At-Home Training for Climbers
As with any activity, if you hope to get better at climbing, you need to train for it. The rise of climbing gyms in recent years has made progression a little easier for climbers, since they make it easy to climb anytime, no matter the weather. However, there are some days when it's impossible to get to a wall, at the gym or otherwise, which is where at-home climbing equipment becomes essential. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of gear you can use to help increase your climbing abilities in the safety (and privacy) of your own home.
Hangboards (also called training boards) are essentially the climber’s version of a pull-up bar. These boards, made of wood or resin, mount securely on your wall and feature different-size pockets and handholds to help build up the strength in your fingers, known as contact strength.
Hangboards are a great way to build and maintain essential climbing muscles, but they’re not advisable for someone who doesn't already have a base level of upper-body strength.
Rock rings are smaller, more portable versions of hangboards. They are two grips, each with two or three different-size pockets, suspended on ropes that you can hang from a pull-up bar or other sturdy beam. These are perfect for someone who doesn't want to damage their wall with a hangboard, since the rings don't require a lot of installation. You can even use them outdoors on a thick tree branch if you don’t have a suitable place to hang them in your home.
The versatility of rock rings makes them ideal for someone who wants to train but is often on the go, since all you need is something to hang them on.
The pinnacle of at-home climbing is the home climbing wall. This is perfect for someone who isn't a fan of heading to the gym whenever they want to climb and, believe it or not, you can build it yourself as long as you have the time and space to do so.
There are three kinds of holds you can make: resin, wood, or rock grips. Resin grips are the best—they’re the most durable and textured—and are likely the kind your gym has, but they're also the hardest to make, as they require a mold. Wooden holds are not as difficult to make, and they provide a good grip, but carving blocks or limbs into a proper hold is no easy feat. Rock grips are the easiest, as you just choose which rocks you want as grips and fasten them to a board, but they shatter more easily than resin and wood.
The important muscles required for climbing include those in the hands and forearms. Granted, you'll use pretty much all your muscles on a solid climb, but these can be the hardest to train. To build up strength in these areas, consider hand strengtheners.
Most hand exercisers are made with varying levels of resistance (the exception being gyroscope-style ball exercisers) to meet the needs of climbers of all abilities. Do some research and pick the kind that most appeals to you—ball, spring, or putty exercisers—and be sure to start your workouts out slowly, as overuse can lead to injury before you even get to the cliff.
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