Strength Training For Climbers- Boost Performance and Beat Injuries!
In light of our forthcoming Climbing Conditioning Classes run at Highball Norwich, (Watch This Space!!) we thought it would first be worth highlighting the reasons you should squeeze strength training into your busy climbing schedule. It may sound so obvious that getting stronger could boost your climbing performance but did you know that effective resistance training can also reduce injuries by up to 50%! Speaking to many climbers across the grade scale, we discovered that the majority don’t have a structured training plan in place and wouldn’t know where to start creating one.
Don’t get me wrong, as a climbing coach I wholeheartedly believe that at least 75% of a climber’s training programme should focus specifically on improving the complex skills and techniques unique to climbing. Practice, practice and more practice of the correct skills and movements will undoubtedly make you a better climber, particularly with the feedback and tips from a good coach (worth their weight in gold)! However… there comes a time (often multiple times) in any climbers career where you hit a plateau. You can climb every single pink problem but can’t touch the reds. Perhaps you’ve been working on your foot swaps and flagging for months. Pull-ups every day. You’ve even spent £100+ on the latest rock shoes and who knows how much on magic climbing chalk to give you the edge…
Here’s where strength training and conditioning, specific to climbing could be that essential key required to unlock the next level in your climbing career, boosting your performance and sending you up the grade ladder! The effectiveness goes way beyond performance though, with research showing that adequate resistance training can reduce overuse injuries by up to 50% and acute injuries by up to ⅓, far beyond that of stretching. Climbers elbow. Pulley injuries. Shoulder pain. The things of a climbers nightmares. So an effective strength training programme can have huge benefits to the beginner, through to the competitive climber.
The words in the above paragraph that make strength training for climbers more complex are specific and adequate! Which specific strengthening exercises will improve your climbing and which will help reduce the risk of injuries? And that’s exactly why we have been developing the Climbing Conditioning Classes for 2016. But for now… Here’s an overview of the benefits and our top tips for strength training in climbers.
Top benefits of adequate strength training for any climber:
- Build the strength required to climb harder and more efficiently
- Improve technique by having the strength required to maintain control
- Climb longer, delaying the onset of forearm pump
- Improve power… Perfect for dyno’s, dead points and campusy moves
- Reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries through improved muscle balance (left to right and between the agonist and antagonist muscles)
- Prevent common climbing injuries by improving strength in supporting structures of vulnerable joints
- Extend your climbing career! Delay the age-related decline in performance
- Increased bone mineral density and connective tissue strength
- Promote stability… Particularly through the deep core muscles and shoulder complex
- PLUS: Get fitter, leaner and healthier!
Top tips for strength training to boost performance:
- Strength training should only ever compliment your skill training
- Building strength for climbers requires progressive overload to promote muscle adaptation, with a focus on climbing-specific motor patterns. However, to prevent overuse injuries, it is essential to include a variety of training types and intensities. As a general rule, I usually base training programmes on 4 week blocks, changing the focus and objectives of each block.
- Recovery is key! Rest, sleep, hydration, nutrition and regular sports massage.
- Core strength! No I don’t just mean 6 packs. Having a strong set of core muscles will improve your stability on the wall and therefore reduce the stress though the arms and fingers. This in turn will help to reduce injuries of the upper limbs.
- Train the antagonist muscles. Overuse injuries often occur as a result of muscle imbalances between the over-trained ‘agonist’ muscle groups and the neglected antagonists such as the finger extensors or triceps.
- Shoulder stability- The shoulder compromises stability for mobility, meaning you can get yourself into some interesting positions on the wall but don’t necessarily have the surrounding support to protect its vulnerability. Strengthening the rotator cuff, training stability and optimising correct movement patterns can reduce shoulder injuries and improve your performance in those awkward shouldery moves!
- Improve your open-handed crimp/dragging strength. Full crimping on slopers and decent edges may feel bomber but overusing this particular position can increase the risk of pulley injuries
- Leg strength and power! Forgotten by almost all climbers. Strengthening the quads and hamstring muscle groups can have huge benefits to your climbing. Pressing out from high footed slabby moves. Pulling in from an outstretched heel. Preventing cutting loose with a desperate toe hook. Yes you need leg power! Plus, effective strengthening for the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves will reduce the risk of strains, sprains, cartilage damage in the knee and instability at the hip and pelvis.
So…if you’re serious about beating injuries and boosting the grade, making time for a well-structured and effective strength training programme in your weekly schedule could be what’s needed to give you that edge. No more blaming the old shoes or the cheap chalk… Get Training!
Boost Performance | Beat Injuries
Hoffman, J. ‘Resistance Training and Injury Prevention’. ACSM. Available online at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/rtandip.pdf
Bechtel, S. (2014). Strength- Foundation Training For Rock Climbing. 1st Ed. Climb Strong
Schoeffl, V & Hochholzer, T. (2006) One Move Too Many- How to understand the injuries and overuse syndromes of rock climbing. 2nd Ed. Sharp End Publishing
Fleck, SJ & Falkel, JE (1986) ‘Value of resistance training for reduction of sports injuries’. Sports Med; 3(1): 61-8.
Lauersen et al. (2013) ‘The Effectiveness of Exercise Interventions to Prevent Sports Injuries’. BJSM. Available online at: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2013/10/07/bjsports-2013-092538.short?rss=1