The first time I ever tried Half Dome I felt like I could have led every single pitch, even with how slow we were moving and jugging with our mini haul bag on my back. I believe that the reason I felt so good was that I had just finished a work out program that had my legs stronger than they had been in a very long time. Unfortunately, we had to back off due to an injury my partner sustained but my fitness lesson was learned.
In climbing...legs matter.
Many climbers can quickly rattle off a number of excuses for skipping leg day in the weight room—“they will get bulky and weigh me down” and “this couch is too comfortable to leave” are favorites—but there are plenty of reasons why you should focus on strengthening your base. Having a strong, powerful, and flexible lower half gives you more endurance, allows you to do bigger, harder moves, and exponentially improves footwork and thus technique. Strong legs are crucial for long routes, where you might end up standing on your feet all day. Rope-stretching slab pitches or long stemming corners will make even a seasoned alpinist’s legs burn, and sport climbers need sturdy calves and hamstrings to really toe-in on the steeps. And with any type of climbing, the more weight you can put on your feet and legs, the longer your comparatively weaker arms and upper body will last. We’ve compiled a collection of quick and simple exercises that will build your base and make you a better climber.