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Five Cool Core Exercises for Training Season

Five exercises to strengthen your core for climbing.

Perhaps the most classic plight of the modern gym climber is an inability to move their feet with ease. Whether that difficulty is defined by the challenge of maintaining foot-to-hold contact with the wall or simply moving feet from foothold to foothold without cutting, the problem is the same: core.

What is often mistaken for bad footwork is frequently the result of a weak core and not poor technique. Placing feet precisely, quietly, and smoothly allows a climber to move with maximum efficiency. This allows the climber to retain more fore-arm and finger strength that would otherwise be expended. It is for this reason that core training is so important. These are the five core workouts you need to become stronger and more controlled.

Five-minute Ground-core:

For the climber that likes to get their core training over with as quickly as possible, develop a five-minute training plan. The key with this exercise is to pick five exercises that will be completed back to back until the five minutes has elapsed. Maintain each exercise for one minute at a maximum level of intensity. Do not compromise form. If the intensity is not high enough, the five-minute core workout will not be effective.

This core workout might look like:

  • V-Sit: one minute
  • Plank: one minute
  • Bicycles: one minute
  • Swimmer kicks: one minute
  • Rush and twists: one minute

The key to this exercise is that no rest is taken and that maximum effort is exuded to produce high quality versions of each exercise.


This exercise rocks. It is difficult to over-state how useful it is and there are so few people that try to get the absolute most out of the exercise. In climbing, foot cuts necessarily require a leg-lift for the feet to return to the wall. Following this line of thinking, a climber would become significantly more controlled if they could easily execute a leg-lift.

To train this exercise, strive to produce high repetitions. Begin by finding the maximum number of reps you can produce, with good form, in a single set. Good form is defined by the maintenance of straight legs, engaged shoulders, and constant breathing. The start position is defined by engaged shoulders and legs hanging directly underneath the torso. Lift the feet, while keeping your legs straight, until they reach the bar that you are hanging from. Lower the feet back down to the original position, again maintaining straight legs.

There should not be any swing at the end of the rep, nor should swinging momentum be used to lift the feet back to the bar on the next rep. Ideally, the athlete will be able to complete five sets of 10 repetitions. If this is too challenging, try reducing the reps or try lifting your legs to an L-sit position. If this is still too challenging, try lifting your knees to your chest while hanging instead of maintaining straight legs.

Wind-shield wipers:

This exercise is exceptional for serratus muscle development. The serratus muscles allow for a high level of mobility when hanging and are very useful for movements requiring high feet.

Begin with your feet raised to the bar. While maintaining straight legs, allow your feet to drop 90 degrees to the left. Upon reaching 90 degrees, switch directions, moving past the start position until you have moved 90 degrees to the right of the starting position. This will create a wind-shield wiper like movement. Back and forth equals one repetition. Complete 10 reps per set, and five sets total. If this is too difficult, reduce repetitions or bring your legs into your chest. As with leg-lifts, shoulder engagement is required.


Dead-lifts are probably one of the least popular climbing exercises out there. When considering core routines, climbers frequently misallocate the word “core” as a description of the abdominals. This is a mistake. A climber’s core wraps around their entire torso, and is not limited to the abdominal muscles. The dead-lift strengthens those muscle posterior to the abdominals, forcing the hips in while climbing. Keeping the hips close to the wall is crucial to climbing hard as it pushes more of the climber’s weight into their feet and takes weight of the fingers and forearms. This allows the climber to move with greater efficiency, and it increases their mobility on the wall. For climbers that particularly enjoy board climbing, like the style of climbing found on the Moon or Tension boards, this exercise is exceptional.

Roll outs:

This exercise is not exceptionally fun, but it has the benefit of strengthening your abdominals, your serratus muscles, and the iliocostalis muscles (the muscles posterior to abdominals) at the same time. This exercise is ideally done on rings elevated a few inches from the ground. Begin in a push up position with your hands on the rings. Allow your hands to push out until you reach your limit. Your limit is defined by the maximum distance that you can go out before returning to the start position. This exercise will prove exceptionally challenging at first, but, with time, will strengthen your ability to hold your feet low as your reach high when climbing on a wall. Complete three sets of five reps, focusing on form. Good form will look like balanced shoulders and a straight spine, similar to what you would expect from a perfect push-up form.


Thank you to @seblazure for featured image of @lucasuchida