Tips for Climbing Training at Home

© Nick Brown

Strength and Conditioning expert and climbing coach Olivia Ratcliffe shares some advice for climbers wanting to keep up their climbing-specific fitness at home during social distancing and self-isolation.

Not everyone has a fingerboard, weights, or if you are really lucky, your own board in your cellar. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has left the world a little topsy-turvy. Currently there is uncertainty as to whether climbing walls will stay open or not. Some are shutting, some are staying open, but uncertainty lingers. Whatever the current situation, we need to make the most of it. So, if you are stuck at home, without a cellar or perhaps even a fingerboard, here are some tips on training and a link to an 'at home' training guide!

Fingerboard training at home.  © Nick Brown
Fingerboard training at home.
© Nick Brown

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises in high intensity interval training workouts (HIIT) are a great way to train at home. HIIT training can help improve your power endurance. It normally involves high intensity, plyometric exercises such as squat jumps and burpees. Not a climber's favourite exercises, but they can help with improving dynamic climbing and dynoing ability! It's also an amazing way to get sweaty and really feel like you've had a workout.

© Olivia Ratcliffe

Making Exercises Harder

Not everyone has weights at home for more resistance training and make training harder. But there are ways around this!

Speed: The speed of an exercise can totally change the difficulty. Take the classic press-up. Pretty easy right? Now try and do them as slow as possible, taking about 5 seconds to go down and 5 seconds to go up. Or you change it up, go down as slow as possible, then try and fire back up as fast and explosive as possible. Try this with pull-ups, squats, and get creative with your workouts.

Freeze: Add a pause or a hold to make exercises harder. Again, for the press up, hold the bottom position for a few seconds. Again, have a play with different exercises and see how it can make simple exercises harder. This can also be in addition to changing the speed of an exercise.

Core exercises at home.
© Olivia Ratcliffe


Fingerboarding is probably going to be your saving grace while being stuck at home. Just make sure you warm up properly and follow the recommended guidelines of fingerboarding. Finger strength is super important to climbing and this is a great time to get those digits stronger! Here are two fingerboard training exercises. Option one is for beginners, option two is for more advanced climbers. Both are from my "Climbing Training: At Home Guide" which includes bodyweight exercises and some more fingerboard training.

*fingerboards may differ so choose holds/edges that are suitable for your ability.

Option One - Beginner:

5 seconds on, 5 seconds off

8 reps

3-4 minutes rest

Repeat for 3-4 sets

Add weight if you can, but I recommend only doing so if you are experienced.

Option Two - Advanced:

Front 3 (index-middle-ring), Back 3 (Middle-ring-pinky)

Front 3 finger drag

4 seconds on 6 seconds off

6 reps (equates to 1 minute)

Have 3-4 minutes rest

Repeat 2-3 times

Front 3 hangs
© Olivia Ratcliffe

Back 3 finger drag

Again, 4 seconds on 6 seconds off

6 reps (equates to 1 minute)

3-4 minutes rest

Repeat 2-3 times

Back 3 hangs.
© Olivia Ratcliffe

Keeping up your Motivation

For me personally, I struggle to get psyched to train at home. But here are a few tips that can help you get and stay psyched for some at-home training.

Follow a plan/programme

  • Keep a training diary and track progress – especially finger strength
  • Include training exercises you enjoy
  • Train with a family member or friend – even through Skype/facetime to make it more social and fun
  • Pre-workout ritual – set a time to work out, especially if you are working from home and glued to a laptop or computer, and have a coffee - or whatever gets you psyched - and get your training in.
  • Set yourself a challenge – new max hang, one arm hang or simply doing 5 press ups
  • Listen to some music that gets you psyched. Watch "The Real Thing", that always gets me psyched.

Coronavirus Tips:

You've heard them all before and you are probably sick of hearing them, but here are some things you may not know:

  • Eat around 1g of fat per kg of bodyweight. For someone who weighs 60kg they should aim to eat around 56-60g of fat per day. Fat helps with the function of the immune system. This should be consumed throughout the day and not all at once. Foods like nuts, oily fish, avocado, eggs etc. However, take into consideration your energy expenditure, especially at this time while being stuck inside and more stationary than normal.
  • Look after your mental health too! The uncertainty is having a big effect on people's mental health, shop locally if you can, help small businesses and take some "you" time! Switch off from social media and the news for as long as you can, try and get out for a jog or a walk, in nature if possible, and look out for friends and family, in particular those who suffer from depression and anxiety.
  • Get lots of sleep! Having less than 6 hours sleep can have a severe impact on your immune system. Equally, if you do get ill, try and get lots of sleep!
At Home.  © UKC Articles
Home  © UKC Articles
Climbing Training: At Home - During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, this download will help you maintain fitness levels and get stronger. There are over 25 workouts, mostly bodyweight exercises, requiring no to minimal equipment, a fingerboarding section (which requires a fingerboard), recovery section and more! Now's the time to improve your core, flexibility and finger strength! 10% of sales per purchase (next two weeks) will go to The Mental Health Foundation during this difficult time. Download Climbing Training: At Home guide.

18 Mar, 2020

Thanks for this!!

Despite having a fingerboard and a pull-up bar, I have always struggled with motivation. Today, a few of us arranged by Messenger to train at the same time - it worked!!

I wonder if the Fit Club thread will get bigger?

19 Mar, 2020

Anyone know where I can buy a Beastmaker online? Most places I have seen show out of stock?


19 Mar, 2020

needlesports, lovely people there too!

19 Mar, 2020

Thanks - just purchased!

19 Mar, 2020

I find the free 'Crimpd App' good for tracking progress and for suggestions of different training activities.

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