue to stress the tendons. Be sure to get all 4 fingers on the weight, do not engage the thumb.

For foot strength:
calfRaise pt1

Calf Raise, start low heels (go as low as you can) – do both legs at the same time, or alternate legs

calfRaise pt2

Finish the calf raise on toes, pause and then lower to low heels: repeat 15 to 20 times.

You might not think this, but your feet need training, too. Travel with a pair of climbing shoes. Stairs are perfect for this exercise. Since you are without climbing holds, you need to make the stairs act like jugs and small edges. If you can find a building structure or ramp that provides you some slab ‘climbing’ use that, too. Some things you can do so your feet retain strength are the following (mix things up but try to do something in the shoes for at least 30 minutes a day):

1. spend time in the shoes (start by walking around in them)
2. do calf raises on the stairs starting from low heels to toe tips (both legs or one-legged (alternate legs))
3. walk up and down the stairs on the toes of the shoe
4. if your shoes are not painful, try to push up from toes to generate a hop (your feet leave the ground) (alt feet, so spring up from one foot, then the other)
5.  if you have something to hang from that is near a wall such that you can hang and push your toes (in the shoes) against the wall to create friction and body tension (best if there is something there to latch onto), then this has the bonus of working your core and getting body tension from arms through to the toes
Finally, there is nothing better for training climbing than climbing so when the opportunity does arise, jump to it and get out there and climb!

Hope this helps.

Disclaimer:  WordPress may include ads, which I do not endorse, to various blogs following posts.

About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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