Climbing is an athletic adventure, which is sometimes difficult to reach. But the final result is worth it because you realize what you are capable of, expand your horizons, deepen your connection with nature and rethink your life. It doesn’t matter how difficult your climb is because each climb gives enough experience and teaches something new.
So, despite being a pleasant activity, it is very tough as it requires a special physical and mental preparation. If you are a novice in the climbing world but love the mountains, consider these tips. They will help you to focus on important aspects of your preparation and enjoy your climb to the fullest.
The Importance Of A Good Physical Condition For The Climber
Climbing is both a thrilling and challenging experience, which requires a profound physical and mental preparation. Having a strong body is extremely important if you decided to go climbing due to the several reasons:
- A strong body makes it easier to cope with low oxygen environments. Having a strong body can prevent Altitude sickness, which can trigger pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in your lungs) and lead to death.
- Climbing means that you walk up and down hills for several days with a backpack with about 6 kg. You will climb so that you need superior upper body strength, great endurance, and a strong lower body.
- Climbing encourages participants to increase their range of motion. It requires the climbers to reach, climb and leap from an uncomfortable distance. Therefore, a good flexibility in your tissues helps to handle any activity with ease.
Mountain Climbing Training
To start an adrenaline-pumping adventure, you should improve your physical and mental condition. Alex Johnson, a professional climber and five-time U.S. national champion says, “It’s easy to get discouraged—it happens to everyone—but the best way to improve is keep trying.”
So, don’t be intimidated, even if it’s your first experience, try your best and prepare well and then, it will be a start of a thrilling journey. Here are tips as for the mountain climbers workout.
Climbing requires a serious upper-body strength (arms, shoulders, the back) and a strong core, fingers, and hands. These exercises will help you to get ready for the demands the climbing puts on you.
- Building Strength
During the climb, you move vertically with an extra weight, so you should be strong enough to do it. Firstly, start with exercises, which will help you to get the necessary fit. They include:
Deep squats make the legs and hamstrings stronger, which is vital for climbers.
How to do:
- Stand on your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Maintain a neutral spine.
- Extend the arms so that they are parallel to the ground, palms should face down.
- Inhale, bring your hips back as the knees begin to bend.
- Keep the chest, shoulders, and the back upright, the spine should be neutral.
- Squat when your hips sink below the knees.
- Then engage your core and go back to the starting position, driving through the heels.
Push-ups make your upper body stronger and therefore, more enduring.
How to do:
- Lie down on the floor, your hands should be a little bit wider than the shoulder-width apart. From the head to your toes there should be a straight line.
- Keep your arms straight, the abs should be braced, lower your body until your elbows at a 90-degree angle or when your chest hits the floor.
- Then pause and explode back until you’re in the starting position.
- Side Lunges
Side lunges strengthen the adductors, improve the knee stability and enhance balance.
How to do:
- Stand firm on your feet and hold a weight on your chest. Take a big step to the right with toes pointing straight ahead.
- Bend your knee, shift the hips back and lower down until your hips are parallel to the floor.
- Come back to the initial position. Then, repeat the same movement to the left.
Once you are comfortable with the classic weight training, you should do the exercises, which will help you to get the strength you need for climbing. Thus, front squats, bench press, and deadlifts are your ultimate choice.
- Front Squats
This exercise will strengthen your legs, hips, the glutes, so it is beneficial for climbers.
How to do:
- Inhale, tighten your core, pull the shoulder blades down and back.
- Move your hips back, bend your knees, and push the knees out to lower into the squat. Your chest should be upright.
- Bend your knees until your hips are parallel to the floor.
- Drive through the midfoot to stand up out of the squat. Then, squeeze the glutes to extend the hips at the top of the squat.
- Bench Press
This exercise is important not only for the upper-body muscle building but for the upper-body strength as well. When you do this exercise, your back, your shoulders, your triceps, and the glutes are involved. If you do this complex exercise properly, you’ll increase your strength.
How to do:
- Put your feet firmly on the floor, they should be back toward the glutes as far as you can.
- Position yourself under the bar: set up far enough under the bar, but in the meantime, don’t set up too far.
- Arch your lower back, it will help you to keep the spine neutral.
- Grab the bar tightly and make sure your wrist is straight because then you’ll provide the optimal force. If you have long arms or want to push maximum weight, grip wider. If your arms are short, then grip narrower.
- Inhale, unrack the bar, and exhale. Then, take a deep breath and move the bar downward. Hold your breath, and when you get past the concentric sticking point of the press, breathe out forcefully.
- When the bar has touched the torso, tighten your glutes and drive your legs into the ground, it will initiate the upward movement you need. And throw the bar back.
This exercise is paramount for building strength as it strengthens the glutes and hamstrings.
How to do:
- Stand with the mid-foot under the bar, your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Grab the bar, shift the hips back, bend your knees and bend forward until your torso is close to parallel to the floor.
- Lift your chest and straighten your back.
- Inhale, hold it and stand up with the weight. The bar should be in contact with your legs while you pull.
- Return the weight to the floor through unlocking your hips and knees. Then, move your hips back and lower the bar.
- Once the bar is past your knees, bend the legs more and put the bar over your mid-foot.
Thereby, once you’ve increased your strength with these exercises, you should be able to use this strength on the mountain. That is why you should emulate real-world conditions. For this, wear your special clothes, best sneakers for overweight walkers, and gear, take a loaded pack and try to climb the mountains of a different height.
Being able to move for hours is a crucial ability for mountaineers. So, any mountain climbing training should include both aerobic and anaerobic endurance exercises. The aerobic exercises enhance respiratory and circulatory efficiency by improving oxygen consumption. These exercises require oxygen to generate force for activities. As for anaerobic exercises, they don’t require oxygen to generate force.
To increase aerobic stamina, you should incorporate running (road running and trail running) and distance cycling into your workout routine. These exercises are a perfect cardio training. The main benefit of cardio training is strengthening the major muscle of your body – your heart. The stronger your heart is, the more enduring you are. Besides, it improves the ability of your body to recover. Cardiovascular training reduces the onset of muscle soreness and improves the oxygen-rich blood circulation so that your tissues recover faster.
As for anaerobic endurance, the win-win option here is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is the concept where one performs a short burst of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly, until too exhausted to continue.
Depending on your fitness level, you may choose different HIIT sessions. Normally, they last for 30 minutes.
Strength and stamina are important for a climber, but this adventurous activity may be risky, so altitude training is vital. The problem of oxygen consumption is compounded at altitude because of the reduced pressure of oxygen. Each person is born with a unique ability to reach a certain VO2 max. If genetically you can reach a certain max and it is low, you won’t be able to reach a higher max no matter how hard you train. But if genetically you are able to reach a certain VO2 max and it is high, if you don’t train, then your actual max isn’t as high as it can be. Thus, if you train to increase the VO2 max, then you can climb harder and it is easier for you to climb.
The best way to increase your efficiency at altitude (except for the aerobic activities) is to train at altitude. The major methods are hiking and running stairs with your pack on. More experienced climbers (including those, who choose extreme mountain climbing) use a hypoxic tent. This tent is used to simulate a higher altitude with reduced oxygen. The main goal of this training is to make the body produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and hemoglobin. In this way, your body adapts to the higher altitude. This training will help you avoid altitude sickness, which is characterized by dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, nausea. If your body adapts to the high altitude, then you get an enhanced performance.
Climbing is considered to be a high-intensity activity, so it requires much energy. Nutrition is an important part of the preparation your body for climbing, but sometimes mountaineers overlook it. To get ready for climbing, follow these tips:
- Figure out the intensity and duration of the session. If you choose bouldering (it is short, but high-intensity climbing), then go for easy-to-digest carbs (bananas, quick oats, rice milk, dried fruit). For longer and lower-intensity climbing (e.g. alpine climbing), choose slower digesting carbohydrates (beans, brown rice).
- Eat healthy meals with a proper balance of carbohydrates. Get around 25-30 grams of carbohydrates 30 minutes before a climb. Also, 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes before climbing to improve strength and prevent muscle breakdown. For instance, eat two eggs (about 14 grams of protein), a turkey breast (22 grams of protein).
- Hydrate well to prevent dehydration and don’t eat fats as they are slower to digest and they may trigger stomach problems.
- Avoid foods you are allergic to. The most common allergens are eggs, soy, milk, corn, some nuts, shellfish.
- Eat foods, rich in probiotics, as they promote a good microbiome in the gut (yogurt, kombucha). Also, consume broccoli, onion, leeks, asparagus as they give enough fiber and provide plenty of probiotics.
Other Tips & Tricks
If you are ready physically, you should do other steps in order to be ready for climbing 100 percent. A strong body is only half the success, you also need a medical evaluation and appropriate attire and gear.
- Choose The Type Of Climbing
If you are a newbie, a rope climbing with a belay partner is an option. You may cover much distance on the walls. If you prefer to go solo, you may use an auto-belay.
If you like climbing without ropes, go for bouldering. The height isn’t so big and the distance is short.
Besides, there is trad climbing where you follow the routes that have pre-placed anchors, but this type is for experienced climbers.
- Choose The Necessary Attire And Gear
The climb will be safe if you have a strong core and appropriate gear. The first thing to remember is soft climbing shoes, which provide a great grip on the wall. You may wear thin socks or don’t wear them at all. If you choose bouldering, then don’t forget to get a chalk bag. If your choice is top roping, then you’ll need many things: a harness, lead rope, chalk bag, carabiner, and belay device.
- Get A Medical Checkup
Even if you follow a special preparation regimen, you should get a medical checkup before the climb. The doctor should evaluate your medical conditions that can cause problems on the climb. Also, he should figure out whether some medications can affect altitude acclimatization. Also, such conditions as spine problems, asthma, head injuries, kidney problems, sprains, joint dislocations, blood disease can make your trip more dangerous.
Thus, on the way to your goal, dedicate time to the physical preparation as it plays a crucial role in the success of your trip. If your body is strong and enduring enough to withstand everything climbing throws at you, then it will be a pleasant experience.
So, set up the right goals, go through planning, training, and implementation processes and then you’ll tackle your objective successfully.