Skip to content

Build Max Strength, Injury Free: Part1

Gyms are sprouting up all over the show and with that so has come a pretty impressive amount of "training" related injuries.

“There’s no such thing as too much power!”, Wolfgang Gullich’s famous, awe-inspiring quote that any climber would have heard if they had dabbled in the training realm or searched the web for one of the millions of Campus Board and hang-boarding programs.  A lesser-known quote of his, but in my opinion the most important, “it’s all about getting strong without getting injured.  If you are injured you can not train and can not climb…. simple”.

Wolfgang Güllich climbing “Action Directe” (photo: Thomas Ballenberger)

Gyms are sprouting up all over the show and with that so has come a pretty impressive amount of “training” related injuries.

Why Train at all then?  There are truck-loads of crushers and ballies out there who smirk at the idea of “training” and I have got to agree that going out and CLIMBING will be the best thing a beginner or intermediate climber can do – at the core, climbing is a skill sport.  Nonetheless, if you are getting into projecting and you may also be limited on time, max-strength workouts will allow you to get the most out of your climbing and bump up in the grades.

What’s the right training program? 

Odds are that any program you pick up will benefit from your climbing for the first couple of weeks. There is a lot of literature out there in regards to “periodized training” and the benefit of blocking a certain amount of weeks off to focus on a certain energy system. An effective periodised program will include an endurance phase (aerobic energy system), maximum strength and power (alactic energy system) and a final phase of power/endurance (anaerobic energy system).

There are plenty of other methods. No matter what you do, stick to it!

How to build Maximum Strength- It’ll make those crimps feel like jugs! 

Deadhanging, with say 20kgs strapped to you, fall under a maximum strength protocol, however, you will want to come into it with a strong endurance base before starting. Do not spend more than 4 weeks in a row in this phase. These exercises are short and extremely taxing on your central nervous system so sacrificing some time outside so you can rest is advisable.

Note: an exercise cannot last longer than 12 seconds and you will need a lot of rest in between sets.

Getting more POWER!

There are a number of ways to get strong. Hard short boulder problems, Moon-Boarding, or Campus Boarding are all superb alternatives, however, you are far more likely to injure yourself and tracking progression can be tricky. Gym-problems will be replaced and we all have a tendency to find problems that suit our styles. Max strength hangs are static, replicable and they strengthen your finger tendons in isolation.


Why should you hangboard?

It may not be the most enjoyable time spent in the gym, but you will be pulling on holds you have previously thought impossible.

Activist (30), Montagu. Photo: Marine Drouilly

Stronger fingers and a stronger mind.

Strong digits equate to your ability to hold and move on smaller holds. While these exercises are short, they are ‘ARD! This will create neurological pathways that allow you to “hang in there”. Activating these pathways allows climbers to push their mental and emotional limitations in a controlled environment.

What you will need:

  • A hangboard (duh!). You can make your own one if you are short on cash and you have the time, but make sure it is stable and you have a nice selection of edges. Go to: or you can browse the web.
  • A timer: there are tons of fantastic interval training apps out there for your tablet or smartphone. You want to be able to see the timer during the exercise. We are trying to be as precise as possible.
  • A harness, weight belt or weighted vest. I find that a harness is best because it is easy to take weight on and off and we have all got one.
  • Free-weights. You can use a crate of water bottles or kettle-bells. You will be experimenting with your starting weight in the beginning so make sure to have some smaller denominations.
  • A pulley system. Note: in my opinion, if you need a pulley system, it is probably too early for you to be hangboarding – go and climb!

The Science:

The following is a selection of exercises and protocols from the best climbing trainers out there. If you are interested in getting more out of your climbing, go get yourself “Training for Climbing” by Eric Horst. It is probably the most detailed piece of climbing training literature out there.

Go to: and buy his book.


Read Part 2 for the programs: Here

For customised online and in-person training programs and assessments go to

Kai Fitchen Training: Train Smart

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Climb ZA Site Search

Search through the entire Climb ZA site, incl. News, Forum, Directory & Routes Wiki.
e.g. Table Mountain or “Cool like that” or Climbing Gyms near Durban