Cross Training for Cyclist- Climbing

When you hear someone mention rock climbing most people think upper body strength. In fact when I have invited friends to try climbing they usually accept or decline based on how many pull-ups they can do. “No man I can only do like 1 or 2 pull-ups”. So what place does this upper body focused activity have in a cyclists cross training regime. Plenty….The main reason…..Good climbing technique utilizes your legs and core as much, if not more than your upper body.  You propel your self up the wall with your legs. Your hands and arms are mainly used to keep you connected to the wall.

Climbing also requires you to focus on your hip alignment and weight distribution. This increased awareness of where your weight is being distributed can translate well to the bike from slight body “english” tweaks that keep you upright to really carving and aggressively controlling the bike.

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Bouldering on a slightly overhung wall

Core strength – Climbing incorporates all of your core from your hips to your shoulders not just your abs.
By climbing steep to overhanging routes you will engage your core extensively.

Grip strength – Climbing requires significant grip strength especially with smaller holds for those of you who have had forearm pump issues from braking to much this can help.
When you first start climbing you will most likely experience forearm pump. With some technique and practice and rest between climbs you should be able to climb longer without experiencing this. You will train yourself to hold on just tight enough and engage other muscles to keep you connected to the wall and moving up.

Flexibility – While climbing will not make you more flexible it requires that you are. So it can force you to stretch. I find a gentle stretch of hands, shoulders and legs before a climb followed by some deeper stretching after I am warmed up provide the flexibility I need to climb without pulling anything or cramping.

Anaerobic Training – Climbing can be strenuous and will engage Aerobic as well as Anaerobic system. Strenuous climbs will help you to train buffering lactic acid.

How to start: An indoor climbing facility is a great place to start there you can rent all the gear you need (Shoes, harness, chalk and bag)
Most climbing gyms will have facilities for:
Top rope climbing – Climbing with the aid of a rope running from your harness up to an anchor at the top and then back down to a belayer.
This type of climbing requires a partner who is trained in belaying. Some gyms have auto belay devices which allow you to climb top rope routes without a partner.
Bouldering – Climbing that does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a 10-15 feet off the ground. climbing is focused on making a handful of hard moves referred to as a problem.

Equipment:
 Climbing Shoes are your most important piece of gear. You won’t be able to climb too well with your  gym shoes.
The design, rubber and fit of climbing shoes help with executing core footwork techniques such as smearing, edging and hooks.
If you like climbing you should invest in a good pair of shoes. Look for a shoe demo day at you local rock gym.
Additional gear includes a harness (required for top rope climbing), a chalk bag and chalk.

Getting Familiar with climbing technique
There are a lot of videos and websites available. The Rock Climbing for beginners video series provides simple and clear instruction on climbing basics.
A good book for bouldering is Better Bouldering (How To Climb Series)

Climbing engages every part of your body not just your arms and back. It is a great for overall conditioning and is a lot of fun. But be forewarned it can be addictive.

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