5 training tips for climbers young and old
Canadian National Team climber Becca Frangos on hangboarding and footwork
Get Out There ambassador Becca Frangos is one of the top young climbers in Canada. She writes about her climbing experiences as well as training and nutrition tips. Thanks to her sponsors Boulder House, La Sportiva and Flashed. As well as Rocky Mountain Soap Co, the PAUW foundation and the Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence (PISE). If you have a question or would like to suggest a topic for her column let us know.
Whether you’ve recently started climbing and you’re looking to improve or you’ve been climbing for a few years but feel like you’ve hit a bit of a plateau here are 5 exercises that may help you take your climbing to the next level. These can be tailored to climbers of all abilities and remember to always do a proper warmup that includes dynamic stretches and some easier climbs before beginning your training exercises for the day!
Climbing Specific: Footwork Drills
Find a section of wall filled with lots of holds and try to get from one side to another (traversing) using 3 simple rules.
1. Use only the front of your toes on the footholds, no placing your entire foot on the hold no matter how big it is
2. Only touch the hold once with your foot, as soon as you’ve placed your foot no more shuffling around
3. As you place your foot try to make no noise, be as precise and gentle as possible. If this seems like second nature to you, try doing this on a boulder problem or route in the gym that is close to your maximum level where it’s much harder to keep perfect technique.
Climbing Specific: 4x4’s
Pick four boulder problems that you can complete at around 70 per cent of your maximum level, so when you climb it’s still a challenge but you usually wouldn’t fall off.
Climb the first boulder four times in a row followed by a four-minute rest before continuing on to the next boulder and repeating this pattern. If after a few sessions it feels easy, simply pick harder climbs.
This exercise is a great way to build stamina and increase your power endurance for longer climbs. After a few weeks of doing this that burn you feel in your forearms after completing a climb should be less intense and you should find yourself being able to hang on longer than before.
Easier variation: 3x3’s same deal as above just with 3 boulder problems and 3 minutes rest
Climbing Specific: Hangboarding
Finger strength is one of the most important facets to develop. It allows you to hang on and pull off of smaller holds as your fingers become stronger.
For some, finger strength comes quite naturally and others it takes more time to build up.
Intermittent hangs are great if you’re new to hangboarding or want to build up finger strength from a base that’s already there. Pick a hold or small edge you are able to hang off for 12 seconds. In the exercise itself, you should hang for 10 seconds followed by a three-second rest and repeat this two more times.
Take a three-minute break once this is done and repeat the 10 seconds on and three seconds off for another one to two sets.
As you hang be sure to have your shoulders engaged and away from your ears as much as possible, posture is very important to avoid injury so it’s better to hang for less time correctly or use a bigger hold rather than hanging with bad posture for longer.
If you climb two to three days per week, I’d only suggest adding in hangboarding to the start of your sessions once per week.
At home or at the gym: Hanging Core
Hang on a bar with your legs straight and slowly bring your legs up and touch your toes to the bar and then back to the hanging position you started in. Repeat this as many times as you can while keeping your shoulders engaged and limiting swing to help you reach the bar.
For an easier variation, hang on the bar with your legs straight and try to tuck your knees to your chest. Repeat this as many times as you can.
At home or at the gym: Mobility – Hips and Shoulders
Hip and shoulder mobility are in my opinion the most important areas for climbers to work on to avoid injury and to improve range of motion as your muscles grow stronger (and larger) from all the climbing you’re doing.
Hips: Stand face towards a wall and take two small blocks (or anything light and square) and place them between the wall and your torso. Once they’re placed begin to lift one of your legs straight out to the side as high as you can move it without breaking your posture and letting the blocks fall to the ground. If you feel like you’re losing your balance you can try to move your feet a bit further away from the wall.
Wall slides (shoulder): Stand with your back against a wall and make sure your entire lower back, head and back of your feet are in contact with the wall. Bring your arms up to a 90-degree angle and slowly push them up from that position until they’re straight above your head or as high as you can. Repeat this five to 10 times.
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Profile photo by Milen Kooknitkoff.