Climbing demands a lot from our core, we are quick to blame crimpy holds and negative ape index before conceiving that a move was beyond us because our core wasn’t up to scratch. Every type of route has a specific requirement from our core; it may be a minor thing, such as balance and weight distribution, or it could be a mammoth need for body tension for an overhang. Recognizing these demands will allow you to train and develop the single most important muscle group on your body.

I realize that is quite a statement and trainers all over the world will be snorting with disgust that I dare to put core on a higher pedestal than legs or back, but for me and for my clients a strong core is a strong body.

Variety when training your core is king. It is essential to target all planes of movement to keep the core balanced. Taking advantage of apparatus is a great way to stress your body and encourages your muscles to respond and adapt. With this in mind I am giving you 2 exercises that work rotation and side flexion (transverse and frontal planes).

Russian twist

Although it sounds like a vodka based cocktail, this very effective rotation based exercise is great for improving spinal flexibility while targeting the core muscles such as Transverse abdominis and Multifidus, to name a few. The exercise must be carried out with good form as with any movement that twists the spine.

1. Sit with your knees slightly bent and lean back roughly 45 degrees holding a weight in front of you. I’m using a medicine ball.

side bend

2. Hold the position, then rotate your torso to the right keeping your hips still. Control the movement with your core until the weight is close to the floor.

Russian Twist
3. Hold briefly, then using your core, reverse the movement back to the start position and then on to the left hand side and so on.

Russian Twist

The Russian twist is a safe but effective move, which is great for both beginners and core beasts. Just be aware of good form. If you want to progress the twist then either add weight or raise your feet off the ground as demonstrated in the picture.

Russian Twist

Side bends

If you have been in a gym in the last 50 years you will have seen this exercise repeated over and over again. It is tried and tested and does the trick for your abs. It is very straight forward and not very glamorous, but it is hugely beneficial in strengthening your obliques and stabilizing the spine.

1. Starting with a light weight, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the dumbbell resting on the side of your thigh.

side bend

2. Lean slowly and controlled to the side the weight is on and lower the dumbbell to the knee.

side bend 2

3. Straighten the torso and return to the start position making sure not to let the dumbbell swing.

side bend 3

Back in my spit and sawdust gym, days before I ever crimped and cranked on holds, I would have continued this exercise by pulling with my core and bending on the opposite side as shown in the picture. This can be treated as a progression, especially if you have upped your weight. But be careful and keep your form.


A Big thank you to Vauxwall climbing in sunny south London for allowing me to use their facility for the photo shoot.



Want more climbing content? Get our awesome climbing newsletter, delivered weekly.


Explore more