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Rock Climbing Exercises for Beginners

We have all the gear we need to climb and we’re fired up, but let’s take a look at five rock climbing exercises for beginners. A lot of people are looking for a quick shortcut when asking how to get in shape for rock climbing.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any shortcuts. Not yet…

The best rock climbing training we can do is to keep climbing and have fun doing it! With planning and some cleverness, we can use the best workouts for rock climbing and send our dream routes.

We’ve laid out three rock climbing training areas, technique, stamina, and strength. Each area lists a few rock climbing exercises for beginners.

Why Train?

Train for harder routes. Chasing grades can take the fun out of climbing. Our value doesn’t come from what grade we can climb. But training does unlock more terrain to climb. More terrain to climb means more fun climbs!

Let’s jump into our first training area, technique.

Climbing Technique Exercises

Precision Feet

Look at the center of each foothold before you step on it. Keep looking at the foot hold and deliberately place your foot on the hold. Don’t look away until your foot is secure on the hold.

Quiet Feet

Step onto each foothold as quietly as possible. For every loud step you make, retry the moves with new beta focusing on quieter feet.

Rest Finder

Keep an eye out for resting positions while climbing a route. Take time to practice hanging on one arm to rest, and finding positions to give your legs a rest. Extra points for kneebars and no hands rest.

Climbing Exercise Homework Assignment

Watch the entire Neil Gresham Climbing Masterclass series on YouTube. Neil has been climbing for over 20 years and has a wealth of knowledge to share. Watch the entire playlist (free on YouTube, linked below). Then rewatch the videos again in three months.

Our climbing technique helps us move efficiently up the wall. When we are climbing a ladder, we aren’t campusing the ladder with only crimps. We are keeping our weight on our feet and maintaining three points of contact.

Rock Climbing Stamina Exercises

We won’t be able to free climb El Capitan in a day without excellent stamina. And we can train our stamina with Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity, also known as ARC. ARC training is climbing continuously for 20 to 45 minutes. This could be climbing up and down the same route or traversing the bouldering wall.

ARC training can be boring, but the goal is to climb long enough at a level that isn’t too easy, but so hard that we can barely finish. We want a challenging but comfortable difficulty for 20-45 minutes. Spice up your ARC training by incorporating the technique exercises shown above.

When to start Hangboarding?

Climbing hangboard used for rock climbing exercises with two camming devices placed in the hangboard.
Will these cams hold?

Hangboards are an excellent tool to strengthen your fingers. They look like a rocket ship shortcut to go from noodles to fingers of steel.

When to start hangboarding is a controversial topic within the climbing training community. Focus on your technique and stamina first by climbing a lot of different routes at your gym or outdoors. You will see short-term and long-term gains from climbing a wide variety of routes and working through a wide variety of cruxes.

Take two hypothetical climbers. Climber A prioritizes hangboarding. While Climber B follows the ORB technique, stamina, and strength exercises.

Climber A will have the advantage in finger strength and will excel at crimpy climbs. But any climb that requires delicate stemming, flagging, or even a gaston will give them trouble. Climber B will have climbed a wide range of boulders and sport climbs. Climber B has worked on fitting and manipulating their body to efficiently ascend the wall. Climber B has built an excellent base fitness that will positively compound whenever they decide to begin training their fingers. Climber A will have to relearn their climbing technique since they have spent so long using their finger strength as a crutch.

Rock Climbing Strength Training

Rock climbing strength training compliments our other two training areas (technique and stamina). Harder cruxes will require more of our strength to send. We’ll follow a limit bouldering routine to build our rock climbing strength.

When limit bouldering, look for short boulder problems that have dynamic crux moves. The moves should be right at your limit. Our limit bouldering will look like this:

Warm-Up – Low Intensity 15 mins

  • Climb routes well below your limit. Focus on technique and movement.

Warm-Up Boulder Ladder 30 mins

  • Start with V0
  • Climb two to four problems of each grade up to your flash level (a flash in bouldering is sending a route first try while having some information about the route)
  • Only try each problem three times. If you don’t send it in three goes, move on to the next problem.
  • Rest as much as needed

Hard Bouldering

  • Four problems above your flash level.
  • Focus on problems that you want to improve on. If you’re weak on overhangs, stay away from the slab wall and work on the 45-degree overhang wall.
  • Three attempts per problem. Rest as much as necessary

More information about how to train for rock climbing can be found in The Rock Climbers Training Manual. This book has some of the best rock climbing training programs. You will create a seasonal training plan and tailor the training directly to your goals. Reference that book for additional rock climbing exercises for beginners.

Training is just one component of how to learn rock climbing. There are still many technical skills needed to become a competent all-around climber. Don’t get bogged down with training. If you find yourself in a funk, head out for a day of climbing to have a good time! A fun day of climbing keeps the training blues away.

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