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Core Strength Training

by Mercedes Pollmeier, M.S., CSCS

First of all, what is the core? Well, it’s definitely not just your abs. It incorporates most of your trunk, your back and your butt. Some exercise science specialists also say that the core can extend all the way down your hamstrings (posterior chain) and quadriceps (anterior chain). The core really is the ability to recruit as many muscles as possible to make movement as efficient as possible. By doing this, you decrease your chance of injury as well as making your body more balanced. This is why it is very important to do “core” training, or also known as full body exercises.

In climbing, when you cut your feet from the wall, what is the deciding factor to stay on the wall? Well, it’s actually a number of factors, and all are included in the “core”. In order to bring your feet back to the wall, you must have the finger strength, shoulder strength, trunk strength, lat strength and back strength to swing back on and accurately place your foot. This means training all of these things together to achieve awesomeness.

What exercises would be good for core development? Well, first of all, I believe that women in general have really good isolated ab strength. When we do crunches compared to our male counterparts, it seems we can go forever. But, when you ask us to do more integrated exercises, such as leg lifts from a bar, we fall apart. So ladies, work less on isolated ab exercises and more on integrated exercises.

My recommendations:

If you have never done ab exercises before, or have had some time off from training, or if you have a lower body injury that you are recovering from, you should start with gradual isolated ab exercises that work on the transverse abdominis and spinal muscles. This is very important to do!

Once you have done this for a few weeks, you can progress to some more difficult exercises that involve leg lifts, leg lifts with medicine balls, hanging knee raises etc.

Exercises that create a lot of tension or torque are also very important to incorporate into your regime. This is where all the muscles communicate with each other at the same time. Good examples are the front elbow plank, side elbow plank, and other really awesome varieties of the plank. To get the posterior chain, you can do hip bridges and table tops.

Climbing specific “core” exercises would be anything that involves hanging. Toe      touches to the bar, front lever variations, windshield wipers are good examples of these.

Don’t forget! Squats, dead lifts, push ups and pull ups are also considered “core” exercises, because they involve the whole body to achieve the movement. Be safe with your exercises, take the progressions slow, and don’t push yourself to fast to achieve results. Your goal is to stay injury free as you become as strong as an OX.

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Straight Leg Raises


Plank Position – Knees to Elbow


Hamstring Hip Bridge with Leg Extension

Side Elbow Plank

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