Build stamina before your first go at a rock climbing wall (or mountain, for the bold) with exercises that prep the muscles you'll be using to get to the top

By Nora Tobin
Updated: March 12, 2018
Corbis Images

Let's face it: The idea of scaling the side of a mountain or a sheer rock face would be intimidating for most of us-rock climbing is one of those sports that can seem like a challenge just to get started. But like anything else, it just takes preparation.

Readying your body for the climb is the first place to start, and you can do that right in your gym (or at home!). Since rock climbing requires us to engage muscles we never use, it's important to get those ready before you get to the climb. It also requires strength, agility, and balance, which you can build in cross training. This routine will help you feel strong and powerful on the rock-and you'll be well on your way to the top!

Side Lunge

Strengthens adductors, improves balance and knee stability

A Hold a weight at your chest. Take a big step to your right with toes pointing straight ahead. Deeply bend knee, shift hips back, and lower down until thigh is parallel with the floor.

B Drive through the ball of your foot to come back to standing. Switch sides, repeating the movement on the left. Continue to alternate for 10 reps each side.

Forearm Plank with Arm Reach

Improves core strength and stability and increases shoulder mobility

A Place forearms on the ground with hands clasped underneath you. Come up to the balls of your feet and extend your legs to straight with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

B Keep your hips level as your reach your right arm forward, extending it straight out from shoulder. Switch sides, extending left arm straight out. Continue to alternate for 10 reps each side.

Dead Lift

Improves strengthen in glutes and hamstrings

A Stand with feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees.

B Shift your hips back and hinge forward until torso is close to parallel with the ground. Engage your glutes to come back to standing. Keep back straight and core engaged the entire time.

Half Curls

Improves strength in hands and forearms

A Stand tall holding a set of weights in your hands.

B Slightly bend elbows as you curl the weights up a few inches. Extend arms back to straight and repeat the movement. Draw shoulder blades together and keep chest lifted.

Mental Training

Hanging off the side of a rock can be, oh, terrifying, if you're not used to it. In order to prepare your mind to accept the height, start small. Think: indoor rock climbing wall. Begin by going half way up the wall and get used to the feeling of being in the air, working your way up to the top as you feel comfortable. If you hit a roadblock and feel like you can't go any higher, allow yourself to come down to regroup. Then go back up that wall and aim to get a few feet higher. If you can push past the threshold and give yourself the opportunity to make progress (no matter how small!), you will build up your confidence. Follow these five mental hacks, and you may find yourself tackling the big walls of Yosemite!

1. Take deep breaths. Breathing with your diaphragm reduces cortisol levels and lowers stress. This will help when you start to feel fearful or anxious on the rock.

2. Focus on what's right in front of you. Keep your eye on the next place you will be reaching on the rock. Looking down can cause unnecessary fear.

3. Use your legs. When you start to get tired or anxious, your body will start to give out. This is the time to really engage from the legs, the source of your power, which will get you up the mountain.

4. Repeat the mantra, "I am powerful." If you are just starting out, you may have a natural ability to climb without fear. If you do experience fear while climbing, give yourself the best reminder of your power. Focusing on positive, empowering thoughts will help propel you forward.

5. Be patient. Learning a new sport takes time, so do not be hard on yourself if you don't connect right off the bat. You will start to get the hang of it. Try to be patient as best you can. You will soar.

Nora Tobin is a contributing editor at Shape magazine, nutrition specialist, and celebrity trainer.

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