Beginner Training (0 – 1 years experience)
The first step to getting into climbing shape is simply to climb on a regular basis. A couple hours at the climbing gym or an afternoon at the crags, three or four days per week, will increase your general level of fitness as well as producing rapid gains in climbing-specific strength.
While climbing offers the most specific training, there are several good reasons to also engage in supplemental training.
First, a modest amount of aerobic training will benefit your climbing measurably by improving stamina and lowering percent body fat. Similarly, it’s important for a novice who lacks the base strength needed to learn fundamental climbing moves (can you do ten pull-ups?) to perform some climbing-specific training of the pull muscles. Finally, some basic push-muscle training will help to prevent muscular imbalances (and lower injury risk) that often develop among climbers.
Remember, the steep learning curve of climbing technique means you will make the fastest gains in absolute ability by investing your available workout time into actual climbing versus taking away from climbing time to engage in extensive fitness training. The bottom line: For a beginner, climbing is the best training for climbing. Therefore, vow to make paramount the learning of climbing techniques, tactics, and strategy and you will be on the fast track to become a skilled, successful, and strong climber!
Training Tips: Climb three days per week to develop essential technical and mental skills. Join a climbing gym in order to meet the three-day-per-week goal. Engage in supplementary training with basic body weight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, dips, core training, and aerobic training.
Nicros training tools: Pump Rocks for basic grip, pull-up and dip training.
Intermediate Training (1 – 3 years, 5.10 – 5.12)
As you progress into the realm of being an intermediate climber, you will also need to begin some targeted training for climbing. Success at the lofty grades of 5.11 and above often demands specialized strength skills such as the ability to lock-off on one arm, hang on a two-finger pocket, or throw a lunge. Such physical attributes are best developed with a blend of climbing and intelligent training for climbing.
To develop such sport-specific strength it’s best to engage in supplementary training exercises at the end of your climbing session (as long as the session has not exhausted you). Alternatively, you can perform two strength training sessions per week in addition to two climbing days. In aggregate, training and climbing must be limited to a maximum of four days per week.
Choose exercises that will develop maximum pull-up and lock-off strength, finger strength, and local endurance in upper-body pull muscles and fingers. A bouldering wall is essential for such training, so you should consider building a home training wall if there is not a commercial gym nearby.
Training Tips: Build a home wall! Climb outside at least once or twice per week and climb indoors another two days per week. Conclude climbing sessions with a period of supplemental training to target lock-off strength, pull-up endurance, the core, and the antagonist push muscles.
Nicros training tools: Hangboard, Pump Rocks, Home Wall (with 30 and 50 degree overhanging panels), HIT System (to train maximum grip strength). Many medium to large hand holds for your climbing wall!
Advanced Training (3+ years experience, 5.12+)
Advanced training is all about the high-intensity, sport-specific exercises and climbing drills. Maximal bouldering, hypergravity training, HIT, campus training, and interval training are all important elements of effective training. Your workouts should cycle between training maximum strength/power and anaerobic endurance every two or three weeks.
Obviously, this highly targeted training is extremely stressful and potentially injurious. Planned rest days (at least 3 per week) and a mature, disciplined approach to training are essential.
An effective home-gym workout comprises three parts: a twenty- to thirty-minute warm-up, thirty to sixty minutes of serious climbing, and ten to twenty minutes of supplemental and strength-training exercises.
If training maximum movements and upper-body power is the goal of the day, then working on difficult four- to ten-move boulder problems is the winning ticket. Exercise your creativity and develop boulder problems that test the movements and body positions you find difficult or most strenuous. Of course, working such movements will in the long run make you stronger and more competent at them. Make it a goal to establish specific boulder problems versus just climbing around on the wall. Rest a few minutes between each problem so that you can give each attempt your best effort. Enlist a training partner to join in on the fun, and take turns setting problems.
Over the course of several sessions, you will come to know and perfect many different boulder problems of varying difficulty. This achievement opens the door to a powerful strategy for training
anaerobic endurance–interval training. As the name implies, interval training involves alternating brief, intense bouts of climbing with brief rest intervals. Beginning with some of your hardest established boulder problems, send one at a time with just a two-minute rest in between each burn. The goal isn’t necessarily to successfully ascend each problem, although it’s ideal if each training interval does last between thirty and sixty seconds (for boulderers) and two to four minutes (for roped climbers). Continue in this interval-training fashion for thirty to forty minutes. If you keep to the proper time structure, this will equate to about ten to twenty complete intervals–a heck of a workout that will yield big payoffs on the rock.
The final stage of the workout takes place off the wall as you execute supplement exercises such as pull-ups, dips, hangboard exercises, reverse wrist curls, sit-ups, and such. Also important are the antagonist push-muscle exercises that help maintain muscular balance in the elbows and shoulders (vital for protecting these joints). Conclude the session with some light stretching to encourage blood flow and speed recovery.
Training Tips: Engage in targeted training such as maximal bouldering, HIT and campus training (terminate a session at the first sign of joint or tendon pain), and interval wall climbing. Warm-up and cool-down with moderate
pull-up and hangboard exercises. Train the antagonist muscles twice per week. Don’t overlook the need to constantly improve mental and technical skills–even elite climbers can elevate their technique and climbing strategy.
Nicros Training Tools: Hangboard, HIT system, Campus Rungs. A home wall equipped with many small and medium crimp holds, a variety of pockets, slopers, and pinch holds.