How To Use Kettlebell Swings For Better Climbing

If your goal is to climb injury-free at a high level for many years to come, you should spend some time on kettlebell training.

In this article, I will show you how you can implement kettlebell swings for climbing to help you do what you love for a long time and stay on top of your physical and mental fitness.

climbing the wall

Let me just get straight into this because I’m really excited to get started.

Kettlebell swings and climbing

I’ve been obsessed with making people better in their movement and in their position. The most obvious way to challenge movement is by adding load.

  • If your pull-up looks good, let’s add some load.

This is really a great way to ramp up some of the cardiovascular and strength components.

Because you may be able to crank up 15 pull-ups with no problem, but as the load gets heavier now we see what type of person are you.

But the load isn’t the only thing. Do I put my children under maximum load? Hell no!

There are other ways to challenge position.

If you want to get big strong people to appear weak, you must get them to breathe harder. And once they breathe harder, now it’s time to perform the exercise.

That’s next-level training. That’s how you get better at any sport. And the more you pressure someone in those uncomfortable challenging positions, that’s how you get the diamonds.

And to do so you need to use all of the energy systems that fuel your muscles.

Kettlebell swings for climbing workout

The principles for this workout you can use for any other sport that you do. I will cover all three aspects of training using the lactic energy system, lactic and aerobic.

If you wanna be here for the long term, you should start thinking about how to prioritize and when is the best time to use those systems. Sure, it’s always better to lift weights all year round versus not to do anything.

But if you really looking to step up and get outstanding results, you need to split your training.

Lactic energy system

climbing on the wall and getting stronger

This energy system is often referred to as ATP-CP. It requires rapid, intense, and explosive movement. Like a powerful swing or a pull-up.

Or a peak finger force that can be generated in 5-10 seconds. Or when you are on the wall doing your 5/3/1 or 1-4-7. This is a pure test to assess the lactic system.

You use that system when you are at your maximum intensity. It usually lasts for up to 5-10 seconds.

This is when you are at those transitions from one hold to another when you must put tons of effort to advance further.

The bad news is that this storage of energy is limited. This means you can’t have this peak power at your fingers tips all the time.

The good news is that the better your aerobic system works, the more oxygenated blood flow through your body, the quicker you can restore your alactic supply.

You recharge quicker.

So you are ready faster for the next hard move. And if you are on the wall and you must go through the sequence of hard moves, then having a strong aerobic preparation aligns together with better recovery.

The Workout

To train ATP-CP you need to engage all of the muscle fibers. Think about the sprinters when they run. Their muscles use every single fiber to project them as fast as possible.

It’s like when you have 10 guys trying to push the car. If they do it one by one, they won’t get any results. But when they come together, they can move the car easily. That’s what ATP-CP does. They engage everyone in the room.

You are looking for a high force output for a brief period of time. And as you train this way, you condition your muscle fibers to contract in a matter of seconds.

Think of a switch on the wall. It’s an instant reaction.

How to use kettlebell swings to generate ATP-CP? Think explosiveness. A strong hip hinge helps with the development of great force production in an explosive way. The high volume of reps also works on your grip strength.

Heavy load, plyometrics, reactive training, explosive training – those types of training will develop strong adaptations to the lactic energy system.

  • For heavy load, use heavyweight, typically 1-5 RM. Focus on the compound moves like fingerboard, pull-ups with the weight vest, single arm pull-ups, snatches, and cleans.
  • For plyometrics, use dyno, double dyno, double catch, and jumping.
  • For explosive training, use kettlebell swings.

One common misconception along climbers is that the more weight you will lift, the more muscle mass you will gain.

This is true, to some extent. And the last thing you want on the wall is more weight. You want maximum output with minimum weight.

Strength training with 1-5 reps will build on the strength efficiency without building muscle mass.

I’m not gonna dive into the muscle cell, but one thing that I think is worth saying is the CP (creatine) component of this system.

Creatine monohydrate is a popular supplement that helps fuel muscle cells with CP. It is by far one of the most studied and established supplements, without side effects.

However, if you have a strong aerobic energy system, mitochondria are able to crank up ATP and re-synthesise CP really fast.

Anaerobic energy system

free climbing on the mountains

If you’ve spent some time on the wall and you’ve got your forearms uncomfortably pumped, then you will be familiar with this next energy system.

The purpose of anaerobic (lactic) training is to avoid or minimize this horrible pump in the forearms, to endure longer sessions, have better fatigue resistance, and have more power.

This energy system starts once the lactic system is fatigue. It lasts for around 10-90 seconds. And it comes with a by-product – lactic acid.

The more you spend time training in this system, the longer you will be able to sustain work on the wall.

The good thing about this type of training is that you can start to see results in a matter of a couple of weeks.

The Workout

To train this system you must chaise the lactate. The more you will be able to reach and sustain the proverbial pump, the better the adaptations.

How you can use kettlebell swings?

  • Simply perform each set to failure. If you feel like your forearms give up after 20-reps, that’s a good start. Make a note of it and come back the next day.
  • You can do as many reps as possible in a given time. Anywhere from 30-seconds to 2-minute will do a great job.
  • Remember this is not about the specific amount of reps.
  • You want to beat your current best. So each set ends up with lactate accumulation. This way your will increase the threshold.

Each week you will notice you can do more reps. This means your grips is getting more conditioned and can sustain longer tension.

You can do the same test with pull-ups.

  • Doing as many pull-ups as you can per set help you combat (minimize) this pump once you’re on the wall.
  • That is also your roof snears where you suspend yourself on your hands and just swing with your legs back and forth.

Also, any bump variations that require you to hold yourself on one hand, and reach up or sideways with the other.

Aerobic Energy System

This is everything you do on the wall beyond the 2-minute mark. It also provides a supporting role for all other systems. So not only it powers your climbing in of itself. But to also strengthen the alactic and lactic systems.

Think about your aerobic energy system as your solar panel battery. The better you’re trained, the more energy your solar panel will be able to deliver.

A well-trained athlete with strong aerobic power can restore the majority of ATP in a matter of seconds.

This is the fuel for the lactic energy system. The better you are conditioned, the faster you recover.

Research shows that highly aerobic trained climbers, those who are doing a specific aerobic activity, like conditioning work and endurance, recover much faster than climbers without general cardiovascular training,

The Workout

  • You can train to develop your aerobic capacity in a number of ways. This comes down to preferences.
  • Running, cycling, rowing, and swimming – are all great ways of working on this aerobic capacity.
  • More you more, more oxygen gets to the blood and supplies the cells.

Remember that intensity doesn’t have to be extremely high. It’s about the mileage here, not the speed.

But, if you’re looking to combine some strength and conditioning into your aerobic workout, use kettlebell swings.

Kettlebell swings for climbers work like a charm.

You can use kettlebell swings to challenge yourself.

20 swings feel easy? Great.

  • Add some cardiorespiratory demand. Why don’t you do a 300m run, or 300m row as fast as possible, and then perform 20 reps of swings.
  • This is how big guys get weak. And it’s also a great assessment method to see what is missing. Your technique may be perfect when you are fresh.
  • But once you get out of breath, now we see people compensate. They round their back, they kink their neck, and they don’t keep the spine neutral.

And not only you got better aerobic adaptations in a shorter period of time. You get to become a better and stronger human being.

If you’re looking for ideas for good conditioning training for kettlebells here I got an article where I describe 5 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Conditioning.

But kettlebell swings not only can destroy you from an aerobic standpoint.

They also challenge the grip.

Remember that grip muscles (finger flexors) are mainly slow-twitch. This means they need to do slow and steady work. This means you can use KB swings all year round.

Related articles


  • Kettlebell swings can be used in several ways to improve your climbing.
  • You can train in the aerobic energy system to improve your recovery, as well as in an anaerobic energy system to improve your strength.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc) and a veteran endurance athlete. He loves to experiment and share his successes and failures to help busy men and women who want to lose weight.

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