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Strength & Conditioning For Mountaineering

Updated: Apr 26

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.

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

What is the best way to train for mountaineering?

The best way to train for mountaineering is to get into the mountains and slowly build distance, speed, climbing ability and all the skills that come with moving around mountain peaks. However for lots of us not based next to mountains we have to find time efficient and effective ways to train..

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 muscle imbalance or repetitive strains.

Training for mountaineering requires multiple energy systems as the activity requires a mixture of slow and easy exercise such as hiking into a mountain or cliff and hard sustained activity such as moving through a crux.

For those training for mountaineering in a gym or locally; trying to replicate the movements and energy systems used while mountaineering will give you the best results.

Energy systems- are the bodies response to training intensity and duration. Depending on these factors the body will use the required fuel source resulting in fast energy spells (glucose) or prolonged energy (fat burning). 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 the activity we can build up the bodies tolerance to those specific movements by using training equipment often found in a gym.

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.

Strength Training 1-2 times per week. If new to resistance training start with bodyweight exercises for 4 weeks before progressing.

Lower body strength




Box step ups

Upper body strength

Bench press

Pull ups and rows

Trunk conditioning

Farmers walks

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.

For training plans and online coaching services please see the link below.

Have fun!


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