Every year, more and more climbers are installing climbing training gear at home. Some climbers are looking to avoid the guilt of skipping the gym, while others are looking to complement their training routine by adding some short and intense sessions of pure strength. Some climbers find it easier to concentrate on their training while at home alone, but many lose focus when the washing machine beeps or when they use their two-minute rest time between sets to water the plants. In either case, we are here to give you some tips to maximize your effectiveness while training at home to increase your strength and power.
Skill, endurance, and technique are difficult to train at home and should be prioritized for your sessions at the gym or, even better, by outdoor climbing.
When planning for training at home, we need to select the right gear as well as determine a proper training program.
Indoor training gear
Gear selection is crucial. Your first piece of gear will likely be a hangboard. A hangboard should, first and foremost, coordinate well with your home’s decor. But most of all, it needs to be useful. By “useful” we mean that your training gear should be designed to allow you to perform a large variety of exercises. Look for boards that have variable angles, pocket sizes, and when possible, variable tilt. A high-level hangboard will give you unexpected possibilities to perform a wide range of dynamic moves.
Common climbing training gear
If you are just starting and don’t have any training gear at home yet, not even a bar, you should start with a hangboard. A hangboard provides the opportunity to perform almost all the essential exercises. Not just only dead hangs on different sized crimps and holes, but also pull-ups on different sized pockets, slopers, and jugs for warming up. Don’t think only about developing incredible finger strength by choosing a hangboard with the smallest crimps ever. Large pockets will be helpful for performing Front Levers and Muscle Ups which are important for training your core and back muscles. Larger pockets are also helpful when trying to move into one arm dead hangs and pull-ups.
There are several options to customize your hangboard. Can you add suspension training gear? Some hangboards include eyebolts at the bottom for hanging balls, pinches, and other suspension holds. Even if the hangboard is already filled with all the pocket sizes possible, you will notice the difference when using a fixed hold and a swinging one. You will be forced to utilize all your abdominal muscles, including laterals and obliques.
The best material is not necessarily the one with the most gripping texture. The wooden hangboards feel almost impossible at first touch, but that is precisely what you need to train at your maximum. If you don’t stick to the board with just the friction of your skin, you will be forced to wake up your shoulders and back muscles, softly inviting them to come with you to train.
Scheduling your indoor training
First, you will need to commit to a training plan. Choose your favorite climbing coach/author and buy all of their books. Whether you are planning on training by yourself or together with a trainer, you need to understand the reason behind the exercises you’re working on. Understanding why a Plank is useful for climbing, or the difference between a two-handed dead hang on 6 mm edge versus a one arm dead hang on a 20 mm edge is crucial to making your training effective.
Define all the exercises you can perform with your training equipment and don’t forget simple dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. Organize your training according to your weaknesses, and write down your training plan.
Related Post: Why every climber should keep a climbing journal
Commit to short and frequent sessions. When possible, focus on one aspect at time. For example, do 45 minutes of dead hangs in the morning and then 30 minutes of pull-ups in the evening. Bet everything on the highest intensity possible. Always choose quality over quantity.
If you have a daily routine that includes job and family commitments, it may work better to do one longer session.
Include some push exercises in your workout. We mainly pull while climbing, so we should start our training with some push-ups to help warm us up before starting our dead hangs or lock-offs. Then include some more complementary (antagonist) exercises like push-ups or dips at the end of your session as well.
Top exercises for indoor training
We don’t recommend training on your own if you are new to this kind of training. Hangboarding and other climbing exercises could be really harmful. Better to ask a personal trainer, an experienced climber, or at least to buy the best books about training for climbing. We personally recommend all the books by Eric Horst and Steve Bechtel.
The ABCs of indoor training for climbing
Dead hangs develop the musculature in your forearms and fingers. Start by performing them with your own bodyweight. As your strength increases, you can increase the load with the aid of a weight belt. Remember that our body adapts quite quickly to the load of an exercise routine. You should vary your workout as soon as you notice they don’t produce maximal efforts anymore. You can change holds, hands width, or added weight.
Together with pull-ups, dead hangs are often seen as the perfect warm-up when on big holds. Focus on using proper technique to avoid totally hanging on your shoulders. If pull-ups are too hard for you, try doing “negatives” where you jump to the top and lower yourself slowly. Or perform aided pull-ups with weight removed.
Here, Eric Horst describes the scapular pull up, an exercise he claims is the best climbing exercise you’re not doing.
Dead hangs are isometric exercises. Isometric refers to exercises where you are not moving during each repetition. Anther common isometric exercise is lock-offs. Lock offs are so highly traumatic to the body that we recommend performing them only if supervised. Dynamic moves get closer to simulating the loading of climbing. You can perform them on a hangboard provided with jugs at the top. Start by grabbing a hold with one hand, then grab another hold with the other hand. Then, release the first hand and either grab the first hold again or grab a new hold. You can vary as you prefer: go with your right hand, then left hand, go back with the right and go back with the left. Imagine, create.
Front levers and other core exercises that originated in calisthenics and gymnastics are perfect for climbers, too. Focusing on those muscular groups is crucial in climbing, and yet, they are so often forgotten.
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The front lever just requires an edge or bar to hang on and some space to stretch out. You probably won’t be able to do this your first time. There’s a reason why people post these pics on Instagram.
Disclaimer: The contents of this post are believed to be correct. However, neither the author nor the website owner or the quoted authors can be held responsible for any personal or third party injuries or damage, howsoever caused, arising from its use. The author of this post is not a trainer: examples given here serve as illustrations only and are not intended to be exhaustive or didactic.
Training can lead to injuries: this content is intended to be just a part of a more complex training program that every climber should set up with a proper trainer and it has not a didactic purpose.
Hangboard training can lead to several tendon injuries: always warm-up, don’t forget complimentary (antagonist) training, take right rest and consult with trainers or other experienced climbers before starting any activity.
Source for training exercises: Training for Climbing by Eric Horst, Jollypower, Gimme Kraft.