Training for Females

Naomi gets a fist-pump after crushing a project of hers. She's been doing a fair bit of strength training work recently and it's really paid off - her explosive power has, eh, exploded.....

Naomi gets a fist-pump after crushing a project of hers. She's been doing a fair bit of strength training work recently and it's really paid off - her explosive power has, eh, exploded.....

"There is a widely-held perception that resistance training leads to unwanted bulk and “useless” muscle. This perception is perpetuated by photos of female bodybuilders and their, uh…strange beauty. The behavior of these females, both in training volume and pharmaceutical supplementation, is worlds away from a strength-based training program for climbers.

A woman looking to gain strength for rock climbing would be well-served to gain some total body strength in the weight room."

CruxCrush has a great post up on their site from Steve Betchel of (well worth the subscription fee if you want to learn more) about female-specific training for climbing.

It's broken into the three most common topics out there for climbing and females (strength training, aerobic training, and technique) and females interested in improving their climbing, it's well worth a read. Taking the Irish viewpoint, because I'm here in Ireland, the primary emphasis is still on having good technique which is standing a lot of people in good stead but is holding back further gains for many. It's not taking away from technique training - I do believe technique is hugely important (and should be the primary emphasis of your climbing in the first few years along with natural strength development just from going climbing and your body adjusting to the sport). However, with the old saying of 'work your weaknesses', continued emphasis on technique (which frequently is hugely optimised) means you see smaller and smaller gains as there is only so much you can improve on it. 


Females more of then than not already have really good technique

"I have learned more about climbing from my wife than I have from all of the males I’ve climbed with combined. When I watch her easily do sequences I had previously thugged my way through, I make it a point to go back and try it the way she did it. Despite our height and strength differences, I almost always find her beta to be the better."

When it comes to females, I've also frequently noticed that their movement skills are substantially better than guys (especially in the early years). I'd suspect it's due to having less strength, they learn to use better technique much more quickly. Obviously this is a huge benefit (and one of the many reasons when I'm coaching groups, I like to have a mix of male and female to offset each others skillsets and thus learn from each other). On the flipside, more frequently guys will try to power their way up climbs/problems so ensuring they climb using optimum technique is essential. We all have up and down-sides!


Getting help for Strength Training

In the past couple of years, I took the initiative to go and spend some time with personal trainers myself (list at bottom of post). It cost cold hard cash, but it was so worth it! A better understanding of full-body integration, how to remove imbalances, and generally a better understanding of strength and conditioning. 

Taking those skills, I'll be rolling out some planned sessions this winter with some additional help - I'll have something really interesting to offer as a package later this year (it's going to fun and educational for all!) - make sure to send me a mail (bottom of this post) if interested!

Personal Trainers

  • If you want to go to an incredible group of people headed up by John Belton who I was lucky enough to work with, check out in Dublin city centre. It says a lot that John went out and purchased a beastmaker fingerboard to understand more about climbing about his ethos to learning how to help you develop at your sport. Unfortunately, The Real World got in the way for a period of time so I've never made it back to him (need to sort that out soon) - lets put it this way, after only two months of work with John, I was doing the hardest problems at the wall in less than a session on a style of problem (indoor, modern) that I was normally rubbish at.....
  • I had a go at Crossfit last year. Wasn't really my cup of tea, but I can see the perks of it for many. I also learned the best warm-up routine ever from attending it. I also learned the power of a group workout for pushing harder than you thought possible. Dara out in Crossfit Fifteen (Blanchardstown) guided me.
  • I've been doing work at Awesome Walls with Ian Dunne. Stay tuned - this guy is gaining an incredible understanding into the inner workings (and habits) of climbers. He's a climber too.....

Using a tablet while climbing in the mountains

World Cup competitions start soon