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Strength training/climbing regimens for female climbers?

I'm a 5'3" female, 110 pounds, and I've been climbing indoors pretty recreationally now for a few months, generally ranging from 1-3 times a week. I'm now looking to specifically train for strength and focus on true improvement on the wall (I'm generally on V2s bouldering and 5.10as TRing). 

I've been researching to put together a combined weight room/general exercise portion for overall strength improvement (especially pushing upper-body), and then a climbing-specific portion to improve endurance, finger strength and technique. 

Here are a few of the issues I'm running into: 

  • Routines that are not designed for my starting point. A lot of strength training programs I've found include things like sets of weighted pull-ups, and I can't do a single pull-up from a straight-arm hang yet. I'm looking for regimens that are intense and will push for strong improvements, but don't assume you're beginning from the average athletic man's starting point. 
  • How much time I should be balancing between general strength training versus climbing-specific training. The end goal is of course sending more, so climbing is primary, but I do think that in this first stage I have some work to do to get my body into an optimal athletic condition for climbing (aka being able to do things like pull-ups). I was planning on going with a combined ARC plan plus gym focus at the beginning so that I'm still on the wall each time (i.e. 30min warm-up and ARC training, then moving into 30min or so of strength sessions). 
  • How often per week to do all of this? If I'm being realistic, I will be able to dedicate 3x a week to physically going to the gym, perhaps sometimes adding a fourth day where I just go to climb. I've always been active (mostly with soccer/martial arts) but am new to the world of planned training. 

Anyone have any good advice or resources to help guide my direction on all of this? *Bonus* portion is also the resources on meal planning to support all of my ambitions! 

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5 Replies

First off, that’s awesome that you seem to be so dedicated, that kind of attitude will get you far! Overall fitness is essential and I think, as this improves, you will naturally begin to be able to begin to do pull-ups, hangboard work, etc. 

as far as the gym goes, the standard arm-day, shoulder-day, back-day will get you started.

Core strength is also incredibly important, you may notice after a solid pull up or pull-up attempt, you abs are sore. I typically end each gym session with an upper and lower abs work out. 

Eventually, when your body is ready, you will be able to work in a daily pull up and hangboard regimen though that will come in time. I believe the recommendation for training with a hangboard is the ability to do 10 pull ups and do at least V4 or something like that.

Bar hangs are a good starting point, if your gym has one of those weight-assisted pull-up/dip machines, that’s a good tool to use. 

Protein intake and nutrition is important as well. About 3 months after I began training specifically for climbing, I made it a point to consume around 100 G protein daily and it absolutely made a difference quickly. I am a trim guy, 5’6 145 lbs and not big by any means as bulkiness doesn’t seem to be helpful on the wall.

Do what you can and, especially since you climb as often as you do, you will begin to feel stronger and see results in a matter of weeks. 

Again, keep doing your thing and great job!

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In our gym sometimes the team trains bu doping top-rope up climb, down climb, up climb reps. Another good thing is to climb in reps with good technique.

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My 73 year old wife learned to do a full hang pull-up by doing lots of "negatives"

Hey @rgeorge971 , I am always thrilled to hear about a persons love for climbing.

There are some great answers here already, so I think I just want to add specifically to your ask of "how much time should you be balancing between strength training and climbing?"

Simply by asking that question you are way ahead of me when I started. I can't say enough good things about climbing regularly. Try to adhere to whatever schedule works best for you, and just stick to it. If you can do 3 times a week at the climbing gym, I would recommend you split each day into different disciplines. If possible, climb well below your best grade for an entire day / session each week. This will allow you to focus on your technique. When we climb at or near our level only, we tend to get sloppy,  so climbing regularly below your level to really examine your balance, you ability to rest on your skeleton, to breath, and your grip effort... this is where the magic happens (in my experience anyway)!  It might sound boring, but I like to down climb (negative pull-ups right there!) and sometimes remove a limb if i get bored with the route, meaning don't use your left foot (not so much on roped climbs, more for bouldering).

Day / session 2: focus on your level or just above all while remembering the small tips and tricks you focused on the previous session.

Day 3, I would mix bouldering with strength training and core training.  If you have the ability to get a hang-board or pull-up bar, even just to hang on at home, I recommend it. Otherwise, a grip strengthener. I prefer the style that lights up. And don't over do it. And don't neglect rest days. If possible, add yoga to a day, as core strength and flexibility come in really handy and can many times outperform brute strength in the climbing world.

All of the above is simply my humble opinion or past experience that has for me. I have no certification or training, so these are just friendly suggestions. 🙂  

Happy climbing!

 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Looks like great advise I look forward to trying. Since climbing gyms "should" be closed right now and our gym is offering virtual classes, we've been doing yoga and strength training, mt biking and hiking, unless they close us out of outdoors.

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