Training for Rock Climbing: Brief Overview

I don’t want to burden you with a dissertation on training methods, but I do think a quick overview of where we are coming from and what we plan to do will help give context to the workouts that will be the meat of my posts.

The Training Team:



Stats: Barely 5’4″ and and in the triple digits. Sends: 5.10s. Interests: slabs, positive crimps, sticking her whole hand in mono pockets.


Bierson: 6'3" 165. Interests: overhangs, burly jugs, pulling roofs.

Bierson: 6’3″ 165. Sends: 5.12s. Interests: overhangs, burly jugs, pulling roofs.

I’m mentioning our situation for two reasons:

  1. The workouts I will describe are applicable to climbers of all shapes and sizes.  Workouts targeting your weaknesses will not only be the hardest, but the most beneficial.  You will be surprised at how a workout feels impossible the first time, then you feel strong on it two weeks later.
  2. Having a training partner who is strong in areas where you are weak will be one of the best ways to motivate yourself to improve.  Find the right training partner and enjoy the benefits.


Hangboard and Woody

Woody and Hangboard

Woody and Hangboard

Rock Rings

Rock Rings

Rock Rings

Plan: Divide Training into two phases: Max Strength and Resistance.

  • Max Strength = stronger fingers and muscles.
  • Resistance = training your ability to manage the pump while you are climbing.

Side Note: Most climbing books will add phases like endurance and power.  From my limited experience, power, or ability to make big moves, is often trained during max strength. Endurance, or ability to climb all day and, produces very little gain for the amount of time you need to put in.  Hence we focus on the basics max strength and resistance.

Why Phases?

  1. You will see much bigger gains focusing on one area.  It is difficult to train all aspects of climbing fitness effectively at once.
  2. Switching beween phases allows you to avoid hitting plateaus in your training.  When you start a phase you will improve rapidly, but over time the rate of improvement will slow down. Below is a terrible graph of what this looks like.

Improvement over time

Logarithmic Function

When the improvements start to level off it’s time to start a new phase.  This is the key to avoid hitting a plateau and continually improving.  The length of the phase can generally be 3 weeks to 8 weeks as a guideline   It is important, however, to listen to your body and switch phases once you feel tired and bored of the exercises as this is likely due to a slow down in improvements.

Next time we start with Max Strength workouts.


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