I have been climbing for more than 10 months now. I had been climbing regularly for 6 months before, unfortunately, I had a 2-3 months break from climbing. When I have gotten back to it now, I find developing jelly knees on my 3rd or 4th climb itself (lead). Because of this, not only am I not able to climb for as long as I used to, I am also not able to try harder routes because I am not able to trust my knees.

1) Any ideas how and why I might have developed these weak knees?

2) Can anyone recommend of any exercises that might be useful to strengthen the knees?

2 Answers 2


Most likely this is not a problem of physical power or endurance. A moderately active person should have sufficiently trained legs for climbing. This is especially true for the beginner end of the difficulty range where footholds can be stood on passively (as opposed to actively pulling oneself towards the wall with the feet).

Disco legs are typically a mental problem. If you do not feel comfortable on lead, climbing at your limit, people start to tremble as this will feel like weak knees. The solution for this is to take a step back to get comfortable with leading. Having a longer break can lead to being uncomfortable with leading climbs near your limit.

There are multiple aspects in training to get comfortable with leading

  • fall practice
  • finding efficient clipping positions
  • finding rest positions to ensure you have sufficient power left at the harder sections
  • building trust to your belayer (often overlooked but maybe the most important aspect. Changing belayers can be a huge holdback for recreational climbers)
  • 1
    This I definitely my experience, this same thing happens when I'm climbing ladders. usually I can spend hours on them but as soon as I start standing on the very top(yes i realize this isn't safe) i get the same issue with my knees feeling weak.
    – JIMMYPlay
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 18:04

I'm not a climber so this is a non-expert thought that was nearly just a comment.

Could something have changed affecting your ability to hold awkward positions, perhaps a loss of suppleness if your break was caused by injury or being too busy? I say this because when I get those legs it's often that I'm holding a tricky position for some reason, like protecting a rapid from the best position on the bank when kayaking, or working from a step that's a touch too far from the job.

Height-related nerves (that's why I'm not a climber), being stiff (from cramming myself into a kayak) or even being cold (but not shivery) all make it worse, but aren't enough.

  • 1
    Thanks! I had almost forgotten that I have been developing knee problems at the start of winters every year. May be it has a role to play!
    – nGlacTOwnS
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 16:11

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