Climbing outside can take you to some beautiful places, some of which are very remote and challenging to access. As climbers, we all know the importance of keeping our fingers, wrists, and shoulders strong and injury free; however, sometimes lower body pains can prevent us from getting out to some of our favorite crags. To ensure an enjoyable and pain-free approach, incorporating strength training into your routine can make a world of difference. In this post, we'll explore the benefits of lower body strength training for climbing approaches and list out some of our favorite exercises.
Why should I strength train for my climbing approach?
The approach can involve traversing uneven terrain, carrying a backpack with heavy climbing gear or an awkward shaped crash pad while navigating steep inclines and descents. Building strength is crucial for preventing injuries and making the approach more enjoyable. A well-rounded strength training program can enhance your overall performance and keep you going strong on even the most challenging approaches.
Targeted Muscle Groups
Several muscle groups play a vital role in handling approaches. Focusing on these key areas during your strength training regimen will provide the most significant benefits:
Legs: Strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves to power through uphill climbs and stabilize yourself during downhill descents.
Core: A strong core improves balance, stability, and posture during hiking, reducing the strain on your back and minimizing the risk of injuries.
Glutes: Strong glutes provide the power needed for uphill hikes and help stabilize your hips and pelvis during long treks.
Upper Body: Don't neglect your upper body! A strong upper back, shoulders, and arms can help you manage the weight of your backpack (but hopefully you are already doing this to compliment your climbing!)
Effective Strength Training Exercises
Incorporate the following exercises into your strength training routine, aiming for one to two sessions per week:
Heel Elevated Squats: Build leg strength by adding resistance with dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.
Lunges: Targeting multiple muscle groups, lunges simulate downhill hiking.
Deadlifts: This exercise works the entire posterior chain, including the hamstrings and lower back, which is crucial for hiking on inclines and accepting the load from your backpack/crash pad.
Single Leg Calf Raises: Mimic the demand of uphill hiking by strengthening your calf muscles which helps you power up steep terrain.
Pallof Press: Strengthen your core and stabilize your spine by maintaining a neutral spine while pressing the band away from your body.
Step Ups: Load these up with weight and work on single leg strength and stability
Annie's tip: One of my favorites to train is the Box Step Up. You can hold onto a weight or put on a heavy back pack (maybe loaded with your 70m rope), to make the hike to your favorite crag more enjoyable!
It's important to gradually increase the intensity of your strength training program. Start with lighter weights and make sure you feel comfortable with form, then progressively add weight and complexity as you build strength and confidence. During initial phases of a strength program, working with a physical therapist or strength coach skilled in this area can be very beneficial to ensure proper form and loading progressions.
Important: If you have any pre-existing lower body or back injuries or conditions, consult a healthcare professional or a certified trainer before attempting these exercises to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific needs.
Strength training for approaching is a game-changer when it comes to enhancing your outdoor climbing experience. Building strength in targeted muscle groups will ensure you are well-prepared for any sketchy or steep approaches and that you do not wind up with a tweaky knee or ankle that keeps you out of prime sending form!