Climbing training - 9 effective tips

Climbing - and especially free climbing (bouldering) - has developed into a trend sport. Recommendations for training, aids and achieving holistic fitness are the focus of ambitious recreational climbers. Even climbing trainers cannot complain about a lack of interest in climbing training.

Climbing has evolved from a form of transportation into a sporting discipline. What should you pay attention to when training for climbing ? How do you support your climbing fitness with a suitable diet? In this article we took a closer look at the topic of climbing and training.

Klettern trainieren

What is climbing and climbing training?

Climbing is originally a form of movement in mountainous and elevated terrain. In earlier times it was important to climb a rock in order to explore the terrain. People have also always strived for heights for spiritual reasons. Climbing can be a part of mountaineering.

It is part of some professional activities or is used to reach inaccessible places. This more technical climbing usually involves climbing with equipment. The rock hook (bolt), which was developed at the end of the Second World War, plays a key role here.

Climbing as a sport

At the end of the 19th century , free climbing developed in Germany - in Saxon Switzerland - as a physical exercise and sporting discipline . At first, this type of sport climbing was only popular with a few people. Sport climbing was revitalized around 1950 through various techniques. Today it also includes bouldering .

This involves climbing without ropes or other aids up to the so-called jump height on rock faces, boulders or artificially constructed climbing walls . The jump height is the height from which you can jump without a significant risk of injury.

Bouldering has developed into a competitive sport in its own right. In 2021, the sport was represented for the first time at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Climbing facilities are becoming increasingly popular today.

Aminosäuren zur Unterstützung Ihrer Gesundheit

What does climbing mean for the body?

Climbing is a demanding, whole-body activity. This applies equally to free climbing and climbing with equipment. Particularly in bouldering and free climbing, strength, coordination and mobility are literally required down to the fingertips. Climbing is also a form of transportation.

Your own body weight is moved upwards. Despite all the strength and muscles required, climbers are faced with the challenge of keeping their body weight within a framework that allows them to move up the wall. Unlike some bodybuilders, the climber will not strive for mountains of muscle, but will draw strength from the depths of the muscles.

Last but not least, climbing is also a very mentally demanding sport. Focus and concentration also play a key role in how quickly and skillfully a height can be climbed. In addition, 100 percent concentration is required to learn the climbing technique and to apply it correctly to the individual movements.

How do climbers' bodies change?

On average, climbing burns up to 500 calories per hour . Climbers have a well-defined and muscular body that is still sinewy, agile and slim. Arms and shoulders develop after a relatively short training period. The core muscles also become strong because they are constantly tense while climbing.

The gripping processes, especially on the sides, strengthen the chest muscles. The bottom and thighs are also constantly under tension. If you will, climbing itself is a fantastic muscle workout for the whole body.

This is one of the reasons why it is finding more and more fans among athletes who do not want to commit themselves to competitions when it comes to climbing. Many people are particularly attracted to the connection between concentration and body control that characterizes free climbing training .

Goal of climbing training

Recreational climbers train on the wall at least twice a week and accompany the climbing with other training sessions. This is also the recommendation of experienced climbers and trainers. Ambitious climbing professionals will train more often.

The training aims to develop and maintain the key muscles, particularly in the shoulder, arm and back areas. How quickly the relevant muscles develop also depends on the fitness level at which a beginner climber starts. Climbers also develop skills in climbing techniques.

When climbing, it is important to hold and block the groin area in a certain direction. To be able to perform this technique , sufficient strength is required in the groin area. As a beginner, you may not yet have enough strength in individual parts of your body to perfect your climbing technique.

Add demanding climbing training

Various other sports can complement climbing. For example, yoga provides the necessary flexibility and coordination skills. Sports such as running and swimming provide the necessary endurance, which is also of great use on the wall. Strength exercises in the gym can also enrich training and fitness when climbing .

However, the focus here is not on building large amounts of muscle. Strength training for climbing targets very specific areas of the body, such as developing pulling strength through lat training.

Starker Rücken für eine starke Zugkraft

Which forces are crucial for climbing?

Free climbers generally need :

  • physical strength
  • Finger strength
  • Blocking force

The majority of force used depends on the nature of the climbing surface. Less steeper units require more technical climbing via finger strength. In steep terrain with strong overhangs, physical strength and blocking power are of the greatest importance. The climber must train maximum strength and endurance strength.

Otherwise there is a risk that it will not be able to stay in a wall for long. It goes without saying that training plans for climbers need to be very well thought out. It's not enough to do typical preparatory exercises in the gym. Early on in climbing, training sessions are very application-related. Trainees need knowledge about climbing , great discipline and motivation.

Training for free climbers

Boulderers and free climbers make up their regular training from different units . This includes regular exercise sessions on the wall itself. There are also various ways to train and prepare individual body components for climbing.

Basics about climbing training

Every sporting training depends on a sufficient warm-up phase. However, warming up for climbing plays a particularly important role. The climber must be agile and prepared right down to the fingertips. When you're wall climbing, you can't afford to not be properly warmed up and still stiff.

There is a significant risk of injury here if you attempt a cold start on the wall . Individual areas such as the fingers and feet must be prepared for climbing in terms of training and technology. Here, targeted, isolated units are sometimes necessary for climbing training .

Klettertechnik lernen

Aids for targeted training sessions

There are some typical training devices and tools that act as climbing trainers .

The following are interesting, for example :

  • The fingerboard or training board for finger training. Many climbers have such a board made out of wood or metal so that they can do training sessions at home.
  • The campus board as a training unit for overhangs. In addition to the fingers, the upper arms are also trained here.
  • Gymnastics rings to develop strength throughout the upper body.
  • Sling trainer to develop strength in the upper body and to develop the necessary body tension.
  • Bouldering walls and moonboards to perfect your grip and kicking technique.
  • The pegboard is used to strengthen the blocking force.
  • Balls and ball bearings (Lapis Rollyballs and Rollybar) for intensive training of pull-ups and core strength.

Climbers can regularly be found in the climbing hall several times a week. Many people supplement their training with sessions at home. A fingerboard, for example, can also be installed in the apartment or house. Depending on the space available, gymnastics rings and other aids can also be used at home. There is also the alternative of completing parts of the climbing strength training without equipment or aids.

Core climbing training for developing body tension using your own weight

Watch this video to see which exercises train body tension and strength, especially in the core muscles. These exercises can easily be done on the mat. Certain requirements of climbers can be trained using their own weight without any additional aids.


2 tips for developing more body tension :

  1. Creative self-construction of training aids

    If you want to train climbing at home , you don't always have to invest in expensive equipment. Many aids can be built yourself with a bit of imagination and knowledge of the climbing requirements. Door frames in particular, but also free wall areas, can be converted into climbing boards using self-made structures.
  2. Training with boards - increase demands

    If you train at home with self-made or commissioned boards, your training requirements can vary. Additional weights or rubber bands are used for this purpose. This makes it easy to control force and tension. Training is fun because it can be varied and new challenges always await the trainee. The situation on the wall is similar.

    The free climber is usually concerned with finding a faster and more effective way up a wall. Even a familiar wall or training session doesn't get boring quickly. Climbers are increasingly setting their own requirements to improve their technique and climbing style, even on familiar terrain. This is, among other things, one of the attractions that fascinates climbers in this sport.
Freiklettern mit dem richtigen Training

What else should you pay attention to when training?

Having your own fingerboard at home can tempt you to do a quick workout in between . This is strongly discouraged. As already described, each training session requires a comprehensive warm-up phase. It takes between 15 and 20 minutes just to warm up and prepare for the physical exertion of the training.

Think about your muscles and tendons, which you don't want to damage through your training. It is also important to gradually approach a load limit when training on boards. The first training sessions should not be carried out at the limit of your own strength and body tension . After the training session there is a warm-up phase.

You should pay as much attention to this as the warm-up phase. A typical training session at home takes between 45 and 90 minutes, including warm-up and warm-down . Just “ quickly getting on the board ” is not recommended.

Overall, beginner climbers should increase the demands very gradually. Advice and instruction in training from an experienced climber or trainer are important here. Climbing challenges the whole body. Modern people are not always prepared for this, even if they have previously exercised.

Climbers should also familiarize themselves well with the climbing technique . It's not just about grip techniques that matter here. Technically experienced climbers don't just let themselves fall down on their joints, but rather carry out movements cleanly and in a way that is gentle on the joints. When it comes to handles and steps, certain angular positions are important, among other things. These basics need to be learned.

Climbing training and nutrition

The slim yet muscular physique of climbers is not just the result of training and climbing practice. Nutrition also plays a role here. Beginners may overestimate the calories burned by climbing at the beginning of their climbing career. If 500 calories per hour was mentioned here in this article, this information refers to intensive climbing units.

Those who hang more comfortably on the wall burn significantly fewer calories. Ambitious and experienced climbers will therefore also keep an eye on their calorie consumption. It should never be forgotten that climbing is originally a form of transportation. Our own body weight must be kept within certain limits if we want to pull ourselves up while climbing .

For climbing sessions, it also depends on when you eat food. Remember that when climbing, like many other intense sports, more blood flows into the muscles. Metabolism in these areas increases during exercise. To do this, energy is withdrawn from the digestive tract.

It is therefore advisable to eat well in advance of the training session so that the food does not weigh heavily on the stomach and make movements on the wall difficult.

Aminosäuren zur Unterstützung Ihrer Gesundheit

Protein and amino acids as building materials

Climbers need well-defined muscles. This relies on building materials to build. A sufficient supply of protein is therefore of great importance.

During intensive sporting activity, the protein requirement can increase from the average recommended 0.8 g/kg of body weight to over 2 g/kg of body weight. Climbing athletes need to keep an eye on their protein needs . In some cases, nutritional supplementation with protein supplements and the intake of additional amino acids can also be useful.

Climbers put strain on tendons and joints. In order to keep inflammatory processes in these areas at bay, it is interesting to consume valuable vegetable oils such as linseed oil, hemp, rapeseed oil or olive oil . Animal foods such as meat, eggs or milk produce arachidonic acid, which promotes inflammation. Like many fatty acids in plant oils, it has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Here too, targeted nutritional supplementation cannot be ruled out. A number of other micronutrients and foods support anti-inflammation.

Climbing, like other intense sports, puts the body under stress to a certain extent. In the fight against free radicals , antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C and various plant-based vital substances are required. They ensure that free radicals - aggressive oxygen molecules that can arise under physical stress - are balanced.

Making your diet varied and variable is one of the basic recommendations for any healthy diet. Climbers should pay particular attention to this principle. Your sport places different demands on the human body.

You don't just need protein to build and maintain muscle . You also need carbohydrates (sugars) to stay focused and for maximum strength in the short term.

Climbing training as a sport and exercise compensation

Climbing training is an excellent full-body workout. The goal of climbing training is not just competitive strength. Also overcoming the challenge of always trying new challenges on the wall. Physical strength is required here, as well as concentration and inner focus.

The first steps and holds during training are ideally done with an experienced climbing trainer. Climbing always offers new opportunities to push your own physical and mental limits. That's what makes this sport so popular. Climbing can encourage people to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Weaknesses become noticeable very quickly when climbing in terms of endurance and strength.

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