This post is part of a series on Training For Ice Climbing and Mixed Climbing. Click below for previous posts:

Building a Solid Foundation

NOTE: These workouts are intended for the fitness-minded climber.  It’s up to you to manage your time and expectations.  You may not initially be able to achieve the workout as described.  Just working towards that goal will do wonders to get you ready for ice season.

Training for Ice Climbing Ben Carlson on BMF

You’ve been doing:
Foundation - 3x / week

Now that you’ve developed a workout habit that maintains a solid foundation (you’ve done approximately 6 Foundation workouts by now right?), let’s open it up.

Building on the Foundation Workout, the goal now is to add longer, less intense workouts with intervals of high intensity.

Fortification Workout 2x / week 30-40 mins

Training for ice climbing Intervals

Intervals

Intervals (aka, High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT) are the single most effective way to increase power while building endurance. These are short, high intensity workouts followed by regular intensity workouts. High intensity means high intensity, as in, as hard as you can go.  Due to the extreme intensity, injury is easier.  Use this variation very wisely, While it can greatly improve your ability to go harder longer you MUST be careful to not over do it and cause injury. 

Intervals training basically goes like this: when running, biking, or swimming, go full on as hard as you can for 30 sec, then slow down to a regular pace for 1-2 min sec.  Use this tool 2x / week for 20-30 mins.

You can even do this when climbing.  Find a long easy route, outside or in the gym. Climb as fast as you can for 1 min, and then climb at a recovery pace for 1 min.  If you top out, lower off and immediately begin climbing again. Bask in the heat of your pumped forearms and burning lungs. Repeat for 8-10 mins.  Bonus if your gym has auto-belays, or if your auto-belay is named Jim.

Below, Marian is on her third interval on a route set for DRY ICE Tools.  Doesn’t get any more ice-specific than that.

Training for Ice Mixed Climbing Intervals.jpg

For a variation on the interval workout, look no further than the Cardio Pyramid.  It looks like this:

30 seconds sprint / 30 seconds recover
1 minute sprint / 1 minute recover
2 minutes sprint / 2 minutes recover
4 minutes sprint / 4 minutes recover
2 minutes sprint / 2 minutes recover
1 minute sprint / 1 minute recover
30 seconds sprint / 30 seconds recover

Replace ‘sprint’ with ‘all-out swim / bike / run / climb’ for interval workout du jour.  IF YOU CANNOT DO THIS, tailor the cardio pyramid to your maximum ability, maybe you start with an initial 5 sec sprint, then work up to and initial 10 second sprint, etc..  The point is to get moving.

Stretching

All this training is useless without the flexibility to use it.  Yoga is excellent.  While we could take up an entire post with stretching for ice and mixed climbing, below are some stretches to keep you limber for that next high step.

Calf Stretch

When climbing ice, few muscles get as worked as hard as the calves. Taking care of them is not only an important part of being fit but also strong, supportive calves help keep your mind calm when your 80’ up on some chandelier-y grade 5.

Why is it important to stretch calf muscles?

The calf is comprised of two muscles the gastrocnemius and soleus which fuse at the Achilles tendon and when they contract, they flex the foot to allow you to plant on the balls of your feet and stand on your crampon’s front points. . As your foot lands when you walk, run, squat down to sit, or climb ice the calf muscles must stretch to allow your foot to flatten, your heel to come down to be level with your front points, and your shin to come forward. If your calf muscles are excessively tight you will constantly walk and stand on the balls of your feet.  This impairs your ability to move efficiently on ice or mixed terrain.

Also, excessively tight calf muscles are prone to tearing, increase your risk of Achilles tendon tears, and are weak. Stretching the calf muscles several days a week will improve range of motion, decrease risk of tearing, and help the calf muscles provide the support you need when climbing or placing a screw on steep ice.

Below Marian is using a simple downward dog pose to stretch her calves.

-Hold stretches for 30 seconds.
-For a deeper stretch bend the knees and ankles.

Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch

Tricep Stretch

The tricep is the extensor of the elbow. It allows us to straighten our forearms, or more importantly, swing our ice axes. Keeping your triceps limber allows a more efficient swing and easier pick placements.

-Place your hand on your upper back with the elbow bend towards the ceiling.
-Use your other hand to pull the elbow towards your head.
-Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Tricep Stretch

Tricep Stretch

Forearm Stretch

Constant, repeated gripping of ice tools is tough on forearms.  When stretching forearms it’s important to stretch BOTH the flexor and extensor muscles. Most climbers skip the extensors at their own peril. Do not skip these 4 stretches. They are simple and you can do them anywhere. If you’ve been knocking out foundation workouts, they will feel great.

Flexor

-Palm facing outward and the thumb pointing out from center.
-Using your other hand, pull your fingers back stretching forearm.
-Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

-Palm facing outward and the thumb pointing in to center.
-Using your other hand, pull your fingers back stretching forearm.
-Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

-Perform this stretch with both arms.

Extensor

-Straighten your arm.  Make a palm-up fist.
-With your opposite hand pull fist inward to stretch along the back of forearm.
-Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

-Release the stretch and rotate the fist into palm-down position.
-Using your other hand, pull your fingers back stretching forearm.
-Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

-Perform this stretch with both arms.

Stretching for Ice Climbing Flexor Extensor.jpg

Glute Stretch

As climbers were tend to ignore our of lower body in favor of strong and limber fingers, arms, and back.  It’s safe to say that good footwork is crucial to getting up almost all ice climbs. Good range of motion through our hips is vital to unlocking the core strength we’ll be building in futures workouts. Stretching glutes is just one in a series of stretches that help us with hip mobility so we can have better footwork, or crampon-work if you will, on an ice or mixed climb.

-Sitting or laying on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you.
-Bend one knee, keeping the other extended.
-Drape your opposite arm across your bent knee and twist toward it until you feel a stretch in your glute and outer hip.
-Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

Glute Stretch

Glute Stretch