Now that most of us are limited in travel or stuck at home because of the Covid-19 international pandemic, many of our rock climbing gym routines have been impacted.
Climbers who typically go to the boulder gyms or climb outdoors at least a few times a week would now have some restrictions due to safe distancing rules imposed. We are being forced to get creative in order to stay in shape and stay sane. That’s why we’ve put together some information about complementing home trainings and workouts for rock climbers to get you through your ‘quarantine’ until we can resume back to our usual frequent climbing gym schedules and visits.
Why Home Training and Gym Climbing Goes Hand in Hand?
Though many of us are accustomed to doing all of our climbing training and workouts at the climbing gym, there are many ways for you to keep up your climbing training at home that will help you maintain and even improve your climbing abilities. While certain methods require specific equipment, like a hangboard, pull-up bar, finger grip strengthener, there are also plenty of rock climbing exercises that require no equipment at all.
Home training goes hand in hand with gym climbing because, even though you’re not climbing, you can still strengthen the muscle groups that are commonly used in climbing. Finger strength, pull strength, and lock-off strength, for example, are climbing-specific skills that can be trained at home and will surely help you to make gains in your climbing.
We also have some folks who have gone to the level of installing some climbing holds in their home for practise!
Climbing Training at Home for your Fingers
If you happen to have a fingerboard or portable hangboard at home, you’re in luck. There are so many finger training regimes that can be simply done with a hangboard, and not all of them are just focused on max strength. You can also follow a plan that focuses on hangboarding for endurance, which will help you to maintain your finger endurance while you’re stuck at home and unable to climb.
However, if you don’t happen to have a hangboard at home, there are some exercises that you can do to try and maintain your tendon strength. It’s important to keep your fingers moving, so even if you just have a rubber stress ball lying around, squeeze it periodically throughout the day, keeping your tendons active and engaged. Additionally, if you have a sturdy kitchen table, you can lay under it and prop your legs on a chair, hanging off of the edge in a half-crimp or full-crimp position. It’s time to get creative with finger training!
If you are feeling like taking things to the next level, why not consider setting up your own home climbing wall?
Exploring the different Rock Climbing Exercises
Bodyweight Training vs. Weight Training
There is one big distinction to make between the two types of climbing specific workouts that you can do at home: bodyweight training and weight training.
These two types of workouts are exactly as the words describe it. Bodyweight training relies on exercises that require no equipment but purely using the weight of your body, while weight training adds additional equipment to make a specific target movement more intense.
Bodyweight training is something that everyone can do at home, and it is especially useful for targeting core strength and body tension. Exercises like planks and plank variations are essential for climbers. You can perform planks either in the top of a pushup position or on your forearms. Lift up an arm or a leg to increase difficulty.
And don’t forget about your legs! Squats, especially pistol squats, can help to reinforce the strong lower body that climbers need, yet so often neglect. When doing a squat, keep your feet hip-distance apart and your back straight while bending at the knees and lowering until your legs are fully bent. Pistol squats, a more difficult squat variation, are performed with just one leg, so they are especially helpful for climbing movements like high-steps.
If you do have weights at home, such as a pair of dumbbells or a barbell and plates, it is a great idea to incorporate weight training into your at-home fitness routine. Weight training can help target max strength, something that comes in handy especially when you are bouldering.
Some useful circuits for rock climbers are the bench press, dumbbell bicep curl, and deadlift, as these exercises target arm, chest, and back strength, which are the main components you utilize a lot of while climbing.
With enough practice and consistency, you can become a climber workout machine!:D
How to Train Endurance at Home
While training strength at home is quite straightforward, training endurance can be a bit more complicated. It’s difficult to target the specific muscle group, namely forearm, that climbing requires. However, training general cardio endurance and lung capacity can be helpful for climbing training, and there are a number of exercises that you can complete at home to do so.
To maintain general fitness, traditional cardio workouts, such as long slow jogs, interval sprints and biking are certainly suitable to regulate your heart rate and also improve your stamina. However, you can also do some simple climbing specific HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) home workouts. Get your heart-rate up doing sets of burpees and mountain climber while also targeting arm and core strength.
When doing burpees, start by doing a pushup, then jump your feet forward and jump into the air with your hands up. Lower and repeat for a high-intensity exercise. Mountain climbers are performed at the top of a pushup position, driving alternating knees towards your chest.
What About Antagonist Training?
A key component to a complete climbing training regimen is antagonist training, it targets the muscle groups that we don’t directly use when climbing, but are nevertheless very important for injury prevention and general body strength. Antagonist training is something that you certainly can, and should, include in your home workouts and training routine.
A simple, no-equipment antagonist movement that any rock climber will want to do is pushups, which are key in helping to prevent elbow injuries. If you have a heavy dumbbell at home (or even a full 5 litre water jug), the farmer’s carry is an excellent exercise for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps strengthen your core and build shoulder stability. Simply grab the dumbbell or water jug in one hand and walk 20-30 paces, ensuring that you are keeping your shoulders rolled back and your core tight and locked.
The Importance of Yoga and Stretching for a Climber
We may be stuck at home, unable to climb, but all of us are certainly able to up our yoga and stretching game! To begin, yoga can have endless benefits for the mind and body, and climbers can definitely keep getting more of this to improve our mental capacity. Yoga breathing techniques, if properly employed, can be extremely useful when rock climbing and tackling the crux of a difficult rock climbing route indoors or outdoors.
Yoga is also extremely helpful for gaining body awareness, which is an essential component of any good climber. Though some yoga poses and stretches, you will experience how your body is changing with the shifts of your body weight from your arms to your hips to one calf and back to your forearm will help you to use it more efficiently while doing a climbing route.
But perhaps the most valuable thing that you can gain from yoga is flexibility. Flexibility is essential for climbers, and yoga and stretching can help you gain flexibility in a number of ways. Incorporating a daily yoga and/or stretching practice into your routine will help you to increase your flexibility, slowly but surely.
Finally, yoga and stretching are key components in injury prevention. Making sure that your muscles are loose and supple is a great way to avoid strains or tears. Focus on back, shoulder, hip and hamstring flexibility with yoga moves like downward-facing dog, seated twist, bridge pose or eagle pose, which are especially important muscles groups for climbers and boulderers.
So what are you waiting for, buy a yoga mat or ask for it as a present from your loved one ( a perfect climbing gift amongst many others)!
How to Incorporate Mental Training into Your Home Training Plan
Our last, but nonetheless crucial, training component that you should incorporate into your home routine is mental training. As we know, climbing is a sport that requires a highly alert and strong mental willpower. Mastering areas like fear, overcoming our mental blocks and maximising our potential to met our climbing goals.
One especially useful mental training tool for climbers is visualisation. Sit down on the floor in a quiet area with little distractions and noise pollution, close your eyes and imagine your project, whichever route or boulder problem that may be. In your head, visualise yourself sending your project, where you pause to rest, to shake off the ache and then proceed to executing every move to perfection. This exercise will come in handy when you get back on the wall, as it conditions your mind to expect and believe in a successful outcome. Many high-performing professional climbers, such as Margo Hayes and Adam Ondra, implement visualisation in their mental training routines daily.
As you can see, just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean that our climbing training has to take a back seat! There are plenty of do it yourself home rock climbing exercises, both mental and physical, that we can be accomplished with little to no equipment, even in our bedroom or backdoor. From hang boards to yoga to pilates to HIIT, let’s get training and stay in form during this Stay home Period!