I recently made a sport climbing course mainly to give it a try and also to learn something about belaying in general. It's fun, challenging and I got hooked quite a bit. Overall I was around 10 times in the climbing gym yet.

I want to get better of course. I am 1,84m and thin, indeed my arms/hands/fingers aren't very strong yet...

  • What would you suggest to improve my sport climbing skills?

I recently read the suggestion that one shouldn't do strength training unless one is able to climb UIAA 7 just because it's better (and faster if you want to improve the difficulties) to learn climbing technique first. If so, would it be best just to climb, climb and climb?

  • 3
    No time for a full answer now, but yes, based on received wisdom it will be more profitable and less likely to result in injury to simply climb for about one year before considering specific training tools. If you do train, train on "slopers" (where your entire fingers are in contact with the hold) -- see this answer for an explanation. Have fun climbing!
    – Mr.Wizard
    Apr 4, 2014 at 21:28
  • 2
    The best training for climbing, is to climb!
    – user2766
    Apr 6, 2014 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


Rest! I know you're going to want to climb every second of every day but you must give your ligaments time to heal! Muscle takes two days to repair however ligaments can take 1 -2 weeks. Gradually increase your time climbing, this will greatly reduce the chance of injury.

Familiarize yourself with all the necessary safety requirements, do you know what a Z-Clip is? what about a Back Clip? I'm sure the course you took covered this however you must always reinforce this knowledge, one mistake could mean your climbing career or even your life! Don't believe me, go read how many people have died from rappelling off the end of their rope. Sport climbing in a gym is very different from sport climbing outdoors, please familiarize yourself with the differences and seek professional instruction before heading outdoors.

While you're resting read up on the human body, Dynamic movement, Static movement, Centre of Gravity... Once you have that knowledge you can learn how to apply it in the form of techniques such as Flagging. Furthermore read about the drop knee technique and keeping your hips to the wall, this will come in handy especially on overhanging sport routes. Since you reference sport climbing have a look at lock-offs, they will come in handy when trying to clip a draw from a precarious position, you will need the lock-off strength.

Don't get caught up with grade climbing! Climb routes that look fun, climb routes that look tough, but remember to mix it up between holds. Don't climb only crimpy routes because you don't like slopers and don't just climb slopers cause you're good at them and crimps hurt your finger tips. The trick is to climb an assortment of holds(crimps,slopers,pockets,sidepulls,pinches) that put you in all sorts of positions. The more unique routes you climb the more small stabilizer muscles develop.

Now for actual training, Plank! Plank! Plank! Rope ladder, TRX, pull ups, offset pull ups, typewriters and best of all and my personal favorite Frenchies. Anything engaging stabilizers and core! You will get poor results from "gym like" exercises like bicep curls. Focus more on body weight cross fit related exercises such as pistol squats, burpees, L sits.

After six months try out some climbing specific training apparatuses such as a campus board or a training board. If it hurts or you feel uncomfortable stop immediately as this type of training puts a lot of stress on your finger tips! Proceed to include it once you feel comfortable.

Happy Climbing! Be Safe! And most of all Have Fun!

Flagging: Flagging is when you only have one foot on a foothold. Even without another foot hold the other foot can be used to stabilize or to generate momentum. This is accomplished by flagging. There are roughly three types of flagging: Normal flag - the leg that you are flagging is out to the same side. If you have your right foot on a foothold and place your left foot out to the left. The left foot can be smeared or in the air. Reverse Outside Flag - the leg that you are flagging is crossed behind the leg on the foothold. If you have your left foot on a foothold and cross your right lag behind your left leg. Reverse Inside Flag - the leg that you are flagging is crossed in front of the leg on the foothold. If you have your left foot on a foothold and cross your right left in front of your left leg. This flag is particularly useful for avoiding a foot match. The degree to which to flag will depend on what you are trying to do. On a move that requires a flag you may need to play around with how much you want to flag. It will depend on how far you have to move, what your other foot is on and where, and the size of handholds you are using. Try and climb one footed to see where flagging is useful and where it is not. Remember to try all three types of flagging in order to build these moves into your climbing repertoire.

Drop Knee: Kneedrops occur when you backstep you foot on the same side of your body as the foot. For instance if you put your right foot out to the right and it is placed as a backstep then you knee will be pointing in towards you rather than away from you. If your foot is higher than where your knee normally would be and you turn your knee in and down then this is a deep drop knee, the classic definition of the term. This technique is very useful for holding your hips against the wall on steeper angles, it is not that useful for slab climbing. If your hips are against the wall then you are able to pull across your body with your other hand. Try this. On a slightly overhanging wall start with your hands at chest height on two straight down pulling holds that are about shoulder width apart. Place your left foot on a foot hold directly below the handholds at a comfortable distance. Take your right foot and place it just below hip height about two feet to the right. Turn your right knee in and down and try and pull your right hip against the wall. This should make it easier for you to reach with your right hand out and up. Do the same thing out to the left. You can also try and climb into these positions and then out of them. It helps to rotate in and out of kneedrops.

Video: Flagging/DropKnee

Lock Off: Using tendon strength to support weight on a hand hold without tiring muscles too much.

Frenchies: Using a pull-up bar or the bucket holds of a fingerboard (palms facing away, of course), pull up to the top position and lock off with your hands against your chest for a five-second count. Subvocalize one thousand one, one thousand two, and so on, so that you don’t cheat on the five-second lock-off. Lower yourself to the bottom, straight-armed position, and they again pull up to the top position, but this time lower yourself halfway and lock-off you’re your elbow belt at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position statically for a slow, five-second count, then lower yourself to the bottom. Pull up a third time, but this time lower yourself about two-thirds of the way (with an elbow angle of 120 degrees) to perform another static, five-second lock-off. Lower to the bottom position and you will have completed one full cycle. But don’t stop! Without hanging to rest, immediately begin a second cycle of Frenchies; that is, pulling up three more times and doing the three five second lock-offs positions. Be sure to hold all the lock-offs for a full five-second count, despite the burning that begins to develop. Continue performing a third, fourth, and fifth cycle, if you’re able. Stop when you can no longer perform a full pull-up or hold the lock-off. Rest for five minutes before doing a second and third set. As you will discover, this exercise is gets hard fast, and doing a third or fourth cycle without cheating on the five-second lock-offs is incredibly difficult and grueling. Use this exercise up to two days per week and you’ll develop a whole new level of muscular endurance on the rock rock!

Video: Training

  • 2
    I'll add some links to the Keywords and exercises when I have time, as well as improve the content. This should be enough to get you started!
    – AM_Hawk
    Apr 4, 2014 at 21:58
  • 1
    Thx and yes, it would be nice to have some links/pictures because I am not fully understanding you. I even don't know what a crimpy or sloper route is and all those training methods :o
    – Wills
    Apr 4, 2014 at 22:34
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    Holy Schmoly this Drop Knee video is just awesome - and I say this not just because of Gabi ;) Thx for the comprehensive answer @AM_Hawk
    – Wills
    Apr 10, 2014 at 18:22
  • The Flagging/Dropknee video seems gone - do you happen to have a working link?
    – anderas
    Jan 13, 2017 at 12:31
  • @anderas I'll update the link and add a few more plain text details on how to find it...It's Neil Gresham Climbing Masterclass.
    – AM_Hawk
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:23

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