Exercises for Rock Climbing – Building Rock Climbing Strength Video Training – Lesson 1

Exercises for Rock Climbing - Building Rock Climbing Strength Part 1

One of the questions that I get asked most often from rock climbers is “What kind of exercises can I do at home to make me a better climber?”. Now most of us don’t have a full blown gym at home, and don’t want to go to a weight lifting gym on top of going to a rock climbing gym. So what I did is got you the person that I go to for all my strength and muscle building questions.

Konrad is a graduate our our PEAK Climbing Program, he’s a 5.12-5.13 climber, won the first tournament he’s ever competed in, and frankly when you see Konrad in the video and photos here, you’ll right away trust that he knows a thing or two about building muscle and building strength.

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In this part 1 of our video series, Konrad’s going to show you how to improve your pull-up strength for climbing. Pull up strength is absolutely critical in climbing in numerous situations:

  1. It can help you launch that extra distance when doing a dyno. 
  2. It can especially give you that extra lift and endurance you need to get to that next hold.

Now if you’ve watched the premium lessons in the PEAK Climbing Program then you know that you’re supposed to lift with your legs instead of your arms whenever possible during your climb. But you’ll notice once you start getting into the more difficult routes (5.10- and up) that there will be many times where you simply can’t lift with your legs any further and have no choice but to lift your body weight using your upper body strength.

Pull-Up Climbing Strength Example

As you progress to more difficult routes, you’ll find yourself in more situations like this where it becomes increasingly more difficult to lift primarily with your legs and must therefore utilize your pull-up strength to progress in the route.

Enter Konrad…

So we know that pull-ups are a great exercise that can help strengthen your back and improve your climbing but what if you can’t do a pull up? or what if you don’t have a pull-up bar to do a pull-up on?

Well what we’re going to do is show you how to properly do a pull-up, and how to strengthen yourself so that you can do pull-ups.

If you already have the strength and know how to properly do a pull-up, then we’re going to show you variations so you can still build that back strength and improve your climbing even more.

Where can I do pull ups?

If you don’t have access to a pull up bar or a training board for climbing, you can always do pull-ups on things around the house.

For example, we’ve done them on stair cases, banisters, hand rails, and exposed beams in the basement or attic. When being “resourceful” like this, remember to be extra careful about your safety and make sure that you are in a safe place so that if you have to let go, you don’t end up falling down the stairs, twisting your ankle, or have the thing that you are holding onto break off and fall on you. Use your good judgement and try to anticipate what could happen before you start.

Proper Technique and Common Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes that people make when training doing pull-ups is that they pull more with their arms instead of their back. A way to prevent this from happening is to use an overhand grip when doing the pull up as shown below. This is also the type of form that you will most often be in when rock climbing (as opposed to an underhand grip).

An example of the overhand grip.

An example of the overhand grip.

Also try to focus on pulling back with your elbows so that your shoulder blades touch when you finish that pulling motion.

Beginner Level : Negatives for Rock Climbing

Negative pull-ups are what you want to do if you can’t do a regular pull-up yet.

A negative pull-up is basically just the downward motion of a regular pull-up. Here is how you do it:

  1. Position yourself so that your chin is above the bar.
  2. Slowly lower yourself to the ground.
  3. Focus on squeezing/utilizing your back muscle while doing it instead of just trying to engage your arms.
The proper technique for doing negatives.

The proper technique for doing negatives.

How Many Do I Do?

  • Do 10 repetitions per set.
  • Do 3 sets.
  • Take a 1 minute break between sets.

What If That’s Too Hard?

If you find yourself falling too rapidly when trying to lower yourself down and are unable to muster up additional strength to slowly lower yourself down then it’s time for a variation…

Assisted Negative Pull-Ups:

Find something like a sturdy chair  or anything sturdy that won’t tip over when you place some of your weight on it.

Now begin doing the negative but use one of your legs on the chair, railing, etc. as a support to help lower yourself slowly.

So on your way down you’re just going to use your foot to lightly tap on the support (ex. chair, railing) if you find yourself slipping down too fast during the negative exercise.

An Assisted Negative Pull-Up Example

An Assisted Negative Pull-Up Example.


Intermediate Level: Regular Pull-Ups

Once you find that negative pull-ups are becoming much easier and that you have a lot of control on your way down, it’s time to start doing pull-ups.

How Many Do I Do?

  • Do 10 repetitions per set.
  • Do 3 sets.
  • Take a 1 minute break between sets.

You can always adjust these numbers as you see fit but the above is a  good general structure to follow.

If they get too easy, you can always add additional weight to the pull-up or use another variation of this exercise which we’re going to cover next.

Advanced Level: Variations

As pull-ups start becoming easier and you hit that 10 reps for 3 sets mark easily, you’re going to want to start using a more advanced technique to further improve your strength.

Engage Your Core:

One good variation is to begin engaging your core (which is also very good for dealing with overhangs).

To engage your core while doing pull-ups you’re going to want to raise you legs straight up. The most challenging way to do this is to keep them completely straight so that they are forming a ninety degree angle with your body. You then want to keep them this way as you lift yourself doing the pull-up.

Proper Technique of Variation to Also Engage the Core

Proper Technique of Variation to Also Engage the Core

Remove Fingers:

Another advanced technique is to start removing fingers.

What you can do is have a full grip with one hand, and then use only three, two, or one finger on the other hand (depending on your strength).

Begin doing the pull-ups and remember to switch hands so that you get the same amount of reps on each hand, while using the same amount of fingers.

Advanced Tip 2: Removing Fingers

Advanced Tip 2: Removing Fingers

Konrad and I hope you found this training useful and we look forward to responding to your questions and comments down below.

Have a great climbing week and don’t forget to check out the full rock climbing technique video training program Here.

Wishing you all the best,


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