Strength Training to Improve Your Climbing: Lifts I Love (3) – Bench Press

Stay balanced and help prevent injuries by keeping opposing muscle groups strong.

Stay balanced and help prevent injuries by keeping opposing muscle groups strong.

What does bench pressing have to do with rock climbing movements?

Like all opposition lifts, bench presses and related exercises (like push-ups and Chaturangas), can play a balancing and supportive role in a climber’s training program. Weak opposition muscles are a common occurrence in climbers, contributing to the classic climber hunchback posture and a concurrent decrease in ape index (reach). By strengthening these often overlooked and undertrained muscles, climbers can potentially regain lost inches of reach, as well as possibly improving their ability to develop more strength in the prime movers used in climbing. Weak opposition muscles can potentially inhibit strength gains in prime movers. Training opposition muscle groups (while also stretching tight areas routinely) can also help correct muscle imbalances, reducing the risk of injury to both prime movers and opposition muscles.

Don’t believe me?

Check out Training Opposing Muscles Groups and Opposing Muscles: What Are They?

The bench press is a fantastic compound lift for climbers, targeting several different opposing muscles – the pectorals (chest muscles), the anterior deltoids (muscles on the front of the shoulders), and the triceps (muscles on the backs of the arms). None of these muscles get used to the same extent in climbing as their opposition muscles (lats, biceps, trapezius/rhomboids), which is why it’s so important to strengthen them, and then to maintain that strength and balance via training efforts.

Unless you can only do eight or fewer push-ups per set (or Chaturangas, for that matter), consider adding in bench presses to your training regimen. The rules of strength training apply to opposition exercises too, meaning that you want to work your opposition muscles similarly to your prime movers for an ideal body in balance. Ripping off sets of 20 or 30 push-ups is better than nothing, but you’d be better off doing two or three sets of bench presses with heavier weights to try to develop and maintain some actual strength in these muscles. One nice thing about true strength training is that you don’t have to do tens or hundreds of repetitions per set to make or keep gains – two to four sets of four to eight reps (depending on time of year and where you are in your overall time spent training) once or twice a week (or even every other week) usually suffices.

Learn how to bench press: Dumbbell Bench Press


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