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We’re excited to share with you a great article written for us by Mr Ben West who’s not only a regular setter here, but also a a regular team member of the GB climbing team. Last year Ben launched UPGRADE, which offers climbing coaching and training. Ben has written the following article based upon the training area here at Highball. You can follow Ben on twitter here @BENWEST__

Most climbing walls now have dedicated training areas now, but what can we do with them? Why is all this strength and conditioning so important? As we all know climbing is a unique sport. It doesn’t just use one specific muscle group. Every move / hold / body position is different. That’s the great thing about it. This is why it’s important to do that conditioning work

I’m going to take you through some of my favourite exercises and give you some ideas about sets and reps. With all these exercises you need to be doing them in the best form possible. The movement should be slow and controlled. Remember less is more. It’s much better to do 3 reps in perfect form rather than 10 scrappy reps.   



This is really good for developing your muscular awareness of the scapular and mid-back muscles. This is a great for shoulder stability and control and is where you want to initiate the ‘pull’ when you’re doing a pull-up.

If you find this too hard try doing it on the climbing wall using your feet. You will need two good holds on a slightly overhanging wall and feet should be between knee and hip height.

Start by aiming to do 3-5 reps and 3 sets with 3-5 mins rest between sets.

As I said this is a great introduction exercise for the pull up and other bar work. The guys at the The Depot Climbing Centre in Nottingham released a really good video regarding strength training on the bar.   



It looks at the pull-up, Frenchies (advanced) (an extended version to the pull-up), One Arm Negatives (which is where you pull up with two arms then lower in control on one arm), Typewriters (advanced) (another version on the pull-up, but it introduces more of a one arm lock ) and finally the Front lever (advanced) (good for core and body tension)

Note: These exercises are quite advanced. Adjust reps and sets to suit. If you are a super wad and find them too easy try adding weight.

The bar is also a good place to work on your core.


The key to this exercise, as stated in the video, is to try and concentrate on rolling the pelvis up so that your knees touch your chest. You will be working both hip flexors and your core, both very important in climbing.

Try doing 8-10 reps and 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.

A progression on from this is the straight leg lift.



The video shows the maximum progression. If you can’t get your toes to the bar, try doing them so your toes reach just over 90%, so that you form an “L” shape. Great for the tension you need on those hard roof climbs. Once again the movement should be in a slow controlled manner.

Try 3-6 reps, 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.

My next favourite bit of kit is the TRX – (Suspension trainer). I was first introduced to this bit of kit by Tricky at New Heights Fitness and was instantly impressed by it. Although it looks like some sort of S&M product the benefits you get from it are exceptional. All the exercises use you own body weight and can be altered to make it easier or harder depending on the angle of the TRX.


The chest fly is not only good for strengthening the chest but it’s great for shoulder stability. A good one to work for getting better on those wide moves. As said before changing the angle changes the difficulty. It can also be done on your knees for more stability.

Try 3-6 reps, 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.




The deltoid fly is almost the opposite to the chest fly. Although it still uses your core, it predominately works the deltoids & upper back. (hence the name). It’s also great for scapular control. The first video demonstrates the exercise with arms in the Y position. For a bit of variety, try changing your arm position to the shape of an I & T. You can also do a “Low Deltoid fly” where you bring your arms down towards the floor. Like all TRX exercises, adjusting the angle of your body and the distance from the anchor point changes the difficulty of the exercise.

Try 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.


The assisted single leg squat is a great progression to a standard two leg squat and also great for those tricky high steps and big rockovers. Remember to hold your form with a nice straight back and keeping that core engaged.

Try 8-10 reps 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.


One of my favourites. It’s really important to hold your form on this one. You really need to engage that core and if you feel your back starting to sag or arch stop. ‘The Row’ is great for both your core, biceps and upper body. Like all TRX exercises, adjusting the angle of your body and the distance from the anchor point changes the difficulty of the exercise.

Try 6-10 reps 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.





Both the standard and oblique crunch are great for both your core, obliques and hip abductors. The idea is to try and keep your back as horizontal as you can whilst pulling your knees as high in to your chest as you can. The movement should be slow and controlled. (slower than the video). The oblique crunch is very similar but you are aiming to touch your knee to your opposite elbow. In both exercises pause for a second when you return to neutral (plank position)

Try 8-12 reps 3-4 sets with 3 mins rest between sets.

Below is a table with some suggested session plans. Obviously you can adjust anything to suit. For instance if you are finding the chest fly too hard, try doing it on your knees for a bit more stability. Or if you’re finding pull up or one arm negatives too easy try adding some weight by using a weight vest.   
Have fun and remember pain is only temporary, glory is for ever! 😉 But do listen to your body. If something tweaks or hurts stop and seek professional advice.

Happy Training!!!