I like to exercises while watching TV, and don't particularly want to get more home exercise equipment (like a bar or stand). What equipment I have is mostly stuff my wife has used for pilates and physical therapy. I have small dumbbells up to 10 pounds, a yoga strap, a balance board and an inflatable exercise/stability ball.

I usually do jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, various core/leg exercises, etc., but I'm looking specifically for exercises which would be useful in training for indoor rock climbing (mostly biceps and lat exercises).

I've tried:

  • Inverted rows on a chair, and I don't have any chairs work particularly well for it. (chairs uncomfortably small)
  • Bicep curls. The weights I have are pretty light, and I don't have a lot of spare money/space to get heavier ones.
  • 2
    just a note - bicep curls won't help with climbing. Pullups and rows (where you're engaging your lats and the larger muscles in your upper back) will be more applicable. When you're in the hand positions in climbing (like in a pullup) you're biceps can't engage all that much.
    – DavidR
    Jan 20, 2013 at 16:57
  • 1
    The question "What hand and finger exercises help with climbing?" on The Great Outdoors has useful answers, too.
    – Eyal
    Jan 21, 2013 at 8:56

4 Answers 4


Rock climbing is largely a skill sport, so to get better, climb more. Being generally fit also helps, but to be a better rock climber, you need to climb a lot.

If you want to specifically do extra work for rock climbing you should start off with identifying your weaknesses. From my experience in my climbing gym, the biggest weaknesses are grip strength and flexibility.

Things you can do at home

You can train your grip with something like the Black Diamond forearm trainer. You could probably just find a block of wood and just squeeze it. Real holds don't have any give after all. Don't use a regular grip trainer. Your closed grip is probably relatively strong. You probably want to train your open handed grip positions (like you're holding a fat hold).

You can also try Metolius Rock Rings. They are like a pair of mini hang boards that you can just hang somewhere. They come with an example program.

Flexibility is also worth working on as increased flexibility open up moves that you may not be able to perform at the moment. I find leg flexibility more limited than shoulder/arm flexibility. I'm not confident in prescribing stretches but perhaps someone at your gym can give you a few pointers.

Add drills to your regular climbing time

Use the campus boards and hang boards in the climbing gym. You can do various drills before you climb:

  • Just hanging
  • Hanging in the middle position of a wide grip chin up (so that your arms are beside you and your forearm and bicep form a right-angle)
  • L-sit hangs
  • Pull ups
  • Off set pull ups (one hand lower than the other)
  • Various patterns to get up the campus board

Ask someone at your gym for advice and to show you drills.

Otherwise maintain good general fitness.

Edited to try and answer the question more directly. Thought the Edit Summary field would add an editing note. Does not seem to be the case. Edited again to put edit note

  • I agree with you on all points, but I'm more specifically asking about home exercises. I also feel that my set of home exercises tends to exercise less useful muscles for climbing. (Eg I think my triceps are enormously stronger than my biceps from thousands of pushups.) The black diamond trainer looks pretty interesting. I do think my grip strength is weak, and they're pretty cheap. Jan 20, 2013 at 4:54
  • 1
    You don't have to add edit notes to your text, the revision history is public. (you can see it by clicking on edited xx mins/hours ago)
    – Baarn
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:20

In order to improve your strength needed for climbing, you should focus on pulling patterns:

  • inverted rows (horizontal pulling) are good, lay down under a table und pull yourself up. If this is too easy, place your feet onto a chair.
  • pull ups (vertical pulling). They are my favourite pulling exercise, they just give you so much strength, work your biceps and back at the same time. Work with different grips (overhand and underhand) and grip widths to focus on specific muscle groups.

I would strongly recommend too get a pull up bar, some rings, or a suspension trainer. Maybe one of the latter two make sense for you, as they can also be used for many other exercises. If you don't want to buy anything, try to use a door for pull ups. I think in order to gain strength, 10 pound dumbbells are too light, you should definetly train with higher intensity (like 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps each for each exercise). But training intensities are another story...

Of course you should keep doing pushing exercises as well to prevent unbalance.


I'd recommend you to get a pull up bar, as I think the pull up comes closest to real climbing. The models for the door frame are not that expensive. But it might be complicated to find the right door to make you still able to watch TV and I doubt you want to glue a ceiling mounted pull up bar to your living room.

So without a pull up bar, try inverted rows below a table. I did it before I got my pull up bar and it was a nice help progressing into the pull up movement.
You can do the inverted rows with both grips, underhand and overhand. With the underhand grip you can increase intensity by lying in front of the table and trying to bring your hands behind your head, effectively lifting your head above the plate of the table. The overhand grip comes closer to climbing movement and grips.

Additionally I'd drop the curls. I think it would be better to spend time doing compound instead of isolation exercises.
You can still use the dumbbells to increase resistance doing certain body weight exercises. Eg if you are already doing body weight squats, you could do dumbbell front squats instead.


There's a lot of good stuff in the other answers here. Pullups and rows are great. Grip training at home (with Rock Rings or grippers) is awesome. I'd also emphasize 2 other things: core work, and general fitness.


A strong core is what's going to let you control your legs, and drive power between you lower and upper body, especially on overhangs. You want to focus on abs exercises where your abs are supporting a significant percentage of your body weight. Crunches will have a minimal carryover - when you're doing a crunch most of your weight is resting on the ground, and you're isolating one muscle group of your abdominal system. I'd encourage you to look into exercises that engage your abs as a more complete unit, and put them under greater tension:

  1. Hanging knee raises. If you have a pullup bar, hang from it, and raise your knees. Depending on your strength level, you might aim for hip height, or touching your knees to your elbows. If you're shoulders hurt while doing this, you can try using "abs straps".
  2. Planks and plank variations. You say you can do a lot of pushups, so a plank may be easy for you. Try doing one arm planks - enter a regular plank position, then lift one arm and extend it forward. Hold for 30-60 seconds on each side.
  3. More advanced gymnastic moves, like the front lever or L Sit are great goals for core strength, and are a gold standard for abs strength in climbing. If you can hold a front lever for a minute, you've probably built the highest level of useful abs strength a person could apply in climbing.

A lot of strong climbers I know like to do the "P90X abs" routine, which will hit a lot of stuff, and doesn't require an equipment, you might play around with that, too ( although I personally prefer to keep it simple and do one single strenuous exercise, like hanging knees-to-elbows).

General Fitness

I hate to say this, but losing bodyfat is just about the single most effective thing you can do (other than actually climbing) to become a better climber. The closer I am to 10% bodyfat on any given month, the better I perform. The gains I can make getting down from my usual 15-18% down to around 10-12% just about overwhelm any training gains I can make in a similar timeframe doing just about anything else (except improving my climbing technique).

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