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Complementary Exercises for Climbing

Complementary Exercises for Climbing

Lately I’ve seen a lot of people asking ‘What other exercise can I do to improve my climbing’.  Here are some ideas of complementary forms of exercise for climbing to get you thinking:

Pole Dancing

Believe it or not, pole dancing for exercise requires great core strength, arm strength and flexibility.  What this could do for your climbing is provide a different and equally demanding set of skills, that allow you to become more comfortable in awkward positions, develop your arm strength and enhance your flexibility.

What you need to consider when doing pole dancing is that warm up is critical.  It places a lot of stress on your joints, so do your warm up, then do a little bit more, just to make sure you don’t get injured.


Fiona, who created the wonderful logo and designing for the site has recently been to a new dedicated Yoga and Pilates centre in Manchester city centre.  Her feedback was that Pilates in particular was really good for helping to balance out, stretch and strengthen the core.  Having a well-developed core is absolutely critical to becoming a better climber.  Without it, you won’t be able to progress, so pilates is on my list of activities to do on a weekly basis.


Yoga is all about improving your mind and body in tandem – perfect for climbing.  The psychological aspects of climbing simply cannot be underestimated. For me, this is a massive issue, which I’ve recently been trying to address through mindfulness exercises and meditation (more to follow on this in a future blog post).  Yoga brings together the principles of mindfulness with stretching and opening up the body.  Bear in mind when choosing a yoga class the type of yoga – some are vigorous and energising, whilst others are tranquil and relaxing – choose your class according to what you feel will most improve your climbing – and don’t be afraid to ask a range of instructors how they feel their yoga class will help you as a climber!!

Hill walking

This might seem like a banal pastime to some, but hill walking can really help to prepare you for climbs that have long walk-ins, as well as improve your general fitness.  If you happen to be injured, it’s also a low impact option to keep in shape.  If you’re not very fit and only climb 15 metres routes at the wall, then a visit to the Cuillins on Skye, for example, could knock you out, with a walk-ins starting at 2 hours each way.  Preparation for this type of trip could include a combination of long distance walks at a slow pace, walks with a heavy pack and short sprint walks – particularly good if you’re short of time.


Climbing is sometimes referred to as dancing up the wall.  I owe my basic core strength to doing ballet as a child and into my teenage years.  Now, I’m not suggesting that I’m any kind of core queen, but in comparison the average person, my basic levels are good and it is solely due to doing two ballet classes a week for ten years.  Ballet requires control, strength, concentration and skill, as well as good posture, balance and body awareness.  You can start at any age and all of these elements will improve the longer you attend the class.  What I feel is the real bonus of ballet over the forms of exercise previously mentioned is that it incorporates the most elements that relate to climbing – balance, core strength, posture, psychological control, linking moves, flexibility, focus on legs & using arms for balance – they’re very similar in a lot of ways.  Ballet is a totally different form of exercise to any other I’ve done – it’s overlooked massively and really worth a few classes to try it out.


Trail Running & Fell running

If you’re planning to go on any long, hard mountain route above 8 hrs, then trail running might be a good option for you.  It can help to develop the sort of endurance that is required on heavy duty routes.  It involves running over terrain that is uneven, irregular and often hilly.  It will help your body develop general endurance.

Cross Country running

This is also a great way to improve your endurance.  You get a variety of terrain which means it’s good for leg strength.  The change of pace involved in cross country running places varying demands on your body, similar to the way a crag will place different demands on you when you’re lead climbing.

Sand dune running

Exhausting, but great for improving your leg strength.  If you can transfer this improved strength to your climbing, then your arms will reap the benefits, as they won’t get as tired if you’re relying on them less.  This is great if you live near a beach and don’t want to pay for a class, but not so good if you live inland and nowhere near to sand.

We’re really interested in other suggestions you might have and how you’ve got on with our suggestions.  Let us know by commenting below – we’d love to hear from you.

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  • Christine Shellard
    June 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Amazing ideas guys. I’ve already started Pilates and have already noticed the difference improving my core strength has had on my climbing. Keep up the awesome work 🙂

  • Gem
    June 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Circus is good too! I used to do aerial silks and my climbing improved loads while I did it, it builds up core and upper body strength.

  • Cristina
    February 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Great ideas here. I’ve been thinking about doing Pilates, just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Right now it’s all about yoga for me. I love creating sequences that work on core, power, flexibility and focus.

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