The value of pull-ups as rock climbing exercise differs from climber to climber. Some claim it is the best drill that exists, while others are not so thrilled about it, but the bottom line is – learning how to do proper pull-ups will more likely help you in your development than not, especially in roof climbing. In this article, we’ll show you some of the best climbing pull up drills to make your preparation easier and even more efficient. For other drills, check out our guide on how to train for rock climbing and our 7-day home training program.
1. Regular Pull-Up
Great for overall strength increasing, regular pull-ups serve as one of the best everyday drills. It falls into the category of the most used drills and serves the best when done in a combination with wall climbing. For optimal results, start with three repetitions in three sets, and over time increase the amount to seven repetitions in five sets with three-minute rest in between.
2. Weighted Pull-Ups
Weighted pull-ups are done in the same way as the regular pull-ups, but what makes these such a great rock climbing pull up exercise is the additional weight you’ll carry. It is as simple as it can be – all you have to do is to buy a 10-pound weight belt and follow the same pull-up routine as usual. Later you can increase the weight to 20 pounds. Once you head back to the rock, you’ll instantly see the difference.
However, there are a few limitations and recommendations. Do not try these if you can’t do 15 regular pull-ups or if you have had a serious shoulder or elbow pain or injury. If you start to feel any pain in your shoulders or elbows as you do these pull-ups, stop and wait for about a week, then try it again with reduced weight. If it continues to hurt, wait an additional month, and if it is still there, then abandon the drill completely, and see how to treat elbow pain.
Weighted pull-ups work the best when done right after your climbing session in 2-4 sets, and no more than twice per week.
3. Uneven Grip Pull-Up
Some advanced rock climbing techniques will require for you to depend on one arm, so making each arm stronger individually is more than welcome. Here’s how to do it. First, find a setup that will allow you to place one hand between 18 and 24 inches lower than the second one. The easiest way to achieve this is to tie a loop over the bar.
Grab the pole with your right hand, palm facing you, and place your left hand on the rope. Start to pull yourself up as hard as possible with your upper hand, and as you move up, use your other hand to push down. When you reach your hand hight with your shoulder, slowly go back to starting position, wait two seconds and repeat.
Start with two sets of five repetitions for both of your hands, then increase gradually until you reach the 8 repetitions, 3-set mark. When you feel you can do more, increase the distance between your hands from 18 to 20, then 22, and eventually 24 inches. If you can’t do 5 repetitions in some distance, decrease it.
4. Pull-Up Interval
Unlike the drills described above, this one is made to help you improve your endurance. You’ll need an app to measure time. The trick in this drill is to do it in a one-minute interval. Turn your timing app on, and start by doing five regular pull-ups, then rest until that minute ends. Once the clock reaches the 60th second, start your next series of five pull-ups, and again, rest until the minute is over. The final goal is to reach the 20-minute mark.
This drill is great because it gives you the chance to fully adjust it to your own needs. For instance, if you can’t reach the 10-minute mark with five pull-ups, then you can lower the number down to three. Multiply that by 20 and you’ll get 60 pull-ups in 20 minutes. And, if you manage to finish a 20-minute interval in full volume, and you feel you still have energy, then you can try to add additional pull-up, and increase the number as you progress.
Although among the most painful drills you’ll ever do, so-called “Frenchie” will without a doubt increase your overall climbing ability. Grab the pole, pull yourself up and move your chest against your hands. Stay this way for four seconds and – counting from 1001 to 1004 will help. Move back to the bottom, then again go up, and as you move down, stop at half of the distance, again count to four, and move back to the starting position. Then, without stopping, go again up, and stop after about two-thirds of the way, hold four seconds and head back to the starting point. Again, without waiting, start another cycle. Stop only when you can’t pull yourself up or hold for those four seconds.
6. Low Bar
For this drill, that is used to increase your strength in steps, you’ll need to find a lower bar or to elevate your body with the help of boxes or something firm enough to hold it, so your legs don’t hang straight down but instead, you lay with the bar above your head. Your lower body should be almost parallel to the ground, with your heels touching it all the time and your toes facing up. Grab the bar, and pull yourself up until your chest meets the bar, then move back. This will help you develop the strength needed in the overhanging situations.
Pull Up Leg Variations
As you progress with your workout, you can try to change your leg position in any of these drills. Besides regular bended knees and straight legs, you can try to bring your bended knees up to 90 degrees angle, and once you manage to do 10 pull-ups like this, make another step forward and try to lift your straight legs first to 135 degrees angle, then to 90 degrees. This drill is great for core strength.
What Not To Do
To maximize your efforts and to get the most out of these drills, here are some things you should avoid:
- Don’t “kip”, or better said use the momentum to add a few more reps. Go slowly but steady.
- Don’t drop from the top back to the starting point, but slowly move back, or else you’ll risk injuring your shoulders or elbows.
- Don’t jump into a pull-up, because this way you’ll minimize the effort of targeted muscles used in rock climbing and the drill won’t be effective.
- Try to keep your legs and body as still as possible and limit swinging.
- Don’t skip the warm-up and stretching!
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about rock climbing pull up drills:
Q: Are pull ups good for climbing?
Yes, they can significantly improve the climber’s strength. However, pull-ups alone won’t have any effect, so you’ll have to combine them with your regular climbing routine. If done properly, they can skyrocket your climbing strength and help you focus on your rock climbing technique more.
Q: How many pull ups can Climbers do?
There is no limit. If you can do a thousand, feel free to do it, but be careful and stop at any sign of pain in your elbows or shoulders. Also, if injured, don’t try to force it to avoid making your condition worse.
Q: Which muscle is used in pull ups climbing?
Rock climbing is one of the healthiest activities with many health benefits for your body, and pull-ups will help you by developing these groups of muscles:
- Lower back
- Shoulder muscles
- Upper chest muscles
- Lower chest muscles
Globo Surf Overview
If done properly, pull-ups can be one of the most useful drills and exercises for rock climbers. Take your time, don’t rush anything and slowly make your progress until you manage to perform all of those mentioned in this article. Then you’ll know you’re ready to tackle any climbing path or bouldering problem you’ll run into.