In this blog, we talk about the reasons for holistic training, and how it can help you level up as a climber. We also share resources on some great videos and channels you can use to help learn more about complementary training.
When you’re a new climber, the most common advice you get for improving is “climb more”. Of course, climbing more builds familiarity with the wall, confidence and strength. But inevitably, you’ll find yourself plateauing.
Climbers who plateau either
1) join a one-time climb class in hopes of improving their technique,
2) try to follow YouTube videos to improve, or
3) get frustrated with their progress and eventually give up.
We’ve found that building a good strength and mobility routine through functional training helps to improve a climber’s progress consistently. Many of our climbers found that functional training and climb training were complementary: as they got stronger, they sent harder routes, which also helped them hit their fitness goals. The progress is exciting and addictive.
This is not a new concept, or something novel that we came up with. Strength and mobility training is an integral part of climbing. In his interviews, Adam Ondra said “having flexible hips is probably my biggest strength.”
On YouTube, there are a range of videos that also speak of the importance of training:
Movement for Climbers (a great channel) includes basic functional training in this informative video on maximizing your first year of climbing.
HoseokClimb did a focused and intentional training programme for 3 months and his progress was great.
So why isn’t functional training widely practiced or talked about in climbing?
“I believe it’s because there’s no single source of truth for climbing training. You have to search for this information, which is time-consuming. As a result, many climbers and coaches settle for what their friends or colleagues tell them to be true. Much of which is outdated.” - Forrest Hall, Onsight Built
Let’s caveat something here: climbing is still the primary way to improve climbing. Climbing often and climbing a variety of routes is the first step. Yes, functional training is also important, but your technique has to improve along with your strength. Make the gains count for something! With that, let’s get into the different training modalities for climbing.
The most underrated form of training, but one of the most essential. Mobility training incorporates exercises that increase the range of movements and motions your body can perform. These include flexibility, but also balance, pliability and strength. The full combination is the best way to avoid injury. With an inadequate range of motion, other (often weaker) muscles compensate. This can lead to injury and pain.
At Project Send, we use the FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) system, so we can safeguard your joints for joint health and longevity. Watch an explanation here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CmKBNQIJ_IP/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
“Mobility and stability is probably the most important training a climber can do away from the crag is to injury-proof himself. The results are reduced injury, improved range-of-motion, and improved core function.” - Steve Bechtel from Climb Strong.
In coach Matt Chapman’s latest post, he ranked flexibility and mobility as one of the top 3 bouldering skills. Watch here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/ClxWfL6AKEa/
Tom Merrick has some calisthenics and mobility videos for climbers:
Another informative and helpful mobility video with some good explanations and exercises by Hooper’s Beta:
Our mobility coach Nicole has a hamstring exercise to develop strong heel hooks and push off strength.
Calisthenics refers to any bodyweight exercise. It uses the resistance of your body and gravity to help strengthen your muscles and improve your coordination, endurance and mobility.
“It's a carefully curated set of exercises designed to help climbers to stay engaged on the wall and overcome their physical limitations. From having the upper body strength to hang on overhangs to having the lower body stability on the slab wall, any climber can draw benefits from this training as bodyweight training mimics the maneuvering of their bodies in space during the climb.” - Sean, calisthenics coach and climber.
Some good YouTube videos for beginners:
There are also a whole host of Calisthenic tutorials for climbers:
The most popular or well-known modality. Strength training involves the performance of physical exercises that are designed to improve strength and endurance. It can be done by using weights, resistance bands as well as your own body weight.
“Having a focused strength and endurance training plan (for climbing) will translate to improvements when you’re taking on the next problem.” - REI.com
The basic idea is that for any given move, a stronger climber will use a smaller percentage of his maximum strength. Thus they'll be able to focus on their technique better and be more resistant to fatigue. Using weights also helps to build power and strength, which improves your dynamic movement.
The hardest moves on rock simply cannot be correctly executed without sufficient ability to generate force.” - Bechtel, ClimbStrong
A good video to watch that weighs the pros and cons of weight training by HoopersBeta:
And of course, Magnus Midtbø also has some tutorials:
In Singapore, functional training is usually only introduced to competitive climbers, and is mostly passed down to regular climbers through social media. However, just following a whole bunch of strength or mobility videos on YouTube might not be effective in the long run.
An important factor to improvement is specificity. “Specificity in weight training is important. Most people don’t have the training, guidance, or hours and hours of free time for research to do it right. Basically, most people don’t know how to weight train in a way that will specifically help them with climbing.” - Jason Hooper from Hoopers Beta.
Having a coach on the journey with you can keep you in check with form and function, keep you accountable, and help you track your progress and meet your goals.
If you feel like you could benefit from structured guidance and training, we offer a variety of functional training group classes that we’ve tested, developed and are continuously improving to help you get to where you want to be.
For a programme that tracks your individual progress and groups you with like minded climbers who want to improve or grow their love for the sport, check out our 10-week programme.