Extreme Rock Climbing Training

154dc7a7b81408eaad56b3072900311bI started climbing when I was in high school, to satisfy my (liberal) gym requirement with a rock climbing class.  Boy was it fun.

We had a small rock wall at the back corner of our basketball gym. We’d take turns, learning how to belay, learning about different types of rock climbing holds, what kind of muscles to work out, how to stretch properly, and all the basic, foundational exercises one might benefit from as an introductory climber.

In college I moved to St. Louis, where I found an indoor gym. After college, I moved to Boston and found another gym, and now, in New York City, I climb regularly at Brooklyn Boulders.

For the longest time, I had plateaued in my indoor climbing. I was a 5.9+/5.10a climber, and a V3 boulderer. Over the last several months, I’ve decided to become more deliberate about my climbing, and in just a short time I’ve been able to break through and climb 5.11b and V5+ pretty consistently.

This page is the product of my research over the last few months, and what resources I digested, games I played, workouts I completed, etc. to help me become a stronger climber.

5 Favorite Indoor Rock Climbing Workouts

Hangboard Workout

355_oThe hangboard workout is an easy and efficient way for climbers to build hang and finger strength. The board itself is compact, cheap (most sell for around $50), and portable – which is great because it can be mounted in your home or office for convenient use. They’re a required piece of equipment in indoor rock climbing gyms. Training with a hangboard in the weeks leading up to a climbing session can also reduce your risk of injury to small muscles and tendons in your hands.

Here’s a run-down of a good hangboard workout:

1) Using all four fingers in an open hand grip, hang for 10-15 seconds. Rest for 1 minute after each hang.

2) Do 5 hangs per set. Rest for 5 minutes after each set. Complete 5 sets, all using a similar hold, for an effective work out.

3) After two or three weeks, increase intensity by selecting more difficult holds. For example, try holds you can only bare to hold for 8-10 seconds and so on. A good rule of thumb would be to avoid trying holds you can only hold for 5 seconds, this could lead to injury.

Be kind to your body and move at a comfortable pace!

Campus Workout

campus-boardThe campus workout uses a very basic piece of equipment called the campus board. This is typically a wooden board with narrow wooden ledges spaced around 22cm apart. Much like the hangboard, the campus board is primarily helpful in increasing contact (hand, finger, and arm) strength. For an effective workout, the hands and arms are used alone to climb up and down.

There are three different grips to practice on the campus board:

  • Open handed: fingers out stretched, bend at the fingertips
  • Half crimp: fingers slightly bent at the knuckle
  • Full crimp: all weight on the fingertips, knuckles arched above fingertips

Half crimp is a great place to start because it will strengthen your open handed and full crimp as well.

Laddering is the most basic campus board work and it involves laddering hand over hand up the board without the use of legs. For an effective work out incorporate the alternation of rungs in each set.

1) Climb up using rungs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Rest for 3 minutes. Repeat 4 times.

2) Climb up using rungs 1, 3, 5. Rest for 3 minutes. Repeat 4 times.

Complete this work out 2-3 times per week in the 4-6 weeks leading up to your next big climb. Remember to incorporate different grips throughout the weeks in order to get the most out of this workout!

HORSE Workout

1978d45ba9f78cfa7554cd43d44ec151This workout can be done in an indoor or outdoor climbing setting and requires two or more friends. The workout is a simple and fun game of copycat.

1) Climber 1 demonstrates a cleverly difficult climbing move / sequence

2) Climber 2 attempts to re-create the exact same move, and if climber 2 fails, he or she receives the letter H.

3) Climbers continue trying to stump each other until one or more climbers spell the entire word HORSE at which point he or she has lost the game.

Endurance Workout

The endurance work out is a great way to build endurance which is critical to successful rock climbing! Climb 2 grades below your typical climbing level and simply climb more sets than you would on a higher level. Such practice will steadily increase your endurance ability when you move back to your average climbing grade.

If I’m a 5.11 climber, I’ll go to the gym and, for as long as I possible can, climb 5.9 routes as perfectly as I possibly can. If using an auto-belay, I’ll climb both up and down.

Extreme Rock Climbing Training Resources

c9bdfdba94b5d02d5e9a1061f3ec630eIt’s critical that you train appropriately.

Even the most seasoned climbers need to keep their climbing skills sharp. To help you ensure your next climb is a great one, we have scoured the Internet in search of the best rock climbing training resources.


Rock Climb Tips offers a variety of articles and videos full of climbing advice regarding everything from gripping and body position to climbing accessories and pre-climbing yoga work outs. This program features several free videos and lessons as well as paid classes. Definitively a great resource for new and seasoned climbers.

The Rock Climbers Training Manual

This website offers plenty of free articles and videos to help climbers stay on top of their game. They also offer a physical book entitled The Rock Climbers Training Manual for $28.95. It has been described by Climbing Magazine as a “must have…covers every aspect of climbing from footwork to mental strategies.”

Metolius Climbing Training Guide 

The Metolius climbing guide is a really nicely formatted and easy to follow guide which maps out an ideal climbing training schedule over the course of five months. The guide goes over all aspects of climbing training and is especially helpful for beginners as it includes very detailed explanations of how/when/why certain workouts are necessary for successful climbing. This resource also offers an online store where you can order everything you need for your training such as campus boards, campus rungs, holds, as well as a wide variety of climbing gear.

Extreme Rock Climbing Athletes

The sport of rock climbing can take many different forms. From bouldering to big wall climbing and from free solo ascents to ice climbing, each subdivision boasts its particular “greats” and legends. Overall, there is no single “best” climber out there, but rather a spectrum of insanely talented and extraordinary climbing athletes who have each demonstrated the remarkable ability to scale the worlds most daunting peaks. Here at Nerve Rush we have compiled a list of our favorite extreme climbing athletes.

Alex Honnold 
alex_honnold_ben_moon_i_1Alex Honnold is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls. He started climbing at age 11 and later dropped out of the UC Berkeley to devote all his time to climbing. He has broken a number of speed records. Some of his most notable achievement include the only known solo climb of the Yosemite Triple crown, an 18 hour 50 minute link up of Mount Watkins, The nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of half Dome. Alex has mentioned that he enjoys completing tall, long routes as quickly as he can.

Chris Sharma 
tumblr_mtp5h6brq31rpn2x9o1_1280Chris Sharma is an American rock climber who has been described as the best rock climber in the world. He began climbing at age 12 and by age 14 he was already winning national bouldering competitions. When he was 15 years old he completed the first ascent of Necessary Evil in the Virgin River Gorge – the highest rated climb in North America at the time. Chris is famous for completing nearly 20 daring “first ascents” of dangerous peaks all around the world including Jumbo Love, Papichulo, French Gangster, and Catxasa in Spain.

Adam Ondra 

tumblr_mhvlp6nrig1qcxh10o1_500Adam Ondra is a Czech rock climber who often participates in sport climbing and bouldering competitions. He started climbing when he was only six years old at the encouragement of his parents who are also avid climbers. He completed several advanced climbs before age 12 which got the attention of several rock climbing magazines and thrust him into the public spotlight. In 2014 he became the first person to win both the bouldering and lead climbing world championships in a single year. As of 2013 he has climbed 1,059 routes between 8a and 9b+, of which 501 were onsights including several 8c+.

Daniel Woods
daniel woods(1)Daniel Woods is an American professional rock climber specializing in bouldering. He is known for establishing many bouldering problems around the world in such places as Magic Wood in Switzerland, Rocklands in South Africa, and in America’s Rocky Mountain National Park. He first became fascinated with rock climbing at age five and started competing as part of a climbing team at age eight. His most notable achievements include winning the American Bouldering Series national championship in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013.

Sasha DiGiulian
tumblr_m3tjvg5JkI1r3196no1_500Sasha DiGiulian is an American rock climber who in 2011 became the first American woman to climb grade 9a. Like many other famous rock climbers, Sasha’s introduction to the sport came at an early age. She began competing at just eight years old. After graduating from high school, Sasha took time to travel and climb all over the world. Her primary focus has been on international competition and outdoor climbing. In 2012 she became the first North American female, and third woman of all time, to climb a 9a by ascending Era Vella in Margalef. In addition to winning several junior national championships, she is also the three time national champion in the female Open. Sasha is currently a full time student at Columbia University.

Lynn Hill 
tumblr_mtnqwgFXiR1rwth91o1_500Carolynn “Lynn” Hill is an American rock climber widely regarded as one of the best female climbers in the world and one of the best climbers of all time. She is one of the first successful women in climbing and was one of the leading competitive sport climbers specifically in the late 1980s to mid 1990s having won many National and International climbing competitions around this time including: Rock Master, World Cup, and International Climbing competition.. She used her notoriety to become a public advocate for women’s participation in rock climbing and gender equality in general. Hill began climbing as a teen and quickly started breaking climbing records. She has completed many “first ascents” which includes The Nose and King Cobra in Yosemite.

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