Bang for Your Buck Weight Training

Remember the 80/20 rule.  80% of your training time (aka “almost all of it”) should be spent on climbing practice and maybe climbing specific strength training (depending on your training age). Only 20%  of your training time (aka “not very much”) should be spent with a good general weight program.

That means if you have 8 hours a week to train, you should only be under the iron for about 1.5 hours, maybe even less.  That’s only 3 weight sessions if you’re doing 1/2 hour sessions.  BETTER KEEP IT SIMPLE AND EFFICIENT!

Here’s a good article by Dan John that lists a few of his” Bang for the Buck” exercises for each tool (kettlebell, barbell, etc.)

The article is a great read.  Dan gives away many of his secrets for free, but I’d encourage you to buy his book, Easy Strength.  Why would you want to work harder than you have to?  Anyways, here’s the snippet for you lazies out there:

For the kettlebell, it’s the swing, the goblet squat, and the get-up. The TRX and various rings give us the horizontal pull, the one-arm pull, and the various T, Y and I’s for the upper back. For the Mini-Band, those five-dollar small rubber wraps, the Lateral Walk will teach you more about your butt than an anatomy class. Simply, wrap the band around both of your socks and walk sideways (laterally) like a shuffle step in basketball. Too easy? Just keep going…

For the barbell, it’s the deadlift and the press (all varieties). Mastery of this simple list will give any athlete all they need from the weightroom and any person the body of their dreams. Mastery walks hand in hand with simplicity.


I don’t agree with all of his recommendations, but you get the point.  Here it is in case you don’t get the point:  You don’t have much time so make it count.

Also, always think about how your weight training crosses over to your climbing.  If there are two great squat movements, but one of them is more helpful for climbing, ditch the less specific one immediately, no matter how fun it is.  Save your fun for climbing.  Find other ways to have fun in the weight room.

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Work Your Squat Depth

Squats are powerful medicine, but they can also tighten up the hips pretty bad if you’re not careful.  Tight hips = bad climbing technique = you don’t climb so good.

If squatting is part of your training program, make sure you focus on the depth of your squat (your range of motion).  Do drills, correctives, foam rolling, and stretches that help you squat deeper.  And unload the bar enough so that you’re always (or almost always) squatting with your full range of motion. As a climber, your squat depth is far more important than how much weight you have on the bar.

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Bench Press & Other Lifts

I really like lifting weights.  I’m a little guy, so that usually makes people giggle a bit, but I’ve never seen faster gains in strength than when using weights.  At some level, the body weight stuff just doesn’t cut it and you’ve got to overload your body to see changes.

Of course, I only use lifts that are going to help me reach my goals, i.e. be a better climber.  Training smart means staying focused.  Right now, I’m focusing on leg strength for El Capitan (jugging, hauling, standing in ladders, etc.)  so I’m really into back squat, dead lift, and kettlebell swings.  The pistol squat, split squat, or one leg squat will come next.

Pavel’s Bench Press Plan

I just read a great article on the bench press:

It has a fairly simple, detailed approach to gaining strength in your BP.  If you’re new to this lift, and looking for a plan, why not start with Pavel’s approach?  At least you’ll have a plan.

Why Do Bench Press?

How does bench press help you climb?  It’s mostly useful as a longevity training tool, meaning that you’ll climb for more years and prevent injury if the strength in your upper body is balanced.  I remember a Steve Bechtel article that said that you should be able to push as much as you pull, meaning if you can do 20 pullups, you should be able to press your body weight 20 times.  That’s definitely not me!  And this probably isn’t necessary to be a world class climber, but we all could benefit from focusing on our push muscles more.  You don’t want to blow out your shoulders again, do you?

Other Variations Of The Same Movement

I like the one arm press better than the bench press, but it’s good to use multiple exercises to train similar movements, so use both!  Since most of the pulling we do as climbers is somewhere in-between straight in front of you (bench press) and straight above you (one arm press) it’s a good idea to train both of these antagonist exercises.  Why not throw in some presses from the various turkish get-up positions as well?

Here’s a great video/article for the one arm press.  It works your “core” too!: