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Strength & Conditioning For Mountaineering

Updated: Sep 22

Mo Farah can squat one and a half of his body weight 4-5 times and trains year round with a strength and conditioning coach to improve his performance. At first you may ask why would an endurance athlete need to lift weight. It’s not specific and it could be argued that it is irrelevant to running distances. But Mo Farah’s results speak for themselves.

The ability to Squat his body weight shows his strength to weight ratio using a full range of movement at the hip. For Mo this means stronger legs to run faster over longer periods of time.

Alpine mountaineering
Alpine mountaineering

For the mountaineer or alpinist; being stronger and having a better range of movement will support the body when hiking with a heavy bag or climbing over a long period of time.

By improving ones strength an athlete can increase the amount of muscle fibres being recruited during exercise and target specific muscles and neglected ones which can cause injuries due to an imbalance of stronger to weaker muscles often induced by sport.

When training for mountaineering an athlete needs to be able to train multiple energy systems to perform. Rather than a 100m sprinter who only needs to train for a very short but fast distance. Alpinists have to be able to perform for hours or sometimes days. This means that for mountaineering and alpinism we need to train all the energy systems such as power to climb through a crux move and walking uphill for long durations.

Energy systems- are your bodies response to training intensity and duration. Depending on these factors the body will use the required fuel source resulting in fast energy spells or prolonged energy. Training the specific energy system will increase the bodies ability to access that fuel source and use it to produce energy. Such as the ability to burn fats for endurance activities.

Bouldering in the US
Bouldering in the US

Strength & conditioning for mountaineering

Like most of us in the UK I don’t live near mountains. Especially ones I can frequently train on so how do I get fit? By simulating climbing we can build up the bodies tolerance to mountaineering by using weights, climbing gyms and those local hills.

By taking the time to prepare in this way we can make the most of short periods away on climbing trips, prevent injuries and increase our performance.

So how do you train for mountaineering?

Mountaineering requires a comprehensive fitness plan because of the long duration's and mixed intensity of exercise being performed. To break it down we need to highlight the areas to work on.

Here are some ideas for exercises and focus points when designing a programme

Lower body strength




Trunk conditioning

Farmers walk

Trekking with weight such as a backpack

Core exercises such as holding the plank

Sport Specific Training

Endurance based- Climbing routes indoors or outdoors using a variety of Interval, intensity and weighted training sessions to increase fitness.

Mixture of easy grade sport climbing and scrambling will help to improve endurance.

Trekking with a backpack up mountains will increase overall leg strength and endurance when approaching climbs or a base camp.

Power- Weighted hill sprints for up to fifteen seconds will improve your power and ability to large amounts of muscle fibres for moving quicker in the mountains.

Setting a programme for a mountaineering challenge can be daunting and overwhelming. My advise is break down the goal into lots of little objectives and prepare for those objectives as specifically as possible.

Have fun!

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