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Beginner Climber and Broke


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I recently started bouldering with my boyfriend. I climbed and/or bouldered before with school, but that's years ago and nothing serious. I want to try and go more often if possible and try to actually improve. Problem is I probably won't be able to go to bouldering or climbing gyms often because I'm broke, which is also why I don't have my own equipment (like the much wanted shoes) yet, and borrowing these increases the entrance-fee of course.

I was wondering what exercises and stretches I can do at home or at the small gym I have access to to at least get the strength I need for climbing.

I can't say which machines and equiptment the gym has to offer since I don't know the names... At home I have a pair of 1,5kg/3,3lb dumbbells, and my sister has a pair of grippers that I could probably borrow. There's rather high bars in the courtyard of my house which I never use because they're full of spiderwebs, I can hardly reach up the smaller one and even if I could I couldn't even do one pull-up.

What tips can you give me to improve my performance for the times I do manage to go to the bouldering gym again?

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As a fellow climber, I can emphasize w/ you wanting to increase strength, although strength may be the wrong term.  All of these factors come into play when bouldering/climbing:

Technique - most important and only comes by practice

Weight - Any fat is just added wt you have to support.  

Strength/endurance - especially back, bicep, forearm, finger.  But its not exactly max strength.  I could easily lift more than women who are far better climbers than I.  You need a good amount of strength to support your body wt.  But the muscles fatigue quickly when climbing so you need muscular endurance.  Finger holding strength is very key.  I'm not sure how to define what it is needed to pinch on to a small hold, but its obviously critical.

 

 

From my perspective, outside of technique, back/bicep/forearm/finger muscle strength/endurance to wt ratio is key. The following are some of the things you might start working on/doing:

1)  Lower your body fat - every pound of fat you have is a detriment to climbing

 

2)  For the back, try

  • pull downs.  Perhaps your gym has a cable pull down machine?
  • bar hangs.  Since you can't do a pullup, just hang from the bar.  Maybe try to pull just an inch, just enough to tighten the back muscles slightly.  You could also try traversing side to side on the bar, sliding or lifting and grabbing the bar like you are on monkey bars
  • low bar pullups and chinups.  Not sure of the exact name, but you lay under a bar, then pull or chin up.  Part of your body wt is supported by your feet on the ground, so you may be able to do these.

3)  For the biceps, try

  • bent over rowing w/ a machine or dumbell.  This will work the lats and the biceps.  In fact, most back exercises also work the biceps
  • dumbell or machine curls

4)  For forearms, try

  • wrist curls

5)  For fingers, try

  • pushups on finger tips
  • squeeze balls 
  • any hanging or pulling exercise that requires gripping
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I'm in for the discussion.

 

I want to climb, but am overweight. I'm working on losing weight. I've built in rewards to myself, when I get under 200, I get a trip to the climbing gym, and then again every 15 lbs I go down. When I hit the 170ish mark, I'm taking a lead climbing class.

Knowing some strength exercises to incorporate in the mean time would be great, especially for fingers. I'm already working on pull up progressions.

 

 

I recently started bouldering with my boyfriend. I climbed and/or bouldered before with school, but that's years ago and nothing serious. I want to try and go more often if possible and try to actually improve. Problem is I probably won't be able to go to bouldering or climbing gyms often because I'm broke, which is also why I don't have my own equipment (like the much wanted shoes) yet, and borrowing these increases the entrance-fee of course.

 

The climbing gym I go to sells their used climbing shoes for $5-$10 a pair. I don't climb enough to wear them out very quickly. It may be worth checking or asking about it. At this one, you have to ask if they have any.

 

Not having to rent shoes helps me with the $$.

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If you live near an REI, they will sometimes have cheap shoes when they do attic sales.  You could also ask around at the climbing gym, since other climbers might be willing to sell some of their older shoes for pretty cheap prices.

 

If you want to get more climbing time in, you could search for any outdoor bouldering in your area.  rockclimbing.com has a section for finding climbing routes just about anywhere in the world.

 

Otherwise, maybe a good idea would be to head to a local playground.  Climbing around or doing pull ups on the features there will help with your grip much more than squeezing a grip trainer.  Climbing, hanging on, or doing pull ups on tree branches can also help with grip and upper body strength.

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Can you take a broom to the spider-webby bars? You don't have to be able to do a pullup to gain strength on a bar - just hanging for as long as you can might be a good exercise. If that doesn't work a counterweight can help as well.

 

Hand strength will often be the first limiter for most people so any training which increases grip strength would be beneficial long term. It takes longer for the tendons in the hand to adjust to increased work than for the muscles which can lead to injury. Therefore, an early start on hand training might prevent tendon injuries down the road. One simple way to make a pullup more of a grip trainer is to only use a fraction of your fingers to hold the bar. It's natural to wrap your hand around the bar completely but slowing decreasing that grip to where you only have a few knuckles of each finger over the bar will serve to improve finger strength.

 

The advice regarding weight is very true - every pound lighter is one less pound which needs to be lifted. However, introductory climbing is much more balance and technique dependent than just strength to weight ratios. I just wanted to mention that so that anyone interested in trying doesn't postpone what could be a great workout and a lot of fun until they reach some magic weight.

 

Adding to Nymeria's idea for the REI sales - a lot of clubs hold gear sales that might be worth checking out. Sometimes people are selling good gear which just doesn't fit as well as they'd hoped. I would be comfortable buying shoes on Craigslist or at a garage sale but wouldn't buy any weight bearing (including harness) equipment.

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I responded above about some hand exercises, but recently discovered the only exercise gives me the same warn out burning forearm pain that climbing gives me.  Take 2 plates (I use 2 5lb plates) that are smooth on at least 1 side (meaning there is no "lip").  Place the 2 plates together and pinch them between your fingers and thumbs.  Hold for a while.  It doesn't take long and your forearms will have the same burning sensation you get during climbing. It's even better if the 2 plates are smooth on both sides.  Gripping rocks and wall holds is more of a pinching movement than the gripping I get when doing pullups or cable pulls.  

 

I also agree with tinkerer above regarding hanging or pulling using only the ends of the fingers.  This is another common movement in climbing. 

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Diet is 80% of losing weight, exercise is 80% of motivation.

The only thing I am 100% sure of is my ability to be wrong.

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