Training Goals And Regimens

A training program should be designed to develop and maintain strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. Added benefits will be greater confidence and fluidity on the rock.

The energy required for muscular contraction is derived from three energy-producing systems (each of which produces adenosine triphosphate

[ATP], the final common source of chemical energy for muscle).

The primary source of energy for sustained or repeated muscular contraction requires oxygen and is referred to as the aerobic system.

The other two systems do not utilize oxygen and are referred to as anaerobic. They are important when the demand for energy temporarily exceeds the capacity of the aerobic system, or during sudden muscular contractions demanding energy before the aerobic system can supply it.

Training should include use of all three of these energy-producing systems.

Be careful you don't hurt yourself while you train. Common causes of injury arc overtraining, trying to increase strength too quickly, and failing to pay attention to early signs of overuse or acute injury, especially to tendons of the elbows and of the fingers.


Strength refers to the maximum force that can be exerted against a resistance. A practical example might be the heaviest weight you could lift a single time.

Developing strength is useful for individual moves or short sequences when maximum strength is required for a brief time. Maximum muscular effort requires use of the anaerobic energy systems. These can be trained using routines that alternate periods of intense muscular work, from seconds to less than 2 minutes, with periods of rest.

The best approach is progressive muscular overload exercises. This includes weight training with heavy loads and few repetitions, or other short-duration, near-maximal efforts, such as hanging from small holds for brief periods. A description of training regimens is beyond the scope of this chapter, but climbers can consult books and magazine articles devoted to strength training.


Endurance is the ability to sustain muscular effort over time. Although crux sections of a pitch may require considerable absolute strength, climbing a full pitch, or more particularly a multipitch route, requires muscular endurance.

The primary energy system involved is aerobic, and the best training approach is lower-resistance, higher-repetition exercises than the ones used for strength training. You can adapt this approach to weight training, finger-board routines, or sustained bouldering.

Aerobic activities—such as jogging, bicycling, swimming, or rowing—help develop cardiovascular fitness, which aids in any sustained rock climbing effort. This is particularly true for alpine climbs, where the approach may be strenuous and where rapid progress up a long route can be essential.


Perhaps the best way to improve your balance is simply to climb. Try climbing exercises, such as moving up a slab without the use of hands, or working on difficult boulder problems that require balance. You can also devise other exercises, such as walking across a tightly stretched rope suspended above the ground. Many dancers take readily to climbing; dance lessons might improve both balance and flexibility.


Flexibility is essential for all rock climbing beyond an elementary level. Many books are available that describe stretching exercises to improve flexibility. They should be done regularly, like any training exercise. Take care to avoid injury.

Weight loss

You can increase your relative strength and endurance by losing excess weight, thereby decreasing the number of extra pounds you have to lift with your arms and legs. A lower body weight may enhance balance and flexibility as well.


Climbers can take advantage of natural resources to train specifically for the strength, endurance, and technique required in climbing.

Look for opportunities to climb on boulders at local crags or at developed climbing areas. Bouldering lets you practice close to the ground without needing a belay. Work on low-level traverses and on short but difficult problems.

Buildering is the same idea as bouldering, but using the sides of buildings instead of the sides of rocks. Beware of conflicts with authority.

Top-roped climbing is another training tool. In top roping, you are belayed so that any fall will result in only a short drop—just the distance the rope stretches when it takes your weight. Because you're safe, you can practice techniques and push the limits of your ability, increasing strength and confidence. You can try moves you wouldn't be willing to go for if you were leading a climb, belayed only from below and risking a leader fall.

Continue reading here: Specialized Equipment

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