What is your opinion: Does it make sense to train rock climbing wearying a weight vest or a small backpack carrying a small amount of weight (let's say 1-3kg or 2-6.5lb) to mimic the actual weight you carry with you outdoors?

Why am I asking this question: Depending on what you are doing outdoors, you carry a substantial additional amount of weight, in particular for trad and alpine climbing, e.g.

  • 10 quickdraws do weight ca. 1kg
  • a set of cams with additional gates easily more than that
  • additional layers of clothes
  • etc...

In my experience, it makes a huge differences to carry an additional 2kg or 4.5lb of weight with me, in particular in overhanging terrain or if powerful moves are required. My prior therefore would be, yes it makes definitely sense to take this into account during your training. But I wonder because I seldom see climbers actually practicing with additional weight.

I think I remember Adam Ondra saying that most people should not do weighted bouldering etc. because you will get used to climber slower (and there is a higher risk of injury). But does this this also apply to a small (realistic) amount of weight you will face while performing?

  • 3
    At least in my gym, the only people I see training with weight vests, are professional climbers. So I guess it is a a legit training technique, and it is normally used not for prepairing for climbing with a backpack, but more for endurance or strength training. So that when you climb without the weights, you feel extra light, and can go further. No reason though, why this approach would not work for trainign for the times when you need to drag a lot of gear along.
    – april rain
    Dec 17, 2018 at 10:17
  • 2
    Was hoping to see people climbing trains :/
    – OddDeer
    Dec 18, 2018 at 13:11

4 Answers 4


Adding weight is an extremely efficient way to strengthen core, leg and back muscles - and also your fingers, depending on what kind of training you are doing. I have been training with extra weight for quite a while, and I think I can add something to the discussion.

Most people interested in climbing 5.13 will end up finger boarding and campusing. This type of training places a lot of strain on tendons and muscles, being actually not recommended if you're not a regular 5.12 climber. If you are, however, you're bound to climb stuff that requires crimping on small holds. Even the most basic fingerboard training will improve your overall finger strength by an unbelievable amount, but it comes a time when it simply doesn't work anymore. What do you do? Well, you start grabbing smaller and smaller holds, until you injure yourself because you were not strong to be doing that anyway. Besides, that route you want to climb has no tiny holds as the ones you're grabbing, so why train on them? What the route does have is a long sequence of not that bad crimps, from which you must place pro or even rest, and you're absolutely comfortable climbing each individual section, but can't link them all.

The situation above is very common, and a good sign that you should try adding a little weight to your static finger training - this will make your fingers stronger without changing the size of the holds, and therefore will not concentrate strain in a single section of your fingers. It will also make you stronger so that you can start training on smaller holds in the future.

Now, the added weight described earlier is static. Why would I want to climb with weight? Well, suppose your project has a lot of long moves and it's required that you cut you feet lose from time to time. The strength needed to get them back to the rock comes from your core, and training your core by just climbing is very hard - basically because your arms get tired first (even on a roof!). Well, if you tie some weight to your feet, the strength needed to raise them is much, much higher, specially due to increased torque. This will guarantee your core muscles will get beaten earlier than your arm muscles.

Now, if you're interested in endurance training, why not simulate that 11th pitch to the summit, where you're absolutely destroyed and pumped? Climbing a large number of moves with a weight vest will place more strain in your arms, and each move will feel three times as hard. The objective here is to hold big holds (mind that holds that are big for some people might be tiny for you), without placing too much strain on your tendons, but increasing muscle abuse. This is also a good way of simulating the weight of climbing equipment, as you wrote in your question.

As an advice, take weight training carefully. If your interest in it is just about simulating climbing with the equipment and harness, then this is not enough. Weight training should be reserved for more specific problems, like the ones I described above, and should be only pursued by climbers with some experience in grade (above 5.12) and time (2+ years). Also, it should never be done more than twice a week (even most professionals follow this rule), and should be reserved for the middle of your practice: never in the beginning, never in the end.

Also, it is interesting that in you gym you don't usually see people climbing with weight vests: in my gym we usually have to fight to get to the weight closet first!

  • I guess not all gyms offer weight vests. I think mine doesn't, or I am not aware of it. And it is one of the best gyms out there. Maybe it is country specific?
    – april rain
    Dec 18, 2018 at 9:16
  • @aprilrain It might be. In my city there is no such thing as a gym climber: everyone is training to send stuff on the rock. We have a lot of strong climbers with very specific training schedules in my gym, and all of them use extra weight sometimes. Dec 20, 2018 at 19:55

Does it make sense to train rock climbing wearying a weight vest... ?

To expand a bit on what Jan said: it depends on why you're training.

Back when I was a solid gym rat, some of my climbing was to learn technique. Some was to build strength. Some was to practice. Some was for flexibility. Some was to build endurance.

The more hard core folks that were at the gym mixed it up (which is where I got my lessons from). The ones that used the vests did not do so all of the time.

I'll also point out that what I felt comfortable doing in the gym was way above my comfort level out in the real world. (Nevermind the inherent difficulties of matching gym ratings to real-world ratings.) But, when I was starting to lead trad, just learning how to manage the weight and all of the things that would dangle and move was a thing you had to learn to deal with. I do know some folks that will practice in the gym with their gear on them. (Not many, and they were happy to accept the strange looks they got.)

I personally never bothered training with a weight vest. Who knows; maybe that would have been the thing to help me with my outdoor confidence.

  1. Climbers in a climbing gym may not necesserily be training for climbing natural rocks - some are probably just training to become better at indoor climbing, or are doing it for recreation alone.
  2. Some people probably do not want to be encumbered with their outdoor climbing gear. They might figure that as long as there are still some routes left in the gym that are reasonably challenging to them, they are having enough of a training effect without having to bring their gear.
  3. Some people might think that it is more important to train your coordination etc. rather than your muscles.

These at least are the reasons why I do not take additional gear into the gym. But I have to admit that I am a real low-level climber.


It really depends what you are training for. If it is for a limit read point in sports climbing we are typically taking about pre placed gear anyways, so you only carry your harness. If we are taking about alpine climbing there is a lot more weight involved but this will be typically compensated by staying way below your personal feed point limit. So this leaves us with short multi pitch routes that have a very sports climbing like character. Here it might make sense to train with a bit of extra weight as you are carrying some gear on difficult routes. But on the other hand, these are again compensating a bit on difficulty.

Training with weights typically is only done for increasing max strength. However, this is really training then on a system board or similar, not climbing a route.

  • I guess what you say is often but not always the case: 1) What about trad routes (e.g. cracks)? While I certainly climb trad routes below my sports climbing limit, there is the additional effort of placing the gear (which in my view can be substantial) 2) I often try to onsight sport climbing routes without pre-placed gear or with only a few bolts where you need to place some protection in between
    – Arne
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:17
  • You are right in everything you said. Especially placing gear can make a route a lot harder. Not only by the time to place the gear and the additional weight but also by the rope drag and the mental aspect. But this can probably only be trained by climbing a lot of such routes, not by climbing in the gym with a weight
    – Manziel
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:56

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