Training the lower body for climbing? Or any other aspects that may/may not be useful


Original Post
Claire avenur · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 0

I've been climbing for about 7 years now and am in the beginner stages of "serious" training i.e I've only ever climbed for fun with maybe some weight lifting on the side.

My question is; is there any real benefit to training the legs? I find my heel hooks slip off frequently, so maybe someone has excercises to help squeeze harder with the hips? Or is that just a result of the rest of my body failing and putting too much pressure on the heel?

Also, sidenote; are there any parts of the body/strength you feel are overlooked related to climbing and are passed over when maybe they shouldn't be?

Thanks nerds

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940

Yes, I think so. For legs and lower core I like trigger squats. I do 3 sets, 8 with each leg every other or third day I climb and have by no means massive legs. They will also build your front hinge through you thighs and lower belly. Also dead lift or similar for the rear hinge and up the spine as this is the ral core in climbing. Both of these will help you suck your belly in using your legs and help you maintain strict body position.

For upper body you want to work the tops of your forarms, fronts of your shoulders, and triceps. Basically you want to aim for an Ideal athletic body, heavy in the shoulders.

Lukasz Czopyk · · Krakow, Poland · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 10

Hi,
I have been considering issue of lower body training for myself, however the result was determined by following criteria (possibly diverging from Yours):
- climbing at near vertical terrain with significant body mass, poor steps,
- I am on position, that training drills should be as similar as activity itself. Therefore possible training should mimic the movement (range of motion etc.) performed in climbing itself.

To the point: in my opinion, yes training lower body could be very beneficial for climbing providing, that Your trainig drills didnt triggered bad move engrams. Here is my favourite excercise: frog squat. Standing with front of the body close to the wall, You are trying to make squat keeping hips as close as possible to the wall. Toes are pointing outwards as also knees does. The drill could be extended to standing not on the floor but on some protruding surface simulating hold or step.

I have found this drill a bit better over standard squats, at least over following areas:
- it is similar to climbing in terms of keeping body close to the wall,
- it is similar to climbing in terms of not pointing of the knees forward,
- it is similar to climbing it terms of stretching and opening hips,
- it takes benefits of "squatting excercise" of possibility of easy repetition (on the wall it is difficult unless You are able to utilize each time the same holds).

Luk

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 100

This is really interesting. You guys have me thinking about something: weighted high steps - get a jug and a low foot with a high foot to either side. left foot low, right high, stand up as high as you can (the jug should go from face to waist). Make harder by adding weight (hence the jug). I think this may be a more specific frog or front squat. Any thoughts?

john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

I am living proof that strong legs really help,,,essential IMO.

Calf work, hip flex work, squats..all of it helps. The old " too much muscle" is BS. You won't get too much unless your just train and never climb

Lukasz Czopyk · · Krakow, Poland · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 10
Jon Frisby wrote:This is really interesting. You guys have me thinking about something: weighted high steps - get a jug and a low foot with a high foot to either side. left foot low, right high, stand up as high as you can (the jug should go from face to waist). Make harder by adding weight (hence the jug). I think this may be a more specific frog or front squat. Any thoughts?
Yes, good point. If Your climbing terrain embraces distanced steps, any notion of lack of symmetry sounds very reasonable. If You are able to preserve the setup for long trainig, than You still benefit from the repetitive nature of the drill.

Luk
JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Lukasz Czopyk wrote:Here is my favourite excercise: frog squat. Standing with front of the body close to the wall, You are trying to make squat keeping hips as close as possible to the wall. Toes are pointing outwards as also knees does. The drill could be extended to standing not on the floor but on some protruding surface simulating hold or step. I have found this drill a bit better over standard squats...
I like the train of thought that led to that and that sounds like an excellent exercise. It's now on my list of things to try for workouts. Thanks :)
Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 378

Unless you are training to compete in Bouldering World Cups where high-steps are mandatory, I would skip any leg training. Since we use our legs so much in daily life they will not be your weak link.

Carla R · · San Jose, CA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 110

Posting to follow mostly.

I would think some type of training is useful for lower body, especially in terms of flexibility. Squats and frog squats I would think are very helpful..

Curious to see what else people say.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:Unless you are training to compete in Bouldering World Cups where high-steps are mandatory, I would skip any leg training. Since we use our legs so much in daily life they will not be your weak link.
I am a smaller guy, but the trigger squats plus heavy deadlifts have added at most 3-4 lbs of muscle to me (and increased the caloric demand of the muscle thus increasing its strength significantly) and I can tell a positive difference both in my climbing as well as my posture. Lifting big will add weight slowly, so its not like one day you will wake up some freakish monster.

While legs are not a weak link the hinge, lower back, and spine related back muscles are the real core in climbing. You can save yourself some torso mass and IMO get better climbing results by training these instead of abs, especially anything with the abs that is long and or circuit like. With these all I do for the abs is a few sets of high intensity ab wheel work here and there (ease into these anyone, they will wreck your lower back), and maybe some leg lifts. The majority of these muscles are impossible to target without also at least getting the upper thigh and hamstring to some degree as well.

In addition to the climbing benefits, my legs can now muscularly absorb more of the impact from things like dropping off boulders or just day to day hiking and rock hopping to the crag, thus saving my joints and skeleton for old age. For me it involves a few extra minutes added onto the already present lifting routine I do regularly, so it is a few minutes every couple of days very well spent. That being said, if I am regularly hiking long distances to climb, and in the summer when I ride my bike, I do less leg work in the gym. I am happy for you that you find this a waste of time. Thank you for sharing :)
Lukasz Czopyk · · Krakow, Poland · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 10
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:Unless you are training to compete in Bouldering World Cups where high-steps are mandatory, I would skip any leg training. Since we use our legs so much in daily life they will not be your weak link.
Since @Claire declares to have 7 years career record I would agree with this. However in general, I would put some pressure on ambiguity of "weak" statement:
1. I would agree, that legs of statistical individual are not weak (for climbing) in terms of "BB gym exercises strength" (like utilized in weighted squats etc.),
2. Legs of statistical individual may be lacking in strength/coordination in terms of more climbing-specific movement. F.i: usually size of steps is limited to fraction of toe surface. Have You ever tried to make squat standing on Your toes on the threshold? There may be variety of reasons why it is more difficult usually.
3. Legs may be lacking in mystic fields of coordination/proprioception etc. In such case, specific strength-related drills may support desired habits of legs re-positioning, tuning Your reach capabilities with legs extension and all others subtle notions of effective climbing.

Luk
Jon W · · Longmont Colorado · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 95
JNE wrote: heavy deadlifts have added at most 3-4 lbs of muscle to me (and increased the caloric demand of the muscle thus increasing its strength significantly) and I can tell a positive difference both in my climbing as well as my posture. Lifting big will add weight slowly, so its not like one day you will wake up some freakish monster. While legs are not a weak link the hinge, lower back, and spine related back muscles are the real core in climbing.
I have found this to be absolutely true.

I do dumbbell dead lifts. I now have better reach (from better posture) do to strengthening muscles that pull up and rowing type movements don't target.

Also, there is an intensity component that is hard to get in any none leg exercise. As well, working the larger muscle groups really help the body to generate hormones that are essential to recovery.

http://www.powercompanyclimbing.com/blog/2016/12/19/episode-22-integrated-strength-training-with-steve-bechtel

later into it he discusses the role of leg training and the overall benefits.
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310

I think deadlifting has been great for my climbing and overall core stability.

There is, in my opinion, and outdated taboo about working legs and climbing. The key is using a rep structure that doesn't promote hypertrophy and therefore mass. Keep the reps low and weight high and you won't gain a pound!

The other key is recognizing whether this is time well spent for you. For me and the OP, it sounds like it is. If you spend most of your day with your ass in a chair, it's time well spent. It won't be for everyone.

MelRock · · New Jersey · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 30

Heel hooks in my experience are about hamstring and glute strength. Well, sometimes they're just a way to shift your weight. But when I'm using a heel hook to add power to upward movement, I'm definitely cranking on my hamstring. I know because I have high hamstring tendinopathy (sprinting injury, heel hook reinjury) on one side that makes a heel hook with that leg painful.

I like to combine my lower body training with balance work 1) Because my time is limited and 2) Because I think that all the small muscles that get engaged in balance training are key to climbing also. So extra bang for my buck/time.

I go to a barre class for this - taught by a former ballet dancer i.e. not too many props like balls and bands that tend to annoy me. And a lot of "if you can do this with proper technique, let go of the barre and do it with complete balance."

For example, we will do this exercise where you stand on one leg (the other leg is bent, knee forward, toe just below standing leg knee), squat, come back up, rise onto your demi-point (pad of front of foot), then lower to flat foot, and repeat. Arms are above head. You work your balance, quads, ankle strength and flexibility, core.

Also, randomly, we do handstand pushups in a pike with our feet on the barre, so I get some badass fun in too.

What many here are calling frog squats, are the same as a plie in ballet. Here's my former dancer PSA :) Be careful to direct your knees over your second toe. Thinking of "turn-out" this way helps you open your hips, and not point your feet out farther than your knees can go.

Claire avenur · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 0

Thanks for the replies people! Lots of good stuff to try out. Definitely adding squats/frogs/dead lift. whether they end up helping or not I've found that kind of heavy full body lifting to be just about the best stress reliever

rob.calm · · Loveland, Colorado · Joined May 2002 · Points: 630

It’s reassuring to see that other people do heavy lifting that involves the legs. As an older climber, I find that lifting is almost essential to keep me climbing as it helps preserves sturdiness. The loss of muscle and bone density is inevitable in aging but lifts such as the squat and dead-lift reduce the rate at which this happens. If I weren’t lifting, I don’t think I’d still be able to climb.

One of the best lifts for climbing is repetition (at least 12) power cleans as it gives a heart/lung workout similar to rapidly climbing a hard stretch without resting.

rob.calm

power clean

Don Ferris · · Eldorado Springs · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 175

Troll! Of course you don't have to train lower body for climbing.

Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 175
Claire avenur wrote:My question is; is there any real benefit to training the legs?
climbing friend,

no, unless you are trying to get worse at the climbing by building sculpting your meat in places that weigh you down but do not help you with the pulling crushing climbing.

do you even troll?
Momoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 60

What's with the big training boner for deadlifts lately? It seems like out of no where, everyone at the climbing gym is deadlifting, talking about dedalifting, instagramming about deadlifting...

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,240
rob.calm wrote:loss of muscle and bone density is inevitable in aging but lifts such as the squat and dead-lift reduce the rate at which this happens.
Here's guy 85 years old who seems to be doing just fine with bone density and muscle density:
Ed Whitlock marathon running

But he does not do any heavy lifts.
. . (and note his total body weight -- most climbers can only dream of what they could do with that
. . . . weight-to-height+reach ratio).
. . (not muscle mass but muscle density).

I recall some recent studies and analysis which suggested that impact exercise was more beneficial for maintaining bone and joint strength and health than weight-lifting.
. . (also a possible conclusion from astronauts trying to retain bone density in low-gravity orbit).

I'm much older than most people on this forum, and I now get my high-impact training by running down a very steep hill (16% grade) as fast as I can while carrying a 30 pound (13.5kg) backpack).

. . (and by jogging down the stairways in my apartment building two stairs in each single-leg stride (so skipping steps) carrying a 60+ pound / 27kg backpack.

Of course I worked up to that very carefully incrementally.

Ken
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,240
rob.calm wrote:As an older climber, I find that lifting is almost essential to keep me climbing as it helps preserves sturdiness.
How many days a week are you climbing?
Indoors? Outdoors?

While I have to respect anybody who's still climbing over eighty years old ...
I say if you're still climbing say 2.5 days a week, that really should be sufficient to maintain sufficient leg (and back) strength for that kind of climbing.

Perhaps you're also trying to maintain strength for other kinds of climbing (or steep outdoor approaches) that you don't do so frequently.
. . (why I myself do a heavy-lifting exercise).

Or maybe you're not finding compatible partners any more who want to join you three or two days a week.
. . (So how about join a gym with auto-belays or a Treadwall).

Or maintain heavy lifting exercises so you're accustomed to them if you need for injury recovery.

Ken
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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