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10 Off-the-Wall Mobility Exercises Every Climber Should Do

Updated: Apr 4

It’s easy to go into the climbing gym, do some warm-up (or not), and climb. Hopping on the wall and climbing is why anyone loves sport. The feeling of finding your flow, pulling a hard move, and challenging yourself to figure out the beta can’t be beat. While some climbers might enjoy off-the-wall training, nothing beats sending your project. However, neglecting off-the-wall exercises may be hurting the progression of your on-wall abilities. There are critical strength and mobility gains that require off-the-wall training. These gains will enable you to unlock the following:


●     Increased range of motion in hips and shoulders

●     Increased body tension on complicated movements

●     Increased ability to generate power

●     Increased climbing efficiency (i.e., using your whole body rather than just your arms to generate movement).


To achieve any of the above, read through these 10 Off-the-wall Mobility Exercises Every Climber Should Do.

off-the-wall excercises

  1. Wrist Curls Perform wrist curls using a heavier weight. Wrist curls are fantastic for strengthening your forearm muscles without putting excessive load on your tendons.

  2. Wrist Extensions Perform using a lighter weight than wrist curls. Wrist extensions are essential to strengthen the back of your forearm. Climbers rely heavily on forearm flexion. If they don’t train forearm extension, it could increase their risk of injury - especially elbow injury.

  3. Crosshack Squats This exercise is fantastic because it works on active mobility, aka stretching and strengthening. Climbing movements are often unilateral, forcing you to use one leg or arm at a time vs. both. Crosscheck squats improve the range of motion in your hips, are helpful for high stepping, and help work on single-leg strength.

  4. 90 - 90s (Hip Rotation) Good internal and external rotation is essential for high stepping, heel hooking, and efficient climbing. 90 - 90s are an excellent way to work through full hip rotation and test your hip mobility.

  5. Handstand Holds (on or off the wall) Rock climbing is heavily reliant on pulling muscles. Think of all the muscles in your back and side body. While movements like mantles require pushing strength, they are not always common. Just like wrist extensions are essential to work the antagonist muscles of the forearm, movements like handstand holds are suitable for working pushing muscles (the antagonists of pulling muscles). The goal with handstand holds is to focus on proper form, pushing out of your shoulders and away from the ground.

  6. Runners Lunge into Warrior 3 This compound movement has similar benefits to the crosshack squat. It trains single-leg strength while opening up the hip flexors. A good range of motion in your hip flexors is critical for high stepping, a common climbing move. Transitioning from a runner's lunge into warrior 3 requires strong ankle stability and mobility. If you boulder, healthy ankles protect you when you fall.

  7. Pistol Squat The more comfortable you are at performing single-leg movements, the easier climbing will become. You'll no longer have to rely on your arms or get stuck moving out of high-step positions. Work through assisted progressions even if you can't perform a full pistol squat at first. Your climbing will benefit from all modifications of pistol squats as long as you consistently incorporate them into your training.

  8. Push-up Variations Incorporating push-ups and many variations of push-ups is a simple but proven way to build pushing strength. Even if you don't immediately notice the benefits translate to specific on-the-wall movements, the strength you are building will help prevent muscle imbalances leading to injury. It will protect your shoulders and elbows from joint injuries as you strengthen the surrounding muscles. The best variations for climbers include decline, archer, and tricep push-ups.

  9. Hanging Core Exercises You can't overlook your core. Climber or not, having a strong core is vital to ease of movement in everyday life. It's also important to target the entire core, which (surprise, surprise) is much more than the coveted 6-pack. Hanging core exercises are excellent because they target your deep core, hip flexors, and even quads. Hanging also incorporates grip strength and endurance. The best-hanging core exercises to incorporate are toes-to-bar, knee raises with a slow leg lower, and max L-sits.

  10. Plank Variations Imagine yourself on the climbing wall, but turn the plane from vertical to horizontal. Guess what? You have a plank (or something very closely resembling a plank)! Classic forearm and straight arms planks are great for full-body strengthening and tension building; incorporating variations will take your climbing to the next level. Variations, including side planks, side planks with hip dips, and cross-body mountain climbers, are perfect for targeting the obliques. These core muscles are often overlooked but help support many movements in climbing. The stronger they are, the stronger you'll feel on the wall.

These ten off-the-wall exercises are easy to add to your climbing sessions before, after, or during rests between climbs. As with most things, the more you perform the exercises, the greater the benefit you'll get. If you stick with a routine incorporating these movements long enough, you may need to seek more challenging progressions and variations. In other words, you'll be much stronger and more mobile than when you started. The benefits to your climbing will become apparent the longer you stick to a training program with these exercises. So, give them a whirl and share your thoughts and results in the comments below!


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