5 Exercises to Improve Climbing (No equipment required!)

There are many benefits of climbing, according to the climber. 😉 By sheer persistence alone, the average climber develops lots of muscles. While persistence is good, a faster way to get better at climbing to exercise at home! This leads to a lot of questions that I am hoping to address in this post! This post is geared for those looking for an equipment free way to train for climbing at home.  Novice? Expert? No worries, customize as needed!

What kind of exercise should I do?

There are a lot of exercises that are good. It is really hard to go wrong! From yoga, to cardio, to sit ups, it is all going to have some kind of benefit. To narrow it down, think of the actual motions of climbing. When climbing we are essentially doing a chin up! Improving the muscles that a chin up targets is a fast way to see results!

What is a chin up?

To clear up any confusion between a chin up vs. pull up, a chin up is when the outsides of your hands are facing your face. This is similar to climbing a wall! Pull-ups, while equally impressive, are when the outside of your hands are facing away from your face! Both are great workouts! They just target different muscles.

What muscles should I target to improve climbing?

The chin up targets a lot of muscles. The number one muscle it targets is the Latissimus dorsi. Called lats for short since who has time to say Latissimus dorsi? 😉 This muscle is on the middle back located just below the shoulder blades to the sides of the body.

Other main muscles that are needed are the upper back, biceps, and abs. There are a lot of other specific muscles. For simplicity we will go over the main muscles and let the other ones get worked out as the main muscles are targeted.

How can I do chin ups to get stronger if I can’t even do one?!

We are left with a few training problems: One has to be able to do a chin up to do some chin ups. Almost every time I looked up, “How to exercise lats”, I got the answer, “Do chin ups!” 😀  It took me 3 months of climbing consistently before I could do one! No worries though, keep reading to see ways to make the lat muscles stronger without doing any chin ups!

How can I work out without any equipment?

As much as I want to train, I am too busy spending money on gear, to spend money on exercise equipment. This includes a bar for my door frame! As much as I struggled, I am hoping that this will help anyone out there looking to train at home, with no equipment!

Everyone has different limits. Part of getting better is pushing those limits, but don’t push too hard. Injury is real! And resting is the worst. If there are any concerns reach out to a healthcare professional.

5 Exercises with no real equipment:

Exercise 1: Lats, Bent Over Rows With Can

Stand with the legs shoulder distance apart and knees slightly bent. Lean forward with a straight back. Make sure to keep the head looking forward, not down. Grab a weight of some kind, a can, a backpack, a gallon of milk, a water bottle, that $100 textbook you had to buy, whatever is lying around the house! Try to avoid dangly items that will swing around. We will need some control over the item.

Even though the item may not be a weight, try to follow these guidelines as much as possible to avoid injury, and to work out the right muscle! Hold the weight with the palms facing inwards and thumbs to the front. Keep the elbows close, and pull up until the shoulders and elbows are in a straight line.

Hold and contract for a few seconds and then release.

Exercise 2: Lats, Stiff arm push-up slide

This one is super freaken hard. There are a lot of modified ways. Essentially get in a push up position while making sure the feet are on a slippery floor (linoleum, hardwood, etc). While keeping the arms straight, push the feet back so they slide along the floor, then slide back up! The important part is the “up” so make sure it is modified enough that you can pull back up.

Modified versions include resting weight on the knees and shins as opposed to just the toes in a push up position. As I write this, I can only pull myself up if I only go about 4 inches down. 😉 Here is a link to a super helpful video.

Exercise 3: Upper Back: Black Widow (Also known as Back Widow)

Lay down on the the floor with the knees bent and feet flat on the ground. This position will look like a sit-up position except for the arms. The arms will out to the sides, not quite a 90 degree angle from the body, but an acute (less than 90 degree) angle. Pressing weight onto the elbows, do a sit up like pose. You may feel it in the abs a little bit (this is very similar to a crunch), but it should be targeting the upper back. Here is a super helpful video.

Exercise 4: Biceps:Slow Push up/Elevated Push up

This muscle is found to be harder to exercise without equipment. The best exercise is to to do a slow down, fast up, push up. While this will get the chest some exercise, it will also work out those biceps!

To make it harder, elevate the feet on a chair/coffee table/bed/etc.

Exercise 5: Ab Workout: C Sit/Twisted C Sit

Sit down on the ground with the knees bent and the feet flat on the ground. While sitting up, grab on the the thighs and lean back until the arms are straight. This will create a “C” shape with the body. Once in the C Position, let go with the arms and hold them in front of you not supported by anything. I prefer the Christmas Caroler pose. Then hold it and contract the muscles.

Just like C Sit, sit down on the ground with the knees bent and the feet flat on the ground. While sitting up, grab on the the thighs and lean back until the arms are straight. This will create a “C” shape with the body. Holding the hands together in front of the body, twist the shoulders to the right and then to the left. This will target the oblique muscles. There is no need to move up and down, only twist the shoulders over.

Work Cited:

Cavaliere, J. [AthLEAN-X]. (2016, February 25).  Bodyweight Back Workout (NO PULLUP BAR!) [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjnseqLiVXM

Samuel, M. (2017, September). The Best Biceps Home Workout Without Equipment. Retreived      https://www.livestrong.com/article/406302-the-best-biceps-home-workout-without-equipment/

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