As a climber, there comes a time in your life where you find THAT route. The one you can’t figure out and it eats away at you. So you make it a project. You come back to it a few times, flail around and attempt to piece it together on top rope, trying to figure out the sequence of moves. You take multiple whippers until that humbling feeling over comes you – you’re not quite strong enough. You need more power. You don’t have enough endurance to sequence it together in one single push. The solution? To train.
With the typical 9-5 and other “life” related things going on, having an arsenal of easy tools to use at home, or keep stashed in your bag when you’re at the gym can help you to maximize your training space and time. Here are some simple training tools that are innovative, easy to construct, or inexpensive to purchase that will add variety and amp up your training.
As an ex-gymnast and now coach (day job), I have been using these for years. If you are only going to purchase one thing, a set of these should be it. They take up no space and are worth every penny you’ll spend on them. I get excited every time I get to show another friend how many different exercises you can do with them at any skill level! Frizbees will work the same as long as there are no logos printed on them. Use them on a flat, carpeted surface for core, legs, arms, and pretty much anything else you want. There is a DVD available to purchase with exercises, but save the money and just go to Youtube.
Cost / Where to buy: USD $9.95 / pair – tumbltrak.com or amazon.com/amazon.ca
Another simple tool I use as a gymnastics coach are p-bars. They are lightweight and easy to make from standard plumbing materials. You can customize them to pretty much any height/width you want (though keep in mind that they are plastic and with increased loads, the shape/stability might need to be adjusted). Use them for push-ups, dips, leg holds, or in conjunction with the sliders, etc.
Cost / Where to buy: ~$40 plus labor – local hardware store
Chin up bar / Dowel wall bar
If you don’t have a climbing wall at home, a door-frame chin up bar can be quite useful. If you have a home climbing wall, you can use a few holds with a dowel to make your own chin up bar.
The chin up bar can be used to hang from, hook bands or rings from, or for chin ups. You can also use it to hang your ice tools off of (see below).
Cost / Where to buy: $20-35 – amazon.com/most sporting goods stores
Hanging Dowels / Somewhere to hang your tools
If you prefer to wrap your hands around tools like myself, being able to practice on vertical shafts is important and you don’t always have the option to use your tools. There are a few options you can try based on what you have in your home or local gym.
First, you can make an easy substitute by modifying a dowel. Pick a thickness with a diameter wider than your tool handle as it needs to be strong enough to support your weight. Cut them to your desired length, and drill a hole (3/4-1 inch in diameter) at one end. Use some cord or a daisy chain and a carabiner to hang them from a chin up bar or from a hangar. If you want to simulate the same grip as your tools, you can use a material similar to your tools – tape or rubber. It is harder to hang on them without the butt of the handle, but this will also train your grip strength.
The second option is to either take the picks off your tools; using the existing holes to hang them or use a carabiner to hang your tools from. (Depends on which tools/picks you have)
The last option is to protect whatever you are hanging your tools from. A piece of PVC can be slid or wrapped around a bar to protect the surface and stop the teeth of your picks from digging in and damaging it. (I bought couplings meant for plumbing and just slid them over my existing chin up bar)
Dowels – Cost / Where to buy: under $20 – Local hardware store/garage
Remove picks/use carabiner and cord – Cost/where to buy: Nothing! Though I have thought about finding a cheap pair of really old tools to do this with (save the hassle of removing picks on a regular basis)
PVC pipe – Cost / Where to buy: Under $5– Local Hardware store
Even better than a chin up bar is to use a hangboard. Hangboards can be installed anywhere you have a beam or a stud in the wall or above a door-frame. But for those in rental situations, where building your own climbing wall or putting large screws into a wall to install one might not be an option, consider a door mounted hangboard. They fit into a door-frame the same way a chin up bar does. There are versions where you can change the angle, and you can put up your own holds without any permanent damage.
Cost / Where to buy: ~ $120-150 – blankslateclimbing.com (though I did find a website with instructions on how to make one from a chin up bar as well)
These bands are great for resistance training without having to use weights. They can be girth hitched to pretty much any strong/heavy object or clipped with a carabiner to your wall at home. They come in a range of intensities so you can choose them based on how hard you want an exercise to be. It is common to use them for assisted pull ups. The ones I have are called Xplode Bands.
Cost / Where to buy: $20-50 per band depending on the strength of the resistance – Look for them at fitness equipment stores.
Lastly, climbing a rope is great for building overall strength. Not only will it give you some variety in the exercises you do, it changes the orientation of your hand while you pull – improving your grip strength as well. In order to get to the top as a beginner, you need to use your legs, core and arms in coordination. As you progress, you can modify how you climb to make it easier or harder. I looked around for used ones on Kijiji or Craigslist for a while before searching for a place to get one made. I ended up going to an industrial rigging company. (They sell ropes/chains/and towing types of equipment for industrial use) Alternatively, you could try to make your own by twisting together or braiding an old climbing rope to the correct diameter, and hanging that to climb. I highly suggest wrapping whatever you’re going to use in athletic or hockey tape to save your hands and the rope from wear and tear.
Cost / Where to buy: Free (old climbing rope braided) – $120 – Hardware / Construction materials / Rigging Retailer