Rock Climber’s Workout with the Total Gym

Regardless of the activity or event you’re training for, get stronger and you will improve.


Training for a marathon? Getting ready for an upcoming flag football league or the next company softball season? Maybe trying out something new like rock-climbing? That important variable of strength should remain constant. Establishing a solid foundation of strength will help folks prevent injuries, become faster, and develop into a more well-rounded athlete.


Sport-Specific Training: No

Incorporate complete and full-body routines into your overall programming strategy, regardless of the sport, activity, or upcoming event. But what about “sport-specific” training? If I want to be a better rock climber, don’t I need to do a rock climbing specific routine? Sport-specific training sounds flashy and is extremely popular, but for most folks, it’s simply a great marketing term. Let’s look at all the sport-specific routines out there and see how many include some basic movement patterns for developing strength…squats, pushups, pull-up/row variations. Are those movements specific ONLY to that particular sport? Or are they foundational movements that, when developed, translate into a more efficient movement pattern; be it walking, running, swinging a bat, climbing a rock, etc? Movement is movement.


Sport-Specific Training: Yes

That being said, we can certainly improve the training program by incorporating some activity-specific movements that will add sport-specific benefits. Let’s take a look at rock climbing as an example.


In establishing some general guidelines for strength training for rock climbing, let’s briefly look at four important components:


  • Injury Prevention

First and foremost, and regardless of anything else, preventing injury should always be a top priority. Make sure to focus on any areas of weakness to help eliminate any “weak links” in the chain.


  • Develop Relative Strength

Having adequate strength is important for rock climbing. More specifically, having relative strength is paramount. The goal should not be to get rock climbers big and put on mass. They have to maneuver their bodies and hold their bodies up off the ground for extended periods of time. To increase their bodyweight would only make things more challenging. We want our rock-climbing athletes to be as strong as possible at their current weight. Or, even at a lighter weight if necessary.


  • Grip Specific Strength and Endurance

This is where we can drop in some “sport-specific” movements into our programming. Grip intensive pulling movements that test the forearms, hands, and even fingers will be important here. You’ll see some specific variations in the workout below.


  • Core Training

Similar to injury prevention above, core training should be included in all programming. Movements that strengthen, not only the muscles in the front of the midsection, but also extensors and muscles of the low back and obliques as well.


Equipment Needs

1. Total Gym

2. Pair of dumbbells


Let’s take a look at a routine:


A1. Total Gym pull-ups – with towels and MB squeeze – 10 reps

A2. Total Gym lateral lunge – with overhead hold – 8 reps/leg

A3. Total Gym superman – 8 reps


B1. Dumbbell squat & press – 8 reps

B2. Dumbbell renegade row – 4 reps/side

B3. Dumbbell grip carry – 30 seconds


This workout is set up as two circuits, each containing 3 movements. Complete the first movement, then move on to the second movement, then the third. Once you complete all three exercises, go back and complete the first movement to begin set #2.


Beginners complete 3 sets of each circuit to start. More experienced exercisers can work up to 5 sets. Time yourself every time you complete the circuits so you can challenge yourself and track your progress.


Doug Balzarini

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer, strength coach, international presenter, and the founder of DB Strength. He also owns a fitness facility outside of Boston called, “Iron Village Strength & Conditioning”. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Training Center where he worked with many top professional MMA athletes. He has also worked at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego and, most recently, spent a year in Saudi Arabia where he designed and created programming for a new state-of-the-art facility. Visit or for more information.

Leave a Reply