6 core strengthening exercises for climbers Blog Feature

By: Taylor Slay

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6 core strengthening exercises for climbers

We've talked in previous blogs about the importance of maintaining a strong core when climbing.  As a reminder, a strong core allows you to keep body tension on the wall, helps you keep your feet on the wall, and it generally just helps you move more powerfully and efficiently.

But what does that mean when you're on the wall? A few of our setters in our Hampden gym in Baltimore, MD demonstrate what happens when you don't engage your core while climbing overhung routes (spoiler alert: you're more likely to fall).

We reached out to Taylor Slay, a fitness instructor at our Dallas the Hill location, for core strengthening exercises  that are a little more fun than doing a jillion crunches. 

Taylor prefers teaching a Tabata-style core class, which is basically a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class for your abs. That means you'll do an exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, repeat the same exercise 8 times, and rest for a full minute. Repeat with the next exercises. 

These exercises require equipment you'll find in your gym's fitness area and should take about 30 minutes to complete.

6 core strengthening exercises for climbers


Start standing with feet hip-width apart holding the handle of a kettlebell with both hands in front of face, elbows bent and wide at sides. Keeping both elbows bent, and the rest of body still, slowly circle the kettlebell around head once, keeping the weight at eye level. 

dumbbell march

Stand up straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and extend your right arm out to your side at a 45-degree angle from your body. Slowly lift your left leg up until you knee is at hip height. Then, with control, lower your leg down to the ground. Repeat on the other side.

high to low dumbbell chop

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of chest. Lift your right heel and pivot on the right ball of your foot towards your left foot while bending over and lowering the dumbbell down, outside of left foot. Reverse the movement, and continue rotating through center until your body faces the right side, pivoting on the ball of left foot and raising weight up overhead at 45-degree angle. Reverse to return to start.


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one arm kettlebell push press

Start standing with feet just wider than hips, a kettlebell in right hand, right arm bent with elbow close to body so that the weight rests on shoulder, and left hand on hip. Sink hips slightly into a quarter-squat. Then, quickly push through feet to extend legs, simultaneously pressing kettlebell straight up until your right arm is completely extended overhead. With control, lower kettlebell back down.

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alternating squat to overhead press to the opposite side

Start standing, feet hip-distance apart, toes pointed out slightly. Dumbbells should be in either hand and resting lightly on shoulders. Sit back into a squat until thighs are parallel with the ground. Drive up through heels to standing while raising right arm toward ceiling, turning torso toward the left, and lifting right heel to pivot on it. Come back to center as you sit into the squat, then stand while raising left arm towards the ceiling, turning torso toward the right, and lifting left heel to pivot on it.

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alternating leg drops

Lie on your back with a dumbbell held in between your hands and extend your arms. (Think wrists over chest NOT your face.) Lift your legs up directly over your hips.


Taylor Slay is a fitness instructor at our Dallas the Hill location. For more core exercises, check out the fitness calendar at your local gym.


Read this next: Lift Your Way to a Stronger Climb