Climbing Training for Peak Performance

Clyde Soles, former “Performance” department editor for Climbing magazine, presents exercises keyed to the special challenges of the sport. The samples that follow are just a few out of 28 resistance training exercises from Soles’ book, Climbing: Training for Peak Performance, 2nd ed.

  • Lat Pull
    Why: This multi-joint exercise is the next best thing to real climbing. Lat pulls are superior to pull-ups because you can lean back to simulate the angle of overhangs and better target muscles.
  • Finger Hangs
    Why: Short of actual climbing, there is no better training for finger strength than short hangs on a finger board. Novice climbers should only use large holds and longer hangs—you need to strengthen the ligaments and tendons before working on the forearm muscles (there are no muscles in the fingers). For a multitude of reasons, no matter your conditioning, fingerboards are a bad choice for endurance training and pull-ups.
  • Straight-arm Pull-down
    Why: This single-joint exercise, also called levers, is akin to dynoing for a hold. It works the back muscles with a different movement pattern than the standard exercises.
  • Dip
    Why: A multi-joint exercise that can help on those mantle moves. This also balances the major climbing muscles. Dip machines reduce your body weight to allow more weight than might otherwise be possible.
  • Reverse Wrist Curl
    Why: These muscles are little-used when climbing so they are often underdeveloped -- the underlying source of many elbow pains.
  • Calf Raise
    Why: Strong calves are essential for all climbers -- we spend a lot of time on our toes. If you ever climb at Devil’s Tower, you’re going to wish you’d done more of these. And frontpointing up a long couloir with a pack is like doing calf raises for hours!

--Adapted from Climbing: Training for Peak Performance, 2nd ed by Clyde Soles, The Mountaineers Books, $18.95.

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