Best Exercises for Rock Climbing – Ways to Improve your butt, arms, and core for beginners

When I invite many of my female friends to come rock climbing with me, I usually receive very similar answers. The most three common answers would be:

  1. My butt is too big.

  2. My arms are not strong enough.

  3. My core is weak.

Well, we need to start somewhere whether we think we are strong enough or not. When I started rock climbing in my late 40s, I could maybe do one pull up but then I would be out of commission afterward. My focus was not so much as strength in the arms but how much fun it was to look for an efficient way to reach for the next hold.

Women have a naturally lower center of gravity than men so balancing on the rocks sometimes comes easier for women than men. Our legs are stronger than our arms so therefore, I totally took advantage of them until I slowly build up strength in the buttock, arms, and core. All the muscles intertwine with each other.  Therefore, women develop better techniques naturally and quickly because we do not rely solely on strength to rock climb.

Rock climbing activates many muscles throughout the body. In this article we will focus primarily on the three complaints that prevent women from trying rock climbing:

  1. the butt
  2. the arms
  3. the core


Five Best Exercises for Rock Climbing

Here are the five best exercises for rock climbing to help beginners feel less intimidated by the rock wall. Keep in mind always have a good posture when doing these exercises. Lead with your chest,  chin slightly raises, headline up with your shoulders, shoulder rotate back and by your side, relax, breathe, and not tense up.

  1. Climb with a partner once a week. Increase the number of days when you find yourself enjoying it and wanting more. The best exercise to get stronger is to practice climbing as often as possible. I started climbing three times a week when time permits. When my son practices with his climbing team for two hours, I follow him and climb also. Sometimes when I could climb only once a week, I found myself much weaker. I don’t know about anybody else but when I get older, if I don’t use it I lose it very quickly. There’s a pun that I always find myself saying jokingly “Seven days without climbing makes one weak.” That is so true. You can also spell it “week.”  Get it? Hee… hee… hee…. (noticed, I didn’t say ha.. ha.. ha.. since my name is Ha. 😉
  2. Practice deep lunging and balance such as warrior I, II, or III poses in yoga.
    silhouette warrior I yoga pose
    Warrior I yoga pose
    Warrior II pose
    Warrior II yoga pose

    Doing lunges help to strengthen the thigh and the buttock for dynamic motion when you use your left leg or right leg to lunge into the next rock hold.

    This happens pretty often in sport climbing where I find myself having to side lunge into the next hold. This also helps activate and strengthen your core.

  3. Hang with elbow slightly bent (not completely straight because you don’t want to strain your elbow) from the pull-up bar for at least 10 seconds.
    Man hanging on a pull up bar
    Increase your seconds as it gets easier each time. This helps strengthen the forearm grip as well as your shoulders and back. If this is too easy, you can also bring your legs up to your chest as a tuck and hold. The next progression would be having your legs straight out in a pike position like an L shape with your body and hold for 10 seconds.  This will work out your core as well as your shoulders, back, and forearms. Have you ever notice the forearms of the really good rock climbers? They are humongous! It reminds me of Popeye’s forearms. Do a google on the images of a female rock climber such as Alex Puccio. Her forearms are amazing. I cannot display her images here without permission so you can find them on your own if curious.
  4. Pull-ups with the forearm or overhand grip and also underhand grip.
    Man pull up with overhand grip
    Pull up with an overhand grip

    Man pull up with underhand grip
    Pull up with an underhand grip
    You can start with one and then gradually build up to more if you like. Each grip emphasizes different muscles. The overhand grip engaged the upper back muscles more while the underhand grip engaged more of the biceps. Both grips work on the biceps, triceps, and upper back.
  5. Yoga plank or push up position pose. Hold from 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can build up for a longer time if necessary. This exercise strengthens the core muscles which include the abdominals, the back, and the pelvic muscle.
    Man in plank position
    Plank position

These are five simple and best exercises for rock climbing and especially for beginners. Notice that some of the exercises involve yoga positions. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that will help with strength and endurance in rock climbing. Have fun with. When you are ready for a challenge check out our article on more intermediate-advanced techniques.

As always if you have additional questions or comments, please leave your thoughts below.


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