Have you hit a plateau in your climbing and are trying to figure out what to work on? Have you ever wondered if you need to include core training in order to reach that next level? Climbing is often considered a whole-body activity that works a lot of different muscle groups in the body, ranging from the upper extremities, or arms, to the lower extremities, or legs. As a result, training regimes developed for climbing can vary greatly, from regimes targeting upper extremity strength to regimes targeting lower extremity strength. Something that is almost universal amongst all climbing-related training regimes, however, is core training. So what makes the core so important for climbing?
Before we address the function of the core in climbing, we must first look at what makes up the core. A common misconception about the core is that it is only comprised of the abs in the front; however, your core can be thought of as a band that wraps around your abdomen AND your back. In the front, your core is made up of the rectus abdominis (the popular “6-pack” muscle), external and internal obliques, and the transverse abdominis. In the back, your core is comprised of your superficial erector spinae muscles, deeper and smaller paraspinal muscles, and posterior hip muscles such as the glutes. Your core also has a roof and a floor. The ceiling or top of your core is comprised of the diaphragm while the roof or bottom of your core is made up of your pelvic floor muscles. All these muscles not only function to help you move into your next position when climbing but also help transfer force from your legs and arms to help maintain tension on the wall through their fascial connections. Fascia typically surrounds individual muscles, but it can also act to connect different muscle groups together. These connections are often referred to as kinetic chains.