The fast and dirty: 20 min training for climbers

It’s not what you do today that counts. It’s what you do all year, day in and day out. Athletically we are the sum of the work we do. As a coach I often see people come into the gym and destroy themselves in a 2-hour suffer-fest workout, only to not come back in a week or more. Unfortunately, this type of intermittent training has little value concerning performance. I’m not saying it doesn’t have any value, but instead, it’s an inefficient use of your time.

Here are some quick tips to help you get the most of your workouts:

Do less- Huh? You heard me. You don’t need to kill yourself in the gym and spend the next week obliterated. It’s OK to leave the gym feeling good and not destroyed! 20 minutes is plenty of time if you walk into the gym focused and with a plan.
Do less but do it better- The goal of a workout is to stimulate the body, thus manifesting change (in the industry we call this super compensation). We can boost our bodies by increasing the weight (stack on those weights bro!), volume (number of reps or sets) or intensity (how much or how little you rest during your session) AND by improving and changing your movement patterns (i.e using proper form). Don’t just focus on one of these, rotate through each to keep the body guessing.
Do less but do it more often- Training 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week will do more for your performance than training 2 hours, once a week. Wrap your head around this because it’s a brainbuster.
Have a plan- When you walk into the gym, know what you’re going to do, how fast you’re going to do it, and then get it done. Trust the system. It’s not magic, but it works.

I’ve included two quick 20 minute burners to get you rolling. Workout #1 is climbing specific, and Workout #2 is general conditioning. Do them both if your feeling feisty, if not alternate each day or workout around your climbing schedule. You can find more workouts at


Workout #1: Climbing Specific
Things to focus on: this workout is about FAILURE. To get better you can’t just let go every time you get a little pumped, that would be weak sauce. Hold on until your grip FAILS. You know this happens when your hands pop off the wall, it hurts your tender skin, and you land on your butt (probably not very gracefully). You wouldn’t believe how often I see people let go instead of falling.

Warm Up:
3 Rounds of:
-10x Scap Pullups
-10x Arm Circles (one arm at a time, forward and back)
-10x Burpees
-20 sec Deadhang from a good sized edge ( his should feel fairly easy but a bit pumpy)


6x 3-5 Kipping Pullups (that’s 6 rounds of 3-5 pullups). Scale the reps based on your ability/fitness level. Kipping helps recruit more muscles in the shoulders and back, so while it makes the pullups “easier” you’ll get a broader impact on your body. Kipping is a skill and it’s harder to master than it looks. If this is hard for you, or pullups are not available to you yet, work on your kipping swing for 5 minutes instead of doing the prescribed rep scheme.



Hold size for this is subjective: scale this based on your ability/fitness level.
Speed 5 minutes finding the worst edge or hold you can hang onto for 15 seconds, open-handed with straight arms and no feet.
Complete 3 rounds of the following:
-Unweighted, 6 rounds of hanging for 7 sec on/ rest for 3 sec (1 min total, each round)
*rest for 1 min between rounds
-Weighted, 6 rounds of hanging for 5 sec on/ rest for 5 sec (1 min total each round)
*rest for 1 min

*use a weight vest or put on a backpack and put some weight in it. Scale (modify) this, so it’s difficult but not impossible to hang for 5 sec. Don’t change the size of the hold; the idea is to elicit change without putting too much strain on the ligaments and tendons (so you don’t need a tiny edge). This type of training pays substantial dividends in the long-run.



Workout #2: General Conditioning
Focus on intensity: let me put it this way…you can go run for an hour+ OR you can run for 5 min, the choice is yours. If the hour+ session is more up your alley, then get after it. The goal of this workout is to get you feeling smoked… Welcome to metabolic conditioning! This only works if you push yourself. Consider timing yourself or challenge a friend to do it with you. Intensity is king here.

Warm Up:

3 Rounds of:
-10 Lunges
-10 Pushups (scale these to your knees if you struggle with pushups)
-10 Air Squats
Complete 3 minutes of cardio (run around the block, up some stairs, row on an ERG, or do some jumping jacks. The goal here is to get a little out of breath so push yourself a little in this part of the warm-up.

Hips swings and arm circles



Complete this rep scheme as fast as possible. You will need to take some breaks, just keep them to a minimum. Try and stay consistent, keep good form and remember to try hard. This workout can be as tricky as you make it!

10-1 of:

*10 Pushups, 10 Pull-ups, 10 Burpees, 9 Pushups, 9 Pull-ups, 9 Burpees, 8 Pushups, 8 Pull-ups, 8 Burpees… Continue down to 1 of each movement.

*Record your time. Next time you do this try and beat it.

Go for a walk as you cool down after, and do some light stretching.



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