to get good just going climbing is not enough, and is often part of the cause of plateaus that climbers whinge about. good climbing takes years of progress and to keep that on track you need to minimize base performance loss during the in-season. during winter it makes no sense to do a lot of heavy training as it only compromises the real thing out on the mountain – but it works well to keep your training edge sharp so that when the seasons gone theres minimal ‘shoulder lapse’.

ice climbing training

the stone that keeps the edge sharp…but not the edge itself

as its too late to make big progress for the season you are in, this type of training is about very short term goals that spill over to long term progress, ie fine tuning movements and stressors you will use next week, so you can climb in ways that set the goals for the next season (or three). these sessions require a high focus level, a high level of full body precision and a high level of complexity, but also minimal recovery and minimal lack of relevance. this is not really foundation stuff, its strupping the blade.

a good session to both do and use as a base for other sessions is ‘The Hole’. it has little heavy lifting and doesnt creep too far into your body reserves, but it does rev the system in confronting ways and it related directly to the stresses of steep climbing and hard approaches.


  • 3mins ski machine – mid pace

  • 3mins rope pull – mid pace

  • 3mins run – fast pace

  • 1min on/1min off x 3 GHD sit w/ 16kg KB

  • 25ea left & right side GHD extensions/twists w/ 16kg KB


  • barbell standing row 50% – 100% body weight; 5kg increments in sets of 3, the following between sets:

  • dumbell standing row 2 x 30% BW, 5ea alternate left & right

  • push row, 5ea, same DBs


  • 1min barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by:

  • 30sec dead hang

  • 5 x ring dips

  • 5 x chest-to-bar pullups

  • 90secs barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by as above

  • 2min barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by as above


  • 5mins rope pull easy pace

the warm up primes the system for working in constant motion, with a focus on everything going thru the large torso muscle groups. the first part recruits, synchopates and begins to stress the necessary muscle and structural groups, with the DB rows to stabillize imbalance recruitment and the pushrows to antagonize. the second part stresses the systems with demands from multiple systems – each set having its own prime stressor, then the hang widens the hole, the ring dips enforce stability when blown out and the pullups put the whole lot back into context just when youd rather be resting.

all movements relate directly to climbing and all stress factors will be familiar. ‘The Hole’ keeps shifting, and when standing rows are done right (launch with the legs, push with the back, pull with the arms) they mimic well the movements of being on steep ground. from this simple set of exercise can be extrapolated a multitude of variations – so long as the alternate stressor (dynamic and static), stability and integrative are kept in check.