The 19 Best Rock Climbing Workouts for home and gym

“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” — Barry Blanchard

I needed help with my rock climbing progress

For the past several years I’ve been making slow progress in my rock climbing. I don’t climb outdoors nearly as often as I’d like, but I have a climbing wall in my basement, so I don’t have excuses for not climbing more. To get serious, I decided to put together a legit rock climbing exercise plan. Before jumping right in, I did my homework and came up with a list of the best rock climbing workouts focused on improving my abilities on the climbing wall.

I wanted a full-body workout plan to improve my climbing and all-around fitness

rock climbing workout plan
Alicia showing off on our indoor climbing wall

Rock climbing is the best full-body workout

Rock climbing is one of the best full-body workouts of anything you can do, so not only will these exercises help me improve my climbing, but they’ll help me stay fit for all my adventures for years to come. Climbing requires such a huge and varied range of motion that this workout plan challenges all aspects of fitness, range of motion, and strength.

So let’s get to the workouts

I don’t expect anyone to do all these exercises in one session. Instead, I’m listing them out and providing the how-to for each one. I’ve also listed the details of what each workout focuses on and any tips or modifications for completing it.

The exercises

Warming up

Avoid injuries by warming up

8 Warm-up exercises

Warming up isn’t rocket science, basically, you just need to get your heart rate up and limber up your muscles and joints. I chose mostly dynamic stretches for my workout plan.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are simple and easy but great for climbing workouts because they warm up your whole body including your shoulders and arms. This one is a great starter because you can start out cold and be sweating in no time.

High Knees

This one is similar to jumping jacks. It’s great for getting warmed up as well as loosening up your hips, hamstrings, glutes, and quads at the same time.

Knee Pull-Ups

After getting your heart rate going, it’s time to loosen up. Knee pull-ups open up your hips, glutes, and leg muscles.

Hip Rotations

Hip rotations help open up the hip girdle and will give you better movement while bouldering or rock climbing. This also improves your balance.

Deep Squats

Squats are great for all kinds of things. This version isn’t to get shredded, it’s just to warm up and stretch out.

Flags

Flags use similar movements to those you’ll use on the wall.

Forearm Stretch

Loose forearms are key to not getting pumped on the wall. This movement also stretches out connections to your elbow to keep it from getting injured.

Easy Climbing

Nothing prepares you for climbing, like … climbing. The goal here isn’t to onsight your project. It’s to warm up.

14 Climbing Exercises to do at home

Now that you’re warmed up, let’s get to the meat of the workout. Of course, the best way to train for rock climbing is to spend more time actually rock climbing, but we’ll get to on-the-wall drills and workouts in a bit. To start, I want to walk through my favorite exercises I can do in the basement that train climbing-specific movements and muscles without needing to go to the climbing gym. You only need a few basic items for all of these workouts.

Gear

The only thing you need for these climbing workouts is a place to do pull-ups and resistance bands. A set of dumbells is useful too, but not required.

Resistance bands
Pullup bar

Banded Face Pull-apart Exercise

This exercise focuses on your shoulder girdle and will help offset the effects of sitting in front of a screen all day. It opens the chest and strengthens the back and shoulder muscles. It’s an excellent rock climbing-specific exercise because it focuses on muscles we all use as we climb.

Banded Face Pullapart
  1. Grab the band using a double overhand grip with about 2–4 inches between your hands
  2. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hinge your hips back slightly to engage the core
  3. Extend your arms fully forward
  4. Pull the band back toward your chin
  5. Keep your elbows high — at least as high as your shoulders
  6. When the band gets to your chin, pull the band apart with both hands
  7. Hold the squeeze for a short moment and control the release of the hold back to the center
  8. Slowly control the band’s return to the starting position

Single-leg Burpee Exercise

This is a killer drill that will build power for explosive dyno moves as well as endurance for long routes. Stick to the regular burpee if you’re not ready for the single-leg yet. The key to getting more out of this (and all) exercise is to control the movements. Make them fluid, smooth, and slow. We improve our climbing by getting more controlled, balanced, and efficient in our movements so think about that as a goal for each of these climbing exercises.

Single-leg Burpee
  1. Pivot down to place your palms on the ground in a pushup position
  2. Hop up and kick your legs out behind you to end up in a plank position keeping one foot off the ground
  3. Do a pushup
  4. Hop back forward with the one leg
  5. Explode off that leg jumping off the ground and extending your arms in the air
  6. Repeat

Jump Squat Exercise

This strength exercise conditions your legs for power while climbing and falling, as well as dynamic moves. Jumping off a wall and landing is something you’ll do frequently when working on challenging bouldering problems.

Jump Squat

Single-leg Squat Exercise

Any time you go onto one leg, you’re working your balance and this drill is no exception. You’ll work your glutes and quads while improving your balance for when you’re on the wall.

Single-leg Squat
  1. Tighten your core but relax your shoulders and neck. Try to be smooth and controlled
  2. Extend your arms straight out and keep your chest upright
  3. Drop down into a squat
  4. Raise out of the squat and stand onto your toes
  5. Hold a single leg tip-toe for a moment and then drop down for the next squat

Pull-down Side Plank Exercise

This exercise engages your core, glutes, shoulders, and lats and develops more control and balance for those awkward moments on the wall.

Pull-down Side Plank

Overhead Press Side Plank Exercise

This exercise targets your delts, traps, and triceps for improved pull-up strength and control

Overhead Press Side Plank
  1. From the side plank position — feet pointed toward the band — hold the resistance band in your top hand
  2. Press3 the band from shoulder height to up above your head and lock out the elbow for a brief hold
  3. Keep the band tight through the whole movement

Hanging Knee Raise Exercise

This exercise builds core stabilization

Hanging Knee Raise
  1. Keep your core tight to stabilize any motion.
  2. Lower your knees back down slowly when done

Push-up with Single Arm Row Exercise

This exercise works your arms and shoulders and balances out the pulling motion used most often in rock climbing. Having a strong pushup movement is useful in topping out, mantles, stemming, and chimney moves. The pushup movement strengthens your pecs and triceps while the arm row targets your lats and biceps.

Push-up with row

Thumbless Pull-up Exercise

Pullups are the classic rock climbing exercise. Doing pull-ups without a full wrapped grip on the bar will help strengthen your forearms and fingers.

Thumbless Pull-up
  1. Extend your arms and lift your feet off the ground in a smooth motion maintaining core control
  2. Pull yourself up to the bar, hold at the top, and lower back down to full extension maintaining smooth and controlled movements throughout — no bouncy or sloppy pullups!

Spider Push-up Exercise

Just a pushup with a slight twist that further engages your obliques and works your balance.

Spider Push-up
  1. Repeat with the left leg next and alternate legs each time you go down
  2. Keep your back straight, core engaged, and maintain control of the entire movement

Single-leg Lever Exercise

This one is a variation of a pullup. As you do a pull-up you’ll lie back to nearly horizontal to engage your core. This is great for working the movements needed for climbing overhung routes.

Single-leg Lever
  1. Extend the arms and lean back to raise your body into a horizontal position
  2. Extend one leg in front of you and bend the other pulling the knee toward the chest
  3. Pull yourself up keeping your core tight and your back straight as you lift your foot into the air
  4. Slowly lower yourself back down
  5. Alternate legs each rep

Wall Sit Exercise

This exercise can be tough, but it will quickly build core stability and endurance.

Wall sit
  1. Slide down to a sitting position until your knees are at a 90-degree angle
  2. Raise your hands up above your head
  3. Hold the position as long as you can

Dead Hang Exercise

This climbing workout is almost as simple as it sounds. A dead hang is just hanging by your hands or fingers for an extended time. This will build your forearm and grip strength as well as strengthen your fingers and joints against injury.

Dead Hangs

Back Extension Exercise

This climbing workout is almost as simple as it sounds. A dead hang is just hanging by your hands or fingers for an extended time. This will build your forearm and grip strength as well as strengthen your fingers and joints against injury.

Back Extensions
  1. Activate your back muscles by squeezing your shoulders together
  2. Hold in a raised position for a moment
  3. Avoid raising your chin up out of line with your spine

5 On-the-wall Exercises

Bouldering Strength Intervals

This is a basic climbing workout for the bouldering gym that will help with both strength and endurance.

Bouldering Strength Intervals
  1. Climb each problem with a 3-minute rest between each problem
  2. Repeat the six problems 3 times each

Bouldering Power Intervals

This is a good climbing workout to help improve climbing power and speed

Bouldering Power Intervals
  1. Complete the problem 3 times in a row with a rest between each climb

Lockoff Interval Exercises

This is a static climbing move where one arm contracts to pull you up the wall while the other extends to reach a hold. As you gain lockoff strength, you’ll be able to lock off at smaller angles (interior elbow angle) leading to a higher reach up the wall. Lockoff strength also helps shorter climbers reach further up the wall.

Lockoff Intervals

Peter Pan Exercises

Peter pans are targeted to improve your dynamic core strength — an essential to good climbing. Peter pans are done by kicking your legs out behind you on routine climbing routes to stress your core tension and control.

Peter Pans

Ladder Exercises

Ladders are great for building endurance while at the gym. Ladders will keep you engaged while keeping you on the wall for a longer time period.

Ladders
  1. Begin climbing to the first bolt or to the top of the route if it’s short
  2. Descend back down and proceed back up
  3. You can move in a zig-zag pattern to keep things interesting
  4. Keep moving smoothly and steadily, avoid resting positions
  5. Stay on the wall as long as you can without falling off
  6. Time yourself to see how long you can keep going and work to improve your time

10 Cool-down stretches

Ab Stretch

How-to: Lie down on your stomach. Bring your arms into a pushup position and extend them to raise your shoulders up. Keep your hips pressed into the ground. Lean back to feel a stretch in your abdomen.

Spine Stretch

How-to: Kneel on all fours in a neutral position. Drop your head and tail bone and round your back and neck. Hold this position and slowly curve your spine down and raise your head and tail bone

Hip Flexor Stretch

How-to: Kneel on your left leg and bend your right leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle. Push your weight forward into your hips. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back Stretch

How-to: Lie down on your back and curl your knees into your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back.

Standing Forward Bend

How-to: Stand on your feet and slowly rotate down. Try touching your ankles and your feet or the ground. Keep your knees straight

Quad Stretch

How-to: Pull one foot up behind your back with your hand until you feel a stretch in your quad. Repeat on each side.

Calf Stretch

How-to: Extend one leg back keeping both feet flat on the floor. Lean into the wall and keep your back knee straight and front knee bent. Repeat on both sides.

Shoulder Stretch

How-to: Grab your right elbow with your left hand in front of your chest. Pull your elbow into your chest with your right hand extended to the left. Repeat on the other side.

Bicep Stretch

How-to: With straight arms, clasp your hands behind your back. Raise your hands out away from you.

Child’s Pose

How-to: Sit on your heels and reach your arms out in front of you flat on the ground. Exhale and relax.

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Hi, I’m Chris. I started Adventure School to help you get out on more adventures. Follow us and learn the skills you need to get out on your next adventure.

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Chris Allen

Chris Allen

Hi, I’m Chris. I started Adventure School to help you get out on more adventures. Follow us and learn the skills you need to get out on your next adventure.

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