Alex Stiger: 3 Ways to Develop Your Strongest Core
The following article was written by Alex Stiger, a Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Performance Trainer and Head Trainer at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder Colorado. In the text below Alex sums up his...

The following article was written by Alex Stiger, a Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Performance Trainer and Head Trainer at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder Colorado.

In the text below Alex sums up his experience in pursuit of a stronger core. Once she realized that core endurance workouts didn't help improve her climbing performance, she began to focus on core workouts that help build strength and power. She then describes three of her favorite ways to strengthen her heart to become a stronger climber.

We hope you enjoy the following article and the basic workouts!


By Alex Stiger

"This movement was so important."

“Why did I fall? I'm not even pumped.

“Why can't I keep my feet on during this movement?”

Did you say any of these things while climbing? Because of course I ... The pursuit of rock solid abs is not a new pursuit for climbers. However, it can be very difficult to know which core exercises we should be doing that will help our sport the most.

I'm writing this article to help you understand what kind of training for your heart will help you climb harder. Having a stronger core will help you feel that big moves aren't as accessible, steep terrain isn't as intimidating, and that you can rely on your feet staying on the kicks and not soaring for a while. difficult movements!

I was a basic class connoisseur! 1-3x per week I would do a 30 minute core workout. After EACH climbing session, I would do at least 6 minutes of trunk. I even had a group of friends at the gym who joined me for "6 minute sit ups" every night (1 min plank, 1 min sit-up, 1 min Russian twists, 1 min legs. , 1 -min flutter kicks, 1 min plank).

I take pride in my ability to do basic workouts. I really felt that if my heart was stronger, this would be my key to unlocking more difficult climbs. Unfortunately, the huge amount of time I spent crunches never got through the climbing wall as I expected (it didn't cross at all…).

Think of it like this ...

Would you do 30 repetitions of 5 pounds. dumbbells hanging to prepare to press 50 pounds or more for 3 total reps? Would you run fifteen miles at a slow jog to train for your fastest quarter mile? Let's agree, that wouldn't be effective training for these goals. Why then would doing 100 crunches help meet the specific demands of our sport?

We need a really strong core that can take a lot of strain and we need that same system to react sometimes very quickly and powerfully to help us in an explosive movement or to get our feet back on the wall when they stand out.

To sum up my past core training efforts, I was doing an insane amount of core every week and not improving as a climber. Every big move seemed impossible, if my feet cut me off and I managed to get them back in place, it would leave me exhausted and fall down soon after. And my feet were cutting A LOT! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep my feet on the wall during the difficult movements.

One snowy day in the gym, I joined my friend for a basic workout on the TRX suspension system. We took turns doing 1 minute of walking, 1 minute of rest for 12 minutes in total. Oh my God, this was one of the hardest workouts I have ever done!

The next day, I couldn't even laugh without wanting to hold back my tender stomach. Fortunately, after completing this workout several times over the course of a week, the initial post workout pain is gone.

More importantly, it didn't take long for me to feel huge changes in my climbing. I thought the gym setters had started to be nice to little people (they hadn't), stopped cutting feet all the time, and started doing more difficult grades on rocks and roads! I also had a lot more time to devote to other forms of training as I reduced my time on the trunks to a quarter of what it had been.

What does this story mean to you?

This means that you should try to add core workouts that focus on strength and power and not just endurance.

Lower intensity, longer duration core workouts, like what I did during my multi-year climbing plateau, are a fantastic form of exercise and have been shown to help reduce chronic lower back pain. back. These types of workouts aren't bad for you and they definitely have a purpose. The big question for us climbers is, will 30 minutes in a row of doing this kind of exercise help our climb? My personal experience and what I see with clients is that the answer is a definite no.

If you want to strengthen your core to help you be a stronger climber, we need to train those muscles differently than if we want a healthy, supportive core for our non-sport activities. Repeating the same exercises over and over at the same intensity does not result in continual adaptations of the muscles you want to strengthen.

Are you still convinced by the idea of ​​hard but short workouts? I hope so, and keep reading my three favorite ways to strengthen my core for rock climbing:

1) TRX

Different exercise times depending on fitness level, but max 6-9 minutes of workout per session. The TRX adds that intensity because it is a suspension trainer. By having your feet in the cribs and needing to stabilize your body, it really elevates the intensity of a board! Sounds confusing? Please follow along with me during one of my normal TRX workouts:

  • 40 seconds on; 20 off (to change 30 seconds on, 30 seconds for easier and 50 on, 50 off for more difficult) X6
  • Board, folds, mountaineers, double knees, saws, board to finish.

** There are also basic high intensity floor exercises. Such as proper planks, hollow body holds, weighted sit-ups, etc. This kind of exercise is an option but I find the TRX to be super effective because any basic work done on a suspension system will add a lot of intensity.

2) Wall drills

  • Pick 3 blocks that you have already completed and every 2 movements intentionally cut off your feet and put them back into your kicks. Make this exercise more difficult by increasing the difficulty of the movements you do or coming back to worse feet - not by doing a lot more!
  • Pick a good enough grip in a steep overhang and start by holding onto the grip you have chosen with your feet hanging down. Take 3-6 kicks to touch and press down each side for each leg before resting. Drill completely 2-3x.

3) Strength exercises for the whole body

Such as Deadlifts, Pull-ups (ideally weighted and with a very engaged core), ring workouts, etc.

** Keep in mind that you train more things than your heart, so you should time them in your program accordingly.

Important to note: EVERY climber will benefit from a stronger core. Yes, taller people may need to maintain more body tension when lying down. However, small individuals must rely on the core to reach these distant holds! When I step off a route and say, "It felt accessible," I instantly know I need to do short, high-intensity core work sessions.

About the Author

Alex Stiger is a Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Performance Trainer and Head Trainer at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder Colorado. Alex spends most of his week working with clients of all skill levels and ages to help them achieve their climbing goals. She has climbed 5.13d and is currently working towards her goal of climbing a 5.14. When not climbing, she enjoys playing quick chess online or relaxing at home with her partner Luke and her dog Milly.

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to rock climbing training. We provide training resources and information for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers and everything in between. We offer rock climbing training programs, climbing course, nutrition course, regular blog posts, interviews on The TrainingBeta podcast, personal coaching for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock'n'roll.

The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of disciplines, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various styles of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.

Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal chic. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a class either through your gym or a local guide.

The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an excellent place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock'n'roll, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular variétés of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock'n'roll has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of spécialité than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and risques on real rock. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.

Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, endurance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, of course ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or short cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other disciplines. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and challenges !

One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone application called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in short, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. 7 and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.

Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all variétés of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear site to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). to climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.

We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.


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