Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Core Body Strength

Core Body Strength

Core body strength is the ability to use muscles other than your arms to hold you in different positions. Some of the core muscles that are used for climbing are upper and lower abdominals, lower back, hamstrings, and calfs. Generally think of the core muscles as the ones that allow you to keep you feet on a roof, or to pull yourself onto a rock on without bending your arms. Body tension or the lack thereof is a result of core body strength and knowing how to use it.

Core Body Strength Drills:

Leg Lifts

Dead hang from good holds and lift your legs straight in front of you, bending at the waist. Lift your legs until your body forms a 90 degree bend and lower slowly. Try not to swing or kick your legs up. If you cannot stabilize yourself have a partner stop your swinging. If you cannot do a leg lift with your legs straight then bend your legs at the knees to 90 degrees. Keep your knees bent at 90 degrees for the whole range of motion both up and down. Do this until failure or repeat as many times as possible in one minute (if you cannot do this for a minute straight). Complete three sets with a one minute rest between sets.

A good climbing variation on this is to find a roof and grab a large hold with both hands. Lift your feet off the ground and lift one foot at a time and place it on a foothold. To make this harder put the feet farther away and practice accuracy with your feet. Modify the holds from underclings, sidepulls, and straight downpulling so simulate different climbing movements. The key is to place your feet directly onto a hold, tighten up (let your feet take some weight) and then release.

Banana Boats

Lie on your back and extend your arms straight above your head. Straighten your legs and then bend at the waist about 20 degrees (form a banana). Slowly rock back and forth keeping your lower back on the ground and pointing with your toes and fingers.

Try to move slowly and don't let your head or feet touch the ground. Do this until failure or repeat as much as possible for one minute. Try to do this in sets of three with a one minute rest in between.


Lie on your stomach and extend your arms straight in front of you. Move your arms and legs up and down in a small range of motion trying to keep your quads off the ground. Try to keep your legs straight, but your arms may be slightly bent.


Start on your hands and knees. Raise opposite arm and leg (left arm, right leg) at the same time to a horizontal position. From there lift the arm and leg in a reverse crunch and lower back to horizontal (one rep). Without letting you hands or feet touch the ground pull up again and repeat until failure. Do this with the other leg/arm for a minimum of one minute each side. Try to do three sets of this exercise for each side.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hand Strength

Hand Strength

Hand strength is the ability to clamp down on holds. It can be defined as contact
strength (slopers), crimp strength, pocket strength, or pinch strength. Each type of grip requires different recruitment of the muscles in your forearms, and this requires practice.

Holding a sloper requires a different amount of contraction than holding a pocket. Training on just slopers will improve your contract strength but may not help you on a steep wall with small crimpers. The trick is to train on many different hold types and to understand what your limits are. You don't want to climb slopers all evening and then try and crimp near the end. Injuries occur most often when you are tired and you try to push yourself on small holds.

You will probably want to start a general training session (after warming up) by climbing less steep, crimpier routes then moving towards larger holds (slopers and incut, open handed holds).

If you are a very strong crimper but cannot hold slopers then you may want to focus on just slopers for a period of time, thus sacrificing some of your crimp strength to become a better all around climber. The same applies for the other type of grips as well.

In addition to just climbing on different hold types there are also lots of drills that you can do to improve your hand strength:

Weighted hangs

Weighted hangs is an incredibly effective drill for increasing hand strength, when done correctly. If done incorrectly you can easily harm yourself so it is best to start out slow and progress as you feel comfortable. In order to do weighted hangs you will need various different grip types and some way of adding weight to your body (attaching a diving belt, weight vests, backpack of rocks...). Start with little or no weight and try and dead hang some of the different grips, you can switch between one or two handed dead hangs if you want more difficulty. Determine which grips are your weakest and which are your strongest. You should be able to hang from the grips for at least 10 seconds before adding any weight. On the grips that you can hold for more than 10 seconds you can start to add weight, increasing the amount until you can only dead hang the holds for 8-12 seconds.

Select three different grip types and do three sets of 8-12 second hangs on each grip
type. Rest one minute between sets and three to five minutes between grips. You can do other exercises between the sets to decrease the amount of time required to complete the drills (perhaps some core strength drills).

Hit Strips

Hit strips are a drill designed by Eric Horst and described in his book "How to climb
5.12" and more information can be found here...

System Board

A system board is a "woody" covered with different grips strategically placed at varying angles and difficulty. The nice thing about a system board is that you move your feet as you adjust your hand grips so you are actually climbing and practicing climbing movements. To train hand strength focus more on smaller holds than big moves and moving slowly between the holds.