Training for climbing: maybe you're already a fan or maybe you still feel a bit unsure and don't know exactly where to start. In either case, this blog can help you discover how to measure your home climbing progress.
The importance of targeted training
The first question that arises when you want to get better at climbing is: what exactly am I going to do? This depends on your current strengths and weaknesses. It is most efficient to work on your weaker points, as that is where the most progression can be made.
It can be difficult to judge for yourself what you are good at and what you fall short at. I also often see climbers focusing on aspects in which they are already above average (read: edge training on a hangboard), simply because it's fun to do something in which you already excel.
To measure is to know
To get a reliable picture, you need honest measurement. Climbing is a sport that is not as easy to measure as, say, running, but there are certainly possibilities. In this blog, I'll explain how you can track what you need to start working on yourself at home.
What aspects can you measure?
So what can you measure? I have described here some simple tests to get an idea of different factors. In the assessment, I explain why certain aspects are tested and how you can draw your own conclusions from this. Want to know more? Then contact me and also take a look at theclimbingmovement.nl.
Test 1: Acceleration
Equipment: pull-up bar, timer, video
How: Take 60 seconds and pull up as many times as possible. The rules: width of hands may be chosen. At the bottom, the elbows must be fully extended. At the top, the chin must be above the bar. Resting on the ground is allowed, but the minute continues. Film yourself during this exercise.
Assessment: pull up
Several factors can be considered. The simplest: how many times did you complete the pull-up exercise? You can compare this over time to measure your progress. You can also look at the ratio of the number of pull-ups (a pull-up movement) to the number of times you did push-ups (a push-up movement). Test #2 shows you how to measure push-ups. To keep it simple, aim for a ratio of 2:1 (pull up:push up).
Factors for evaluation
Another factor you can look at when judging is how the exercise is performed. This is a little harder to judge yourself, but there are some things you can look out for:
- Do I prefer to place my hands narrow or wide? With narrow placement, you generally use more of the upper arm muscles, and with wide placement, you use more of the back muscles. Because of this preference, you may want to consider training in your non-preferred position.
- Are both shoulders moving up at the same time? If not, check if this occurs in multiple repetitions, and possibly in multiple exercises. Get to work on reducing this difference.
- Does the distance between the shoulder and the ear remain approximately the same during the movement (or does the shoulder move further towards the ear?) If this does not work from the first repetition: focus on controlling the shoulder blade. Does this only arise after a number of repetitions: with fatigue, it is normal for the distance between the shoulder and the ear to reduce a bit, but it gives you information about which muscle groups get fatigued first.
- Do the torso and lower body stay still during pull-ups? If you find it difficult to keep your legs still, core training may be helpful for you. Write down the answers to these questions so you can evaluate them later.
Test 2: Push-ups
Supplies: Flat surface, timer, video
How: Take 60 seconds and press as many times as possible. The rules: width of hands may be chosen. At the top, the elbows must be fully extended. At the bottom, the elbow must be bent at least 90 degrees. You can measure this simply by indicating that the chest should touch the ground, then you are definitely right. Resting in non-exercise position is allowed, but the minute runs. Film yourself during this exercise.
You can compare the number of press-ups over time to measure your progression. The ratio and execution discussed earlier are also important here. When performing the push-ups, you can pay attention to the following:
- Do I place my hands wide or narrow? This gives you information about which muscle groups are stronger. If you choose a narrow position, this is generally triceps-focused, and a wider position is more focused on the back muscles. A preference for a narrow push-up position may come from difficulty stabilizing the shoulder when the upper arm is not positioned directly next to the body.
- Do the upper body and neck stay in a straight line? If not, focus on training the stretching of the upper back and neck, for example.
- Does the lower body stay in a straight line? When the lower back "sags" or the knees drop, it may be helpful to train the back, buttocks, hamstrings or core. Also write down the answers to these questions to compare later.
These tests can help you see how upper body strength is developing. Research shows that shoulder strength is one of the most determining physical factors for climbing level. However, climbing level is complex and certainly cannot be determined from these tests alone. Other important physical factors include finger, hand and arm strength, core endurance, aerobic endurance, flexibility and balance. Of course, mental and technical aspects also contribute to the development of your climbing level.
Professional measurements and guidance
It is also possible to have physical measurements taken. This will give you an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as professional advice on what you can best work on to make long-term progress.
Discounts on training and measurements
Did this blog get you interested in a workout plan or physical measurements? Use the discount code NEO10 to get 10% discount on www.theclimbingmovement.nl!
Want to read more?
Want to read more about this topic? Here are some scientific resources to delve further into:
- Andersen, V., Mikhailov, M. L., Saeterbakken, A. H., Balas, J., eds. (2022). Training and Testing in Climbing. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-83250-092-7
- MacKenzie, Robert et al. "Physical and Physiological Determinants of Rock Climbing." International journal of sports physiology and performance vol. 15,2 (2020): 168-179. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2018-0901
About the author
This article was written by Sanne Maas. Sanne specializes in climbing injuries and training for climbing, in part because of her experience and education in exercise science and physical therapy. With her company The Climbing Movement, she supports climbers in training and recovery through training plans and guidance.