While climbing tall objects is a staple activity of any childhood, modern recreational rock climbing began in the late 19th century and has progressed into a worldwide sport, so much so that it has been added to the competition roster of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. From indoor rock-climbing walls, bouldering, to free-soloing (made popular by the 2018 American documentary film), athletes have enjoyed the art of rock climbing in all its forms for centuries.
Whether climbing for recreation, exercise, or competition, one thing remains true – rocking climbing entails an enormous amount of exertion. With very small surface areas to grip and the resistance to gravity as you lift your entire body upward, climbing activates every muscle of the body including the forearms, biceps, triceps, deltoids, lats, traps, legs, and even fingers.
When training for climbing, a well-rounded, full-body exercise is key. A knowledgeable personal trainer can cater your training plan to target each of the major muscle groups that a climber needs. However, there are many workouts that can be done on your own to train as well. This is where a resistance band comes in to play. Highly underrated exercise equipment, a resistance band is incredibly useful in that it is affordable, compact, light-weight, and can be used for any muscle training in any setting – whether that’s in your home, outside, at the gym, or in your hotel room.
Here are a few resistance band exercises that will help to target specific muscle groups for peak fitness.
By far the most important muscle group for climbing, a strong upper body can be the deciding factor between a successful climb and a tumble to the ground. A banded chest fly is a great workout for strengthening those key shoulder, rotator cuff, and pectoral muscles.
- Begin by tethering the middle of your resistance band (such as the Victorem Pull-Up Band) to an anchor about shoulder height from the floor. Make sure the anchor is very secure and strong enough to withstand your weight.
- Stand facing away from the anchor and place the ends of the resistance band in each hand.
- With your arms straight and stretched out to the side (creating a “T” shape with your body), slowly move forward until the band is taught.
- Place one foot out in front of the other, as if you are taking a step forward, and tighten your core.
- Pull the bands forward until your palms are facing each other straight out in front of you.
- Slowly return the band back down, making sure not to let the band snap back.
- Begin by doing 3 sets of 15 reps, gradually increasing your reps, resistance, and speed as your muscles strengthen.
(Begin at 15 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgUwG7vtwIs)
A strong lower body is also very important. It allows pressure to be taken off of the upper body while maintaining contact with the climbing wall. Strength and flexibility in the hamstrings are vital.
- Begin by tethering your resistance band to a secure source low to the ground.
- Laying face down on the floor or on a mat, place your hands in front of your face.
- With your legs straight and toes pointed towards the floor, position your band around your ankles. Make sure the band is fully stretched from the anchor to your ankles.
- Lift both legs upward, bending at the knee, creating a 90-degree angle, then slowly lowering them back to the floor.
- Start by doing 3 sets of 15 reps, gradually increasing your reps, resistance, and speed as your hamstrings strengthen.
(Begin at 25 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm4vc7n8Rsw)
Moving further down the body, the feet and calf muscles also require significant training to build strength and flexibility.
- Sitting down on the floor, stretch out one leg in front of you while the other is bent at the knee.
- Place the resistance band around your outstretched leg, looping it around the ball of your foot.
- Hold the other side of the band with your hands.
- Bend your foot towards the floor, pointing it straight out in front of you.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to the upright position.
- Repeat for 15 reps.
- Move the band to your other foot and repeat the exercise.
- Begin by doing 3 sets of 15 reps on each foot, gradually increasing your reps, resistance, and speed as your calf and foot muscles strengthen.
(Begin at 1 minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tykY-pkHXL0)
Climbing is one of the most rigorous and strenuous exercises that the body can endure. It is both physically and mentally exhausting, requiring the entire body to operate seamlessly in unison.
Even without expensive exercise equipment, training for the exciting challenge of rock climbing is possible. With as simple of a tool as a resistance band, engaging in carefully designed exercises can target specific muscle groups to help achieve the results of hours in the gym.