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Cut Feet for Stronger Shoulders and Core

In this bouldering workout, you'll purposely cut feet to build strength in the shoulders, core, and biceps

Photo by: Dimitris Tosidis/IFSC

Shoulder strength and stability are key in climbing, especially on overhanging terrain. These muscle groups can be developed using dedicated off-wall training or simply through climbing difficult routes and boulders. However, sometimes targeted on-wall training exercises can be the best of both worlds by specifically working the shoulders and core while also honing technique and comfort on the wall.

This unique on-wall exercise uses one of the most fun movements in climbing – cutting feet – as a means to train the shoulders and core (and biceps too). Cutting feet is when both your feet come off the wall, leaving all your weight on your arms. In this workout, perfect for beginner and intermediate climbers, you’ll climb a series of steep boulder problems and intentionally cut feet over and over again – which would typically be terrible technique! These foot cuts force your shoulders and biceps to hold difficult positions and they blast your core as you bring your body and legs in and out on the wall.

Photo by Daniel Gajda/IFSC.

Here’s an outline of a typical 25-minute cut-feet bouldering workout:

  1. Choose a boulder problem around three grades below your onsight level. The problem should be on an overhanging wall. Aim for a problem between six and nine moves long.
  2. After each hand move, cut feet and let your legs swing out. Hold this footless position for three seconds and then bring your feet back onto the wall. Try to bring your feet back on the wall with as much control as possible, engaging your core.
  3. While cutting feet and holding the footless position, keep your shoulders engaged and a slight bend in your arms. Some hold positions may force one or both of your arms to be more bent than other hold positions.
  4. Climb the problem three times, resting two minutes between reps.
  5. The goal of the workout is to perform three reps of three different problems. Rest two minutes between reps and five minutes between problems.

You shouldn’t be failing during the workout but it should feel difficult to complete. If it feels too easy, try harder problems at your next training session, particularly ones with wider arm positions and smaller footholds. Perform this workout once per week on a shoulder strengthening day.

Photo by Daniel Gajda/IFSC.
Lead photo: Dimitris Tosidis/IFSC