We are super psyched to have another training article by Tyler Thompson. Tyler is an ACE certified personal trainer, climbing bum and movement enthusiast based out of Vancouver, Canada. He recently launched his own website and can be found at thompsonfitness.ca
What’s the deal with climbers and their fear of developing giant legs? Anytime I bring up the idea of specifically training the legs, climbers get all uppity and say things like, “I don’t want big heavy legs” or “I’d rather spend my time getting better at climbing.” My personal favorite has to be using running and/or cycling as an excuse not to develop their lower body any further. In this article, I am hoping to answer a few questions regarding a progressive lower body strengthening program and highlighting a few points on the positive effect this will have on your climbing performance.
Why should you focus time on training the lower body?
Developing a flexible, strong, powerful, mobile and balanced lower body greatly increases your athletic potential. Will this make you a better technical climber?
No, it will not. Only focused climbing practice will make you a better climber. Will hard work and consistent lower-body training allow you to scrunch into crazy knee-drops, utilize funky toe-hooks and stand on the most nonexistent crystal while dancing your way up a Squamish slab? Yes, it will.
The hips, legs, ankles and toes need to be able to bend, pull, push, jump and otherwise contort themselves in many weird positions during a rock climb. The more efficient and creative you can be with your lower body, the less work your upper body has to do. If you don’t believe me check out the hours of footage from the IFSC world cups on youtube. In particular Akiyo Noguchi from Japan, and sport-climber Jain Kim from South Korea. They have amazing dexterity and strength in their hips and legs, and they know how to use it!
How does the training work?
Training effectiveness often depend upon the exercises and progressions chosen. However, the most influential factor to the system’s overall success is the consistency and effort put in by you the climber. By following a simple progression and mastering each exercise along the way, you will begin to develop real strength and mobility in the hips, legs, ankles and feet. This is the foundation for the more intense movements and flows that will be introduced later on.
What exercises should you start with?
This is actually one of the easier questions to answer. One of my first objectives with new clients is to assess their ability to move in and out of a deep squat position, and to find out how many ways they can get themselves standing from a seated position, WITHOUT using their hands. Once we have this determined we can start working on specific exercises to build, mobility, range of motion and strength endurance.
*Here are 4 exercises to get you going. Watch the video and follow along.
The Deck Squat
Drop Squat to seated position
Cossack squat with/without assistance
When should you perform these flashy new moves?
Here’s the short answer: Whenever you think about doing it, do it. At multiple times throughout your day, challenge your leg stability and hip mobility. What harm is there in banging off 2 minutes in a deep squat or balancing on one leg for as long as possible? Personally, I like to schedule 2-4 times a week where I can play with my single leg stability, maximum strength, explosive power and agility. But more often than not, work and life force me to reschedule my planned workouts. In the table below, I have outlined how you can combine your climbing training and your lower body routine to maximize time. Long story long, pretty much everyone can benefit from properly strengthening and mobilizing their hips, legs, ankles and feet. All it takes is a little commitment and the ability to look at the big picture.
Here is one way to schedule your lower body specific training, practice or movement. The term doesn’t matter. Only the effort and consistency count in the long run.
Tyler Thompson is an ACE certified personal trainer, climbing bum and movement enthusiast based out of Vancouver, Canada. Please visit his blog for other helpful tips and ideas on training at thompsonfitness.ca
*Disclaimer: If you have any pain or discomfort, particularly in the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet, consult a registered professional before trying any of these exercises or beginning any workout. If any of the exercises in this article and video cause pain or discomfort, stop immediately and consult with a professional.
The exercises in this article and video are not recommended for anyone who s currently receiving professional help regarding an injury, medical condition or any other physical or mental ailment that may be exasperated by physical activity. Thompson Fitness and any of it’s affiliates are not held responsible for any bodily harm that may come from the performing of these exercises. Perform these, or any exercises at your own risk.