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Core strengthImproving core strength for climbing

Heel Hooking requires core strength to transfer power to the upper body.

Building core strength is important to ensure the communication between the upper and lower body. This is important for climbing as footwork is essential to good technique as is transferring this technique to the upper body.

This only ever becomes more apparent as climbers advance into steeper routes and overhangs.

Keeping your body close to the wall is crucial to success on steep routes and many climbers fail due to a blend of bad technique and poor core strength.

Other more advanced routes will require you to put even more focus onto advanced footwork techniques. This can usually mean heel hooks and toe hooks. For the most part, core strength will help you to maximize the strength from your lower body.

We are going to show you some core strength exercises that you can do either at home or in the climbing gym to help improve your core strength:

Exercise 1 – Incline Wall Traverse – Novice/Intermediate

As far as exercises to strengthen the core go, the easiest way to build core strength for newcomers to climbing is to do traversing on inverted walls. Aim to do about 10-20 different moves (Depending on your strength) using big hand holds (Don’t stress your fingers). Try to keep your body as close to the wall as possible and go for a range of movements.

Aim to do 3 sets with a rest in between each one.

Exercise 2 – Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises are a good way to work out the lower core muscles and can be done in conjunction with upper body strength building exercises such as static hangs.

Start with a straight arm hang on a pull up bar and pivot your legs 90 degrees.  Your upper body should remain motionless and you should not swing whilst doing this exercise.

Aim to do 8-10 reps for 3 sets. To increase difficulty slow your movements down and increase the amount of time you take to raise and lower your legs. To decrease difficulty, try bending your legs at the knee whilst lifting.

Exercise 3 – Body Curls – Intermediate

Credit: Mike Clelland

Body curls are an excellent climbing-specific exercise to help you build strength in both the upper and lower core muscles including hip muscles.

Start by hanging from a pull-up bar or from rock rings with straight arms. Then slowly lift your knees up to your chest and at the same time roll backwards so that your knees pass between your arms. Then lower your knees and return to the straight armed hang.

You should aim to do between 6-12 reps if you can, but start with 2-4 reps until you build strength. Aim to do 2 sets after a short rest in between.

Exercise 4 – Front Levers – Intermediate/Expert

Front levers for climbing

Credit: Mike Clelland

Front levers can be a very hard exercise to perform and require a certain amount of core strength to perform, making them an exercise for more experienced climbers or those with a good foundation in core strength. However, if you can nail the basics, this exercise can be one of the best exercises for core strength.

The aim of this exercise is to end up in the position with your body horizontal 90degrees whilst holding onto a pull up bar.

There are different stages to go through for this exercise to build up to the final aim:

– Ideally you should be able to do a hanging leg raise with a full range of motion.

– The next stage is a tucked front lever

– Then slowly learn to perform the lever with your legs gradually getting to the fully extended position (This will take some time so take it slowly and build up to the final position)

– You can make this exercise easier by extending one leg at a time until you can manage the fully extended position.

Non climbing specific exercises

Obviously you can do regular non climbing specific exercises such as crunches, sit ups and planks but these are not tailored to climbers and isolate muscles as opposed to building overall core strength.

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