How To Build a Home Training Setup For Climbing

Photo: zhukovvvlad/Shutterstock

Getting to the climbing gym isn’t always easy. Building one isn’t either.

And while installing a home wall is an option for motivated climbers with plenty of space, you can often get just as high-quality of training with less equipment and a more targeted plan. If you’re starting from scratch, think about building your setup for at-home climbing training to hit five different categories: finger training, shoulder stability, strength training, power training, and core strength.

Here are some key recommendations for those with a little more space at their disposal—and those with a little less.

Finger Training

More space: Use a classic hangboard (maybe with a pulley setup)

Hangboards are one of the most effective ways to train your fingers. There are tons of styles, but most will do the trick just fine. Wooden hangboards can be more expensive than plastic, but they’re gentler on your skin. Wood also requires more effort to hang onto, which can make it more effective as a training tool.

Some hangboards come in two parts, which allow you to customize the board to the most ergonomic width for your body. If you have significantly wider or narrower shoulders than average, consider one of these.

The final (optional) touch is adding a pulley setup, which allows you to rig a rope from your harness through pulleys to a counterweight. Offsetting a bit of your body weight can reduce some strain off your fingers. This is especially useful for those who are new to hangboarding. The only drawback: You’ll need a large space, like a basement or a garage, in order to hang eyebolts under your hangboard to rig the pulleys. 

Less space: Use rock rings 

Rock rings are essentially smaller, free-hanging hangboards for each of your hands. They usually have rungs in three or four different sizes. With a little ingenuity, you can hang rock rings just about anywhere, from a tree branch in your yard to the pull-up bar in your garage. If you travel a lot, are renting a temporary room, or live somewhere you’re not allowed to drill, this is a great alternative to a hangboard. Like hangboards, rock rings come in both wooden and plastic versions. If you want to train more styles of grip, you can also get yourself a pinch block or a finger block, which can be attached to weights. 

Shoulder Stability

More space: Add a column of hooks to make a resistance band station.   

Resistance bands are one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to strengthen your rotator cuffs, a critical component of injury prevention for climbers. Consider starting with three bands at three different levels of resistance. To use them, you can either buy purpose-made exercise band stations, or build your own by installing a row of sturdy hooks to a wooden post somewhere in your home, which makes it quick and easy to switch between exercises.

Less space: Tie a resistance band around a fixed object.

Not looking to do a lot of spackling on move-out day? No need to drill holes to use your resistance band—you can simply tie one end of a band around a fixed object like a door knob, bed post, or tree trunk. 

Strength Training  

More space: Get a rack of plates and a basic set of dumbells

From shoulder stability to lockoff strength, there’s a lot you can train with a full set of dumbbells. However, climbing-specific training often involves exercises like weighted hangs and weighted pull-ups. Those movements are easier using a weight with a hole in the middle that you can attach to a harness. If you have to choose between plates or dumbbells, go for the plates: Get five or so ranging from 2.5 pounds to 35 pounds (they’re also a great substitute for a medicine ball in many core exercises). Consider getting doubles in each size if you want to use them with a dumbbell handle. 

Less space: Get a few kettlebells

The benefit of kettlebells is that they take up less space and are more versatile than either dumbbells or plates. You can use them in lieu of dumbbells for a number of exercises, and the handle makes them easy to affix to a harness for weighted hangs. Consider getting three to five sizes between 5 to 30 pounds or so, depending on your strength level.

Power Training

More space: Use a freestanding pull-up rack.  

Pull-ups are a classic way to train climbing power. The added stability of a freestanding rack, or a permanently fixed bar, gives you the opportunity to train fast, powerful pull-ups, with or without added weight. A rack also provides extra height, which can be useful for taller climbers and/or those who want the option of hanging rock rings, a towel, pinch blocks, or other grip-training aids from the bar.

Less space: Use a door-frame pull-up bar

Again, if you live somewhere where it’s not OK to drill into the wall (or you don’t have the space for a full pull-up rack), a door-frame bar will do. Look for one with alternate grips, which provide more training options.

Core Strength

More space: Suspension straps or gymnastic rings

The benefit of suspension straps or rings is that they’re extremely versatile and take up very little space. All you need is a couple of eyebolts in the ceiling to clip them to. Both wooden gymnastic rings and suspension straps perform the same function, though rings tend to be a little cheaper. 

Less space: Yoga mat

Nowhere to clip straps or rings? You can still develop a strong core with a yoga mat and a good floor routine. Don’t be afraid to supplement your floor routine with a few free weights, and to do hanging core exercises like leg lifts from your pull-up bar.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.