Anyone who has watched Janja Garnbret climb at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics can tell you she is strong. Not only is she strong and precise, her power allows her to generate momentum and complete dynamic moves with fewer tries, therefore she reserves more energy for the next challenge.
Power is important in climbing, especially in bouldering and difficult lead routes. Strength in simple terms is the climber’s ability to pull on difficult holds. Power is a measure of how quickly a climber can access their strength to pull on a hold. If you are very strong but can't produce full force quickly, chances are you will fail to stick the dynamic move. Once you have built some strength, you can then work on producing it quickly.
Here are four exercises you can do at home (or the park) to help you produce the upper body power you need for dynamic bouldering. Do these exercises 2-3 days a week, alternating between other exercises such as cardio or strength training.
Forearm to Hand Planks
Start in a forearm plank position with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders
- Push up on to your hands one at a time, focusing on stabilising your body
- Drop back to your forearms
Repetitions: 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
- Your weight should be on the balls of your feet and therefore your heels should also be over the balls of your feet
- Engage your core so your body makes a straight line. You don’t want your hips to be drooping towards the floor or sticking up towards the ceiling
- Relax your head, neck and shoulders. When in the pushed up position, don’t lock your elbows
Lying face down on the floor, place your palms on the floor next to your chest, beneath your shoulders.
- Give your shoulder blades a little squeeze by lifting your hands off the floor to ensure you’re not hunched over
- Tighten your core, then push up explosively so your palms come off the floor
- Aim to land one palm a bit further forward and the other palm a bit further backwards than your starting position
- Repeat and alternate your palm position
Modifications: You can place your palms on an elevated surface to decrease stress on the wrist, or do the push-ups on your knees rather than your feet.
Repetitions: 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
Wide Lat Balanced Pull-down
For this exercise you’ll need a resistance band and a door anchor (or a pull up bar). You can get resistance band and door anchor sets for $34.99 at Rebel Sports ($20.00 at BigW), or if you already have a resistance band, door anchors are $12.99 at Rebel Sports ($8 at Kmart).
Set up the resistance band over a closed door with the door anchor in place.
- Stand facing the closed door in a slight squat position so that you can feel some resistance when your arms are fully extended. Don’t lock your elbows
- Shift your weight towards your toes
- Quickly pull down so that your hands and shoulders and chest are at the same height
- Slowly bring your arms back to the starting position, keeping your shoulder muscles and core engaged at all times
- Repeat but on one leg only
Modifications: Select the right colour resistance bands so you can achieve a minimum of 15 repetitions on each leg.
Repetitions: 2 sets of 15 repetitions on each leg with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
Grip Switch Pull-ups
You’ll need a pull-up bar for this exercise. If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home, most parks will have one. Facing the pull-up bar, grip the bar with your palms facing away from you, slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Engage your core and shoulder, then pull up so that the top of your chest is at bar height
- Change the grip of one hand so that the palm is facing towards you whilst trying to maintain the same height
- Lower yourself and repeat steps 1 and 2 with alternate hands
Modifications: Place your toes on a block to help support some of your body weight.
Repetitions: 2 sets of 16 grip changes (8 each hand) with 2 minutes of rest between sets.