Weight Training Using Deadlifts: Ultimate Core Exercise for Rock Climbers & Improved Fitness Overall

Training Advice to Improve Your Climbing Weaknesses for Better Climbing Performance (Climbing Training Talk 12 by Pro Climber/Climbing Coach Alli Rainey)

If you’re going to do one single weight-training exercise or one core exercise, I urge you to choose the deadlift. Learn to do it properly, and this exercise can help improve not only your climbing performance but also, your life in general.

These days, I love deadlifts. That’s because I seek out the most efficient and effective means to work on weaknesses to improve my climbing ability, and deadlifts fit in with this approach perfectly.

What do deadlifts have to do with rock climbing, you ask?

Climbers often make the mistake of equating core with abs, but they’re not the same thing. Abs are a part of your core, sure. Strong abs can help you get your feet back on if they come off on a steep climb. But what if you could make it so your feet didn’t pop off – so they only ever came off when you truly needed to dyno? That’s where deadlifts come into play.

As explained by David Robson in his article Deadlifts: The King of Mass-Builders?, “deadlifting will strengthen the entire back and its surrounding muscles, making this lift great for rehabilitative, and preventative, purposes. In fact, the deadlift is the most effective exercise for building the core strength that supports all other major muscle groups.”

What climber wouldn’t want that?

Deadlifts can enhance and improve your climbing ability by building up your core strength. You’ll notice this particularly on steeper rock, since deadlifts engage the same muscle groups you use to help keep your feet on the rock. In other words, they’ll improve your ability to hold core tension from the tips of your toes through the tips of your fingers. (Adding in some front shoulder raises will help out with this as well). If you don’t use grip wraps, deadlifts will also eventually challenge your grip strength. And, as I mentioned earlier, adding deadlifts to your climbing training routine will increase your core strength and stability not only for climbing but also, for real-life applications, by improving your ability to lift heavy objects without injury.

People get scared by deadlifts because they think deadlifts will injure them, but my guess is that a life without deadlifting stands a greater chance of injuring you if you ever have to lift and carry objects – because if your body isn’t trained to do so with proper form and strong enough to handle the weight of daily living tasks, you can get injured just from picking something up. However, if you’ve trained proper lifting form regularly in the gym and strengthened your body with deadlifts gradually, you’ll be less likely to sustain an injury from life challenges that involve lifting. Couple this with the fact that deadlifting stands to improve your climbing ability, and most climbers should be running to the gym to learn how to deadlift safely and smartly from a trained professional.

As is true with all new exercises, start slowly, get a professional to observe and modify your form until you know how to lift properly, and move the weight up slowly, always paying attention to form, since it’s true that you can get injured if you deadlift with bad form. BodyBuilding.com and StrongLifts.com provide helpful illustrations and pointers about how to safely perform deadlifts (as does the Dave Robson article linked above). StrongLifts.com also provides 5 Reasons Why Deadlifts Are Killing Your Lower Back, which can help you figure out and correct any technical errors you may encounter when deadlifting. And finally, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog as well, ExRx.net provides deadlift standards to help you establish some goals for your deadlift training.

Climber. Writer. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner.

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