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Want to Crank Hard? Build your BASE

Our legs are our “base”, our foundation; driving us and moving us to new and exciting places.

Build your BASE- it’s your powerhouse!

When I first got into rock climbing I assumed that you needed giant biceps of steel.  Becoming a good climber in my naïve state equated to being able to perform hundreds upon hundreds of pull-ups.  I guess this is a universal and rather logical assumption for non-climbers and beginners like I once was.

Oddly enough, if you have a decent, well-experienced mentor showing you the ropes (pun intended!), you’ll be relentlessly told to “climb with your legs!  Push! Don’t pull!”.  I remember thinking how dumb, counterintuitive and frustrating it was to hear those words when flailed up my first climbs.

Today, I’m the one shouting up at my partner, making them red-faced and annoyed.  When you think about it, however, the size of our legs and the amount of power that they produce undeniably exceeds the amount of strength you can generate in your arms.  After reading this you’ll understand why “skipping leg-day” is a NO-GO! MMA fighters, footballers, runners, rowers, climbers all require a powerful and stable “base”.  How high someone can jump from a standing start or how many box-jumps someone can do are all universally accepted measurements in accessing someone’s strength, health and fitness

While box-jumps and squats will definitely be positive for building a better “base”, I think it’s always a little bit more fun to get outside.  A steep rocky hike for an hour or so will activate this mighty and potent network of fibres, muscles and hungry ATP receptors and energy stores that will drive you to success.

All sports and disciplines require different twitch-fibres to be trained; for example, being a sprinter; you would want short twitch fibres so they can blast from the starting line.  While, I’m not really talking about that, carrying loads into the hills is wonderfully beneficial for all these types of activities.

What backpacking and hiking do is lay the foundation and capacity to take on more difficult training routines and live a healthy and active life.  Being able to haul yourself up and over rocky summits for hours on end means that you’ll be able to gain even more from whatever sport or activity tickles your fancy.  Constantly hopping from one boulder to another, wading through rivers, skipping down a slope or just cruising up a beautiful path in nature.  It can be tough, playful or calming, but hiking in the mountains will strengthen you while making you fixable, bouncy and indestructible.

A great inspiration of mine is a bloke named Ido Portal (check him out); he says that you want your base, your legs to be like bamboo.  Flexible, strong and ready for anything.

Our legs are our “base”, our foundation; driving us and moving us to new and exciting places.  What are you waiting for?

By Kai Fitchen

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5 years ago

Granted, we need our legs to climb (well), however, leg power is very rarely the limiting factor in being able to send a route or boulder, with finger strength (peak force), contact strength, power (pulling) and insufficient flexibility being far more likely culprits. Training your base is probably not a terrible idea, given you realize diminishing returns will creep up fairly quickly (especially compared to training any one/all of the other factors listed above) if your aim is to climb better (harder).

5 years ago
Reply to  Logic

It depends on your level of climbing. If you are a beginner, you are wasting your time on the hangboard getting better finger strength. I see poor climbers who just use their fingers and sheer grit to get through sections I find fairly easy. They have far better finger strength than me, but I use toe hooks, cams and high stepping. Finger strength takes years to develop as well. I’d say up to grade 26 you shouldn’t even bother with it.

Chris F
Chris F
5 years ago

But that’s a technique / knowledge thing rather than a leg strength thing. Focusing on good core strength is better then leg strength.

Running / walking in mountains is great for CV capacity and keeping weight down, but not sure there is much direct crossover to climbing better.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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