The core is the engine that drives every performance on the rock.  If your core is weak in any of its components, then it won't matter how long your forearms can hang on before flaming out... your sagging core will drag you off the wall. 

I've received several inquiries about the "hanging hardCORE" workout that I'm using in my current training program.

It's an always changing program, and one that is still being tweaked for effectiveness, but I can certainly outline the basic principles that I try and follow when designing my core workouts.

First off, lets keep in mind that we aren't talking about getting abs.  This workout isn't to make you look beach ready, it's to make you stronger.  Lets also agree that "core" is not about only abs.  Your core is the entire muscle group that initiates all movement, stabilizes that movement, and includes all the muscles from your hips to your traps... basically everything but your arms and legs.  Your "trunk", if you will.

I most often see a core workout that follows this example:

3 sets of 25 crunches

3 sets of 10 leg lifts

3 sets of 10 planks

... or some archaic schedule of that sort.  Specific numbers of reps, with a very loose idea of how long to wait between sets.  While I was cornered into that train of thought for awhile, struggling with how to decide exactly how many reps to recommend, I no longer subscribe. 

The "hanging hardCORE" workout works on 2 basic principles of training.  First, unless you are nearing a point of failure (while keeping your form intact), then your body has no reason to make adaptations.  Second, and one I believe is often overlooked when it comes to core training, is the SAID Principle.  Basically put, there are 5,682 different core exercises, and if you want to improve at climbing, you're far better off choosing the ones that are specific to climbing movements.

My current workout is simple, stripped down, and devoid of bells and whistles.  It feels alot like work, and if done correctly, will probably make you feel like throwing up, especially if you're the pre-workout Chipotle burrito type of person.  It looks like this:


Front Levers (to failure)

 Do not hold the levers.  Go to the top of the motion and lower immediately, slowly.  Do not initiate any swing.  Maintain good form, and when form breaks down, stop. 

Pushups (double the number of levers completed)

Begin immediately following the levers (supersets), with no rest between.  Maintain good form, and complete the full range of movement. 

3 sets of the above, with 2 minute rests between sets, and after final set.

Hanging Swivels (to failure)

Go to the top of the motion and lower immediately, slowly, and all the way back to a hang, without swinging.  When form breaks down, stop. 

3 sets of these, with 1 minute rests between sets.


Yes, you have a few questions.  First, what are "hanging swivels"? 

To do a hanging swivel, you begin hanging, straight armed.  Slightly bend your arms while simultaneously tucking your legs in and pulling your right hip to your hands.  Lower slowly all the way back to the hanging position, and repeat for the left side.  This is one rep.  Resist pulling up too much with your arms, and instead do the pulling with your core. 

What's good form?

Put simply, if your body is sagging while trying the upward motion, or falling rapidly, causing you to swing, then your form has fallen apart.  You should be rigid throughout your lower body.  Also, if you are throwing your head back to help your core get up, then stop there.  Failure here doesn't mean that you can do no more, it means that you can do no more correctly. 

Pushups?  For core?

Yes.  Frankly, the pushup is an exercise that most climbers could benefit from doing more of.  Not only does it involve core to keep you stable throughout the exercise, but it can help to stave off injury by strengthening the shoulders, triceps, and chest... the opposites of the climbing muscles we use so often. 

And why so short?

I nearly always place my hardCORE workouts at the end of my training session.  Currently a large part of my time is devoted to steep climbing, and core intensive movements, where keeping my feet on is necessary.  Because of this, my core is blasted already, and this workout more than takes care of whats left over.

Would any core article be complete without John Gill's one-arm lever?

Remember that this is just the current workout.  You shouldn't do the exact same workout unless you're in my same situation.  The exercises can easily be replaced with other exercises.  For instance:

Levers are hard.  Not everyone can do enough to make them worthwhile.  If you can't complete 6-8 on your first set, then do them with one leg tucked up to your chest.  If that is still too hard, do hanging leg raises.   Feel free to add in your own favorite core exercise, as long as you stay within the two principles. 

In the coming months I'll be working on specific hardCORE workouts for power/strength, and for power endurance.  I'll also be examining a few more of the 5,682 exercises to see which ones target the climbing muscles the best.  I'll be reporting back, and if enough interest arises, possibly creating a few videos detailing the workouts. 

Now go get strong. 

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