Close up of a climber's hands

How to train for rock climbing from home

Your climbing gym may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop training. To help you make the most of training at home, we checked in with MEC Ambassadors and staffers for their tips and tricks to help you stay climb-ready.

1. Build a routine and stick to it

Everybody’s regular routines have been flipped upside down. Sketch out a schedule for the next few days and stick with it to see how it works. “I’ve been keeping up with my hangboarding schedule as if the climbing gyms were still open,” says MEC Ambassador Ivan Luo. Block out workouts and stretching sessions, but also pencil in time for things to do on your downtime, like watching climbing videos (Reel Rock 14 is out) or calling climbing buddies.

2. Make the most of what you have

You likely already have a lot of what you need to workout at home. It can be as simple as a yoga mat to move around on and a set of weights. If you have real weights, great. If not, see what’s in your house. “We’re using some water bottles and milk jugs filled with water,” says MEC staffer Graham McGrenere.

3. Get some hangtime

If you can, get something to hang on – a mounted hangboard is excellent. If drilling a hangboard into your wall might isn’t an option, portable hangboards work well too (over a thick tree branch or pull-up bar). Or you can hang off a door frame pull-up bar. To make your workouts harder, add weight to your body using your climbing harness, slings and carabiners.

“The bottom of a staircase is a great place to set up a hangboard,” says MEC Ambassador Tosh Sherkat. “Make sure to leave room for your feet and hips so they’re not smashing against a doorframe. Depending on the type of hangboard you have, you may want to drill it to a piece of plywood before securing it to a stud in your wall.”

Also, don’t pull on door frames because you will rip them off… trust me. – Tosh

3. If you can’t hang, hold

What if you can’t hang from something? “You can hold something instead!” says MEC staffer Kim McGrenere. “Use a portable hangboard, pinch blocks or anything you can find with small edges. Bring out your slings and carabiners to attach weight to the item you’re going to hold, and then hold by your side with a straight arm and your shoulder engaged.”

4. Use free workout videos

Browse online to see what workouts other climbers are doing, and adjust the exercises to work safely for your body – now is definitely not the time for an injury! Always start easy when you’re trying something new.

Tosh put together some of the exercises he’s using to stay climbing-ready:

5. Reset your goals

Now’s the time to be flexible and adjust what you may have envisioned for climbing this year. That’s totally okay – your goals will still be waiting for you on the other side of all this. “As a culture and as a community, we don’t value rest as much as we should,” says Tosh. “It’s so good for your mind and body! Let yourself take some downtime. You’ll come back stronger and more psyched.”

6. Don’t forget about your core

“Pushing and core exercises are my go-to,” says Ivan. “I hated doing push-ups for the longest time, but eventually I saw that they do come handy. For core, I’ve been trying to do more challenging exercises, like L-sits. They help me get better at balancing on my arms and also holding super tight on my abdominals.”

Ivan doing an L-sit exercise

7. Also don’t forget about fingers and mobility

“Definitely keep up preventative care for your fingers,” says Kim. “The tools you want for extensors are thing like grip savers.”

Another key training point? Mobility work to increase range of motion and your ability to move freely without stress on the body. “Mobility is a thing not a lot of climbers do on a regular basis,” Ivan says. “I recommend everyone to start doing a little mobility a day – your body will thank you in the future.”

MEC Ambassador Tula Sherkat shares one of her favourite mobility exercises: “Lie on the ground with your feet in the air and balance a yoga block on each of the soles of your feet. Then slowly try to roll over onto your belly without letting the blocks fall. It helps with your hip mobility.”

8. Spread and share challenges via social media

“I’ve been doing a ton of these,” says Ivan. “Push up challenge, one arm pull-up challenge, max hang challenge, even a challenge where you try to do as many pull-ups that can fit in one 15-second Instagram story – I ended doing 12.5! What’s better than being entertained while working out and get your friends to do the same?”

9. Keep in touch with climbing buddies

“Lots of social media!” says Ivan. “Instagram is probably my crew’s main channel, and sometimes we’ll hop on group conference calls.” Everyone we spoke with shared just how much they appreciate staying in touch with friends – not only is it nice to hear what people are up to, it’s also a motivator to keep active and connected to the climbing community.

Cat Carkner rock climbing
MEC Ambassadors

Aficionados of the outdoor sports MEC promotes. They pioneer and innovate, test gear in the field, and inspire everyone who loves the outdoors.