The closure of climbing gyms around the world due to COVID-19 has left motivated climbers everywhere wondering how they can keep training while also remaining socially responsible by staying at home. One of the biggest issues here is that many of us don’t have home walls or good training set-ups.
The good news about investing in in-home training equipment is that it’s an investment that lasts. Not only will you be able to use them now while we all quarantine, but you will have them forever. Sure, when the climbing gyms re-open you may have access to all these tools, but having your own training tools puts you in control. Ever had the hangboard you’ve been using taken down? What about the TRX straps always being busy? Guess what? If you own your own, that’ll never happen again.
I know that in these uncertain times spending lots of money isn’t a possibility for all of us, but for those of you who can afford to invest in their home training equipment, I thought I’d share some of my favorite products. What follows is a list of training products, recovery tools, and climbing/training related books that I believe in and use myself.
Wooden hangboards are the best in my opinion. They are more comfortable to train on and do much less damage to your skin. Tension makes a variety of different boards. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of them. Plus, to help you all out during this challenging time, they are running a 15% off sale through the end of the month.
I’m a huge fan of this portable hangboard. Whether you hang it from a pullup bar or use it as a no-hang device, this board is a simple solution for your finger training needs that doesn’t require you drilling holes in your wall. During more normal times, I bring mine on every outdoor climbing day to use in my warmup. You won’t regret investing in one of these.
Whether you are hanging weights from it or using it as a no-hang device to pull against, The Block is a super versatile training tool. Just as with the Flash Board, you won’t have to do any construction to start training and you definitely won’t regret having this tool once things go back to normal. In my experience, most gyms don’t have quality pinch blocks. What’s the best solution? Bring your own.
If I had to train on a non-wooden hangboard, this would be the one. Having the two halves separate allows you to customize the distance between the holds allowing you to hang with your shoulders in a more optimal position. The other reason I put this package on this list is that it comes with a pulley system.
Whether you are new to hangboarding and need to take weight off or are trying to break into one-arm hangs, having a pulley system allows you to fine-tune the intensity of your training. The Anderson Brothers’ book The Rock Prodigy Training Manual is also included. While the actual training cycle outlined in this book is a bit outdated, the exercises and training principles they describe certainly aren’t.
In my book, gymnastics rings and TRX straps are essentially interchangeable. The good news is that a nice pair of gymnastic rings is a fraction of the price of a brand name TRX. This is the set of wooden rings I have and I’ve been nothing but satisfied with them.
As I just mentioned, I think gymnastic rings are a more cost-effective option than a true TRX, but you can buy non-brand name products like these that are just as effective and less than half the cost. This set-up comes with a door mounting option, so if you don’t have a beam, pull-up bar, or another way to easily hang a set of rings, this is a good option. They are also undeniably more comfortable to put your feet in than a pair of wooden rings.
As far as bang for your buck, space-saving, and versatility, it’s hard to beat kettlebells when buying any kind of weights. There are lots of different kettlebells out there. I’ve personally never used these specific ones, but chose them because they seem to have a nice finish, have a variety of sizes available, and, best of all, shipping is included with an Amazon Prime membership for most sizes.
If you’re more into dumbbells than kettlebells, fortunately you don’t need to go out and buy an entire set of them to get a good workout in. If you have one of these dumbbell handles, you can just get a few appropriately sized weights (see below) to connect to either side of the handle and you’re all good. They can be used for curls, presses, rows, squats, etc. There are a lot of versions of these, but this product was the least expensive and had the best reviews that we could find.
These plates can be connected to the dumbbell handle above, or they can be attached to your harness during a hangboard or weighted pull-up session if you’re at the point where you’re adding weight to yourself. You can also get rubber coated plates, but these were less expensive and available to be shipped right now.
No amount of mobility or recovery work is going to make up for poor sleep, nutrition, and hydration. But, if you cooped up at home, moving and mobilizing your body is going to feel good. Plus, as climbers, lots of us have compromised shoulder mobility and tight hips. With more training time on our hands, why not actually do the mobility work you’ve been neglecting for years.
Foam rollers are nothing new. However, I see most climbers have shorter, more compact rollers. Sure, these are great in that they take up less space and are more transportable, and they work well for most things. Shorter rollers, however, don’t let you lie on them with the roller directly under your spine with support along your entire spine. The first time I did floor angles on a longer roller I never went back to my shorter roller again.
The ArmAid is basically a lever that allows you to apply a lot of pressure to your arms to get at trigger points. It basically allows you to do to yourself what you want a massage therapist to do to you after every session. It can help nagging forearm or elbow issues, or just make you feel less tight.
$23.95 for what’s essentially a lacrosse ball?!?!?!? Yeah, I was skeptical too until Nate Drolet let me use his. If you’ve ever done any self-massage with a lacrosse ball, you’ve also spent lost of time trying to position the ball so it stays in the right spot. Get one of these and you’ll never have to do that again.
The good news about staying at home is that you have some free time on your hands. Rather than burn it all watching Netflix, why not read a book? A lot of what we try to do here at TrainingBeta is to give you immediately actionable training advice. We want things to be clear and simple enough that you can add them to your training right away. That said, climbing isn’t that simple and the why behind your training can be important to understand. There’s really no short cuts to this quest for knowledge. Here are some of my favorite climbing/training related books to get you started:
I first read Dave MacLeod’s book about trying to improve as a self-coached climber almost ten years ago. I remember loving some sections and completely disregarding others. Since then, I’ve read it two more times. Every time I read it, new points jump out at me. Now, as a coach, I try to read it once a year. If you really want to get the most out of it, use it as a mirror and be ready to do some honest self-reflection.
This book by Josh Waitzkin (the subject of the movie “Searching for Bobby Fisher”) is the story of his journey from child chess prodigy to Tai Chi Chuan World Champion. In it, Waitzkin shares the process through which he learns and then masters new skills. While the book isn’t about climbing, learning new skills and pursuing mastery is exactly what we should be aiming for in our climbing practice. It will help you learn how to have more control over your learning process. Plus, it’s an extremely entertaining read.
Never Let Go is Dan John’s first book. If you’ve never heard of Dan John before, he’s an absolutely legendary strength coach, but the subtitle, A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning, should tell you that this is about a lot more than just lifting weights. Honestly, you can and should read any and all of Dan John’s books, but you might as well start with the first one.
While the previous two books don’t talk about climbing, this one is all about climbing but has nothing to do with training. Freedom Climbers is Bernadette McDonald’s account of the golden age of Polish climbing, and how they came to dominate Himalayan climbing in the 1980’s and 90’s as their country emerged from behind the Iron Curtain following WWII. Get ready for stories of high adventure and total dedication to climbing.
While these are our recommendations for equipment, please remember that if you don’t have the funds to buy these things, you can get pretty creative with very little money. For instance, there are tutorials online for how to make a suspension trainer for under $20, you can use heavy household items as weights in some cases, and random household items (like spoons) as massage tools. Whatever you do, don’t let the lack of “proper” equipment keep you from getting after it!
About The Author, Matt Pincus
Matt is a boulderer and a sport climber from Jackson, Wyoming. He spends most of his time on the road living out of his van. Matt is responsible for most of the blog posts and social media posts for TrainingBeta and is our head trainer. He’s a seasoned climber and coach who can provide you with a climbing training program from anywhere in the world based on your goals, your abilities, the equipment you have, and any limitations you have with time or injuries.
Train With Matt
Matt will create a custom training program designed to help you target any weaknesses so you can reach your individual goals. Whether you need a 4-week program to get you in shape for an upcoming trip or a 6-month program to make gradual strength gains, he’ll create a weekly schedule of climbing drills, strength exercises, finger strength workouts, and injury prevention exercises tailored to your situation.
Matt Pincus sending Ghost Moon 5.13d/8b at The Wild Iris, WY