Rock climbing requires strength, balance, and mental strength.

You use a lot of muscles when you climb. It is a great full-body workout.

“You can’t be on the wall all day, so how can you improve your climbing performance?”

The article suggests 10 exercises for climbers and a training schedule.

image of female climber on a rock wall
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The climbing community believes that climbing is the best training for climbing. Climbing improves coordination, balance, grip strength, and decision-making.

You can still improve your climbing performance by doing a suitable workout program.

Climbing requires balance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and good cardiorespiratory fitness. A strong heart helps pump blood to your working muscles, while strong muscles pull up and hold your body weight (1).

Make sure your workout program includes strength and balance.


You can improve your performance by training off the wall. Strength training, balance, and Cardio are included in your routine.

Climbing is a full-body workout. You use your muscles to propel yourself upwards.

In particular, climbing uses your pulling muscles. These include your biceps, wrist flexors, and muscles of the back like the trapezius, rhomboid, and latissimus dorsi (1, 2).

It is equally important to train your antagonist muscles, even if you think that you should focus on these muscles. These are not the muscles that pull you, but the muscles that pull you back.

Training your antagonist muscles supports your climbing by stabilizing your muscles, improving muscular balance, allowing for better movement, and reducing the risk of injury (2).

Many climbers have strong biceps but weaker triceps. Incorporating exercises that strengthen the triceps will improve any muscular imbalances and enhance your climbing (2).

In addition to upper body muscles, climbing relies on your core muscles to keep you stabilized and your lower body like your glutes and calves to push your body up. Training these areas is also important for supporting your performance (2).


To ensure balanced strength, improve performance, and reduce injury risk, make sure you train your back, chest, shoulders, arms, core, and lower body.

How often you climb, the intensity of your workouts, and the number of rest days you need will all affect your training schedule.

A good goal for most people is to train for 1–3 days. You should include a few days of cardio exercise at the end of your strength workouts or on separate days.

Your training schedule could be like this.

  • Monday: climbing
  • Tuesday: cardio, like swimming, cycling, rowing, or running
  • Wednesday: strength training, like upper body, lower body, push, or pull day
  • Thursday: rest day or active recovery, like a light walk or yoga
  • Friday: climbing
  • Saturday: strength training, like upper body, lower body, push, or pull day
  • Sunday: cardio, like swimming, cycling, rowing, or running

Your training regimen is unique to you. The aim is to include variety in your training to allow for arounded fitness.


Strength training and a few days of cardio are included in your routine.

The exercises below target your agonist muscles used for climbing, as well as your antagonist muscles, like your chest, triceps, and shoulders. This helps ensure strength.

Lower body and core exercises are included to help you build strength when climbing.

1. Push-ups

Push-ups are a great antagonist exercise, meaning they target the pushing muscles not commonly used during climbing.

Muscles worked: chest, triceps, shoulders

  1. Start on all fours with your arms straight and wrists straight.
  2. Straighten your legs by walking back. You should be on your toes with your back straight, core tight, and hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slowly lower your body to the ground. Make sure your back and hips are straight. The sides of your elbow may flare out.
  4. Press your hands into the floor to return to the starting position after your chest reaches the ground. This is one person.
  5. Try to perform as many reps as possible for the set.

2. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are a great way to strengthen your grip and back.

Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, biceps, core, upper back

  1. Stand behind a bar and grab it with a pronated grip. Your hands should be close together. Allow yourself to hang from the bar.
  2. Take a deep breath and exhale as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend your elbow to raise yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  3. Take a moment and inhale as you bend your elbow to lower yourself.
  4. This is one person. Continue with as many as you can.

If you cannot perform a pull-up, start with a dead hang. For this, you’ll simply hang from the bar for as long as you can instead of pulling yourself up. You may also try assisted pull-ups.

3. Wide grip lat pulldowns

As its name suggests, lat pulldowns target your latissimus dorsi. This is a large muscle in your back that helps adduct, medially rotate, and extend your arms at the shoulder joint. In other words, it helps you pull up your body when climbing.

Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rotator cuff, posterior deltoids, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms

  1. The machine has a wide bar. Keeping your hands wide is the best way to grab the bar.
  2. Pull the bar down to your chest. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades downwards towards each other, engaging your upper back and mid-back throughout the move. You may lean back, but keep your back straight.
  3. Slowly bend your elbow to return to the starting position.
  4. The sets are 8–12 reps.

4. Lying triceps extension

Triceps extensions, also known as skull crushers, are a great isolation exercise to strengthen the triceps. The triceps are the antagonist, or opposing, muscles to your biceps.

Muscles worked: triceps

  1. Lie on a bench with your feet on the ground. Hold the dumbbell in your hand and rest on your chest.
  2. Push the dumbbell up above your chest. Your palms should be facing each other. This is the beginning position.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows to bring the dumbbell to your face. Slowly, you will return to the starting position.
  4. The sets are 8–12 reps.

5. Resistance band pull-apart

This move is great for strengthening your shoulders.

Muscles worked: rotator cuff muscles, forearms, lateral deltoids

  1. Stand with your arms extended in front of you, holding a resistance band parallel to the floor. The resistance band can be held with a supinated or underhand grip.
  2. Pull the band towards your chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together while keeping your arms straight. Keep your spine neutral.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. This is one person.
  4. Set up 1–3 sets of reps.

6. Front dumbbell raises

This isolation exercise is ideal for working your deltoids, which are part of your shoulder. This move improves shoulder flexion, which is important both for climbing and for daily functions that involve moving your arm into an overhead position

Muscles worked: anterior deltoids, lateral deltoids, serratus anterior, the upper part of the pectoralis major

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs using an overhand grip. Lean slightly forward.
  2. Keeping your arms straight with a slight bend in the elbow, slowly lift the dumbbells until your arms are parallel with the floor.
  3. Slowly lower the weights back to their starting position. This is one person.
  4. Set up 1–3 sets of reps.

To limit strain on your shoulders, choose a lighter dumbbell, like 5 pounds. Go even lighter if you struggle. As you become stronger, you can increase the weight.

7. Single-arm dumbbell rows

Single-arm dumbbell rows are great for strengthening the back muscles. They’re also useful for correcting muscle imbalances since they target each side individually.

Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, teres minor, teres major, posterior deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius

  1. Rest your right knee, shin, and hand on a bench. Keep your left leg straight and your left foot flat on the floor. Keep your torso straight and core engaged.
  2. Pick up a dumbbell with your left hand.
  3. Slowly pull the dumbbell up, aiming your elbow toward the sky while keeping it close to your body. As you bend your elbow, squeeze your upper back. If you let your elbow flare out, you will be in trouble.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell and then return to the starting position. This is one person.
  5. On each side, complete 1–3 sets of reps.

8. Kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings are great for building explosive power and strength while getting your heart rate up. They also strengthen your grip, which is important for climbing.

Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, calves, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, core

  1. You can swing a kettlebell with proper form. This will be between 10 and 18 pounds. You can always increase the weight later on.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands, palms facing in, and arms straight down.
  3. Inhale and push your hips back. To bring the kettlebell between your legs, bend your knees. Keep your back straight.
  4. Lift your body into a standing position by squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips forward. Allow your arms to be raised as far as you can. This is usually parallel to the ground.
  5. Inhale and lower the kettlebell between your legs by bending your knees. This is one person.
  6. 10 to 20 reps of 2–3 sets or a set period of time. You can perform as many as you want in 2 minutes.

9. Straight-arm plank

Straight-arm planks are a challenging full-body workout. They’re great for developing muscular endurance, which is the ability of your muscles to withstand exercise for longer.

Muscles worked: rectus abdominis, obliques, transversus abdominis, upper body including your trapezius, lats, rhomboids, deltoids, and arms, and lower body including your glutes, quads, and hamstrings

  1. Start in a table top position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  2. If you want your feet to be hip-width apart, you have to step your right foot straight back and then your left foot.
  3. You should hold this position for as long as you can.

10. Monkey Bars

This will take you back to your childhood while also doing wonders for your upper body, forearm, and grip strength.

Muscles worked: core, forearms, trapezius

  1. Stand at the start of the monkey bars with your hands in an overhand grip.
  2. Your upper body holds you up if you step off the platform.
  3. You can grab the next bar with one hand or the other. Continue this for as long as you can.


Full-body muscular strength and endurance training are included in your workout routine.

Climbing is a sport that requires good cardio, strength, and muscular endurance.

Strength training and cardiovascular exercise can be incorporated into your routine to improve your climbing performance. This will help you push up the wall.

Good back, shoulder, arm, and grip strength is required for climbing. These should be included in your workout programming.

You will be able to climb higher than you have before.