Strength & Conditioning meets Mountaineering

Updated: May 4, 2020

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 rati using a full range of movement at the hip. For Mo this means stronger legs to run faster over longer periods of time.

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 through a crux sequence.

Through S&C an athlete can increase the amount of muscle fibres being recruited during exercise and target specific muscles and neglected ones. Other aspects of S&C include injury prevention, mobility, strength and performance.

When training for mountaineering an athlete needs to be able to train multiple energy systems to perform. This is because mountaineering can include lots of aspects such as endurance when hiking and various levels of strength depending on the intensity of the climb for the individual athlete.

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 use the desired system making exercise easier.

Another way to describe it is specificity. If you plan to run a marathon then you need to run for long periods of time at a fairly low intensity.

Why S@C?

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.

S@C exercises for mountaineers

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

Climbing specific strength

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- Finger board pull ups, weighted hangs from finger board or ice axes. Bouldering Is also a great way to improve this area.

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!