How to Cross Train to Enjoy Bouldering Stronger, Better, Faster, Longer (and Stay Injury-Free!)

One of my new students asked me the other day, ‘what should I be doing to cross train for climbing?’

Great question!  While the best training for climbing is climbing itself (ideally 2-3x a week, with rest days in between), there’s certainly strength to be had in cross training.

Steph Davis, one of the top female climbers in the world, sums it up super nicely in her blog post, Training When Not Climbing: core strength and turnout flexibility.  Turnout flexibility is increasing your turn-out in your hips, so you can climb with your pelvis sucked up against the rock or wall so you have less weight on your feet and have to pull more with your arms.


Working on my turnout flexibility on Babar, v4

Core Strength

There are a handful of climber-specific core exercises that you’ll often see being done at the local gym; here are some female-specific ones I’ve found quite helpful for building core strength:

Turnout Flexibility

Start by sitting upright with your feet together in the classic meditative position. After a while, lie down on your back, keeping your legs in that position. You need to give it time, to allow your knees to gradually relax down towards the ground. After this is easy for you, turn on your stomach, let your feet come apart so your knees are at right angles, and lie in an upside down frog position. This is really the goods for hip turnout.

Upper Body Strength

If you don’t have the luxury or pain threshold of training on a hangboard, try these out instead:


For cardiovascular fitness, I like to do intervals because it spices things up a bit from your typical run-of-the-(tread)mill routine

  • StairMaster with 2-3lb weights (bicep/hammer curls during recovery intervals; legkicks during high intensity intervals)
  • Spinning
  • Outdoor cycling
  • Trail running

7-15 Minute Total Body Workouts

I’m all about effective and efficient toning, and I swear by these mini-workouts that will leave you sweating and sculpted in less than 10 minutes:

And last but not least, don’t forget to stretch!  I love a good Gentle Hatha Yoga session to warm up my joints and open up my shoulder muscles for a badass bouldering session!

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