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Is Instability Training Good For Climbing?

Recently I came across a training method called
“instability training.” Instability training basically means involving
unstable condition when you train with external weights or bodyweight. The main pitch of this method is in the unstable
condition, stabilizer muscles will be activated and neuromuscular control will be improved. Therefore, the likelihood of getting injured from climbing will be reduced. The trade-off is initially the subjects might
need to reduce the weights or rep counts while training in order to get used to the unstable
condition, which might slow down the progress of “climbing harder.” The pitch for instability training sounds
really attractive for me mainly because of three reasons. First, I always feel I am on the verge of
injuring some parts of my body when climbing hard on V6s and V7s. Second, the older I get, the more scared of
injuries I get. Third, I am not a professional rock climber so
my career is not dependent on how hard I can climb, which means even if it takes longer
than usual to climb my first V8, it’s not a big deal. Obviously, I am not an expert on training,
so if any of you experts out there are watching this video, definitely comment down below and let me
and other climbers know your opinions on instability training. So first I am going to compare my usual “stable”
training routine with a new “unstable” training routine and see how much the unstable
condition affects my usual training intensity. Before I show the comparison, based on
some of your feedback on my previous videos, I do want to mention that I will be using awesome
equipment from Rogue Fitness, BeastMaker, The Yoak, and Frictitious Climbing, and I am
not sponsored by any of them. I am here to explore and learn something with
you guys. OK, so the first training routine is hangboarding. I compare hanging on the same 15-millimeter
edge to failure on both a stable BeastMaker hangboard and an unstable Frictitious Climbing
Port-A-Edge. The difference is crazy. I could only hang on the unstable hangboard
for at most 5 seconds but I could hang on the stable hangboard for 27 seconds. The second training routine is pull-ups. I compare my max reps on both a stable pull-up
bar and an unstable gym ring. The difference is closer in this one. I could do 8 pull-ups on the gym rings and
I could do 11 on the pull-up bar. The third training routine is overhead press. I compare max reps on 25 lbs each side since
this is what I usually do for my gym session. I could do 10 reps with dumbbells but I could
only do two reps with the Yoak and I couldn’t stop my arms from shaking. I decided to take 5 lbs off each side and
test again. I was able to do 8 reps this time but again
my arms were shaking the entire way. The last training routine that I usually do
for my gym session is bench press. I compare max reps on 40 lbs each side and
I could do 12 with dumbbells. Since I couldn’t find two 40 lbs kettlebells
in my gym to strap onto the Yoak, I tested it with 35 lbs each side instead. However, what’s crazy is initially I couldn’t
even do a single rep and after a few more tries, I managed to do one rep. It was incredibly hard to balance and exhausting. Thanks for watching. It was a fun experience trying out instability
training routines. I highly suggest you try it out, too. And as always, make sure to like and subscribe. See you in the next video.

Reynold King

42 Replies to “Is Instability Training Good For Climbing?”

  1. No expert, but: Instability is all the rage right now(!) with crossfit(?). Bullshit like sqatting on a Pezl ball. Making things hard does not make them constructive/effective/efficient.

    It seems, rings get used for whole body exercises (bench press is rather local) for core stability a lot. Toe to fingertip in climbing = lots of joints involved, chance of instabilities high. Local stuff like hanging from finger = not so much. Check out GimmeKraft (collection of good climbing exercises), or

    In case of hangboarding I think instability inceases risk of injury a lot. Slipping with one hand totally overloads the other finger + shoulder. It seems to be good as warmup at the crag, tho.

    Why not ask Dominic Robinson? 😉

  2. It’s interesting how many different muscles and maybe movements exist, we are not used to. I may doubt this can slow down your progress. A combination is maybe the best.

  3. Good vid! Really appreciate the fact that you take in feedback on your older video's in a constructive manner. 🙂

    I think the bench and overhead press should not be done with unstable weights, due to the higher risk of shoulder injury this would have. It also seems less useful than unstable pulling exercises, because I can't imagine a scenario where you would be pushing off of an unstable platform in climbing. Pushing exercises inherently carry a risk of injury for the wrists and shoulders, so simply doing normal strength exercises here will be plenty. Dumbbell presses by themselves are already more prone to injury than barbell presses, because there is less structural stability provided. They require more self-stabilization from your own body. This is why you're usually able to press less weight in total with dumbbells than with the barbell.

    With pulling, the instability actually comes from your core not being able to stabilize itself. Besides general antagonist training for things like the chest muscles (which climbers should do for off the wall health), what you specifically want to focus on are: anti-flexion, anti-rotation and anti-extension. Working on these will enable you to control your body more on the wall, especially in overhang. I believe ring pull-ups are actually better for your shoulder health, too, because they let you rotate your arms during the pulling motion. This does take away from lat-focus, but if you want that then wide-grip pull-ups are better anyway. And as always: everyone should do face pulls. 😀

  4. It seems to me that the instability training could cause injury from the lack of control And awkward movement. Especially on the yoke bench press. The hang barding and pull-ups Seem to be the safest.

  5. Almost seems like with the instability training. You should be using less weight. So you can control your arms better. Good vid though

  6. Awesome comparison Geek Climber, we've tested the Port-A-Edges against a stable edge as well, and with a little chalk and some practice, the hanging time between them and a stable edge is considerably closer than what you experienced! Definitely still harder, but that's what makes them a great training device. Great video!!

  7. A lot of this seems, to me, similar to what someone might be put through in PT when trying to help fix strength imbalances/weak points. Say, with the normal free weights you are just moving through a plane of motion; yet, in my PT for shoulder cuff weakness (no tears or anything like that), they have me do a press but with another force trying to move my arm out of that plane of motion (say, a band laterally pulling on your wrist as you are doing a pressing move).

    VERY humbling when your max military press might be your bodyweight and you struggle with a 5lb kettlebell to get past 6 reps. Eye opening, too, on where your muscular weaknesses are.

  8. As others have pointed out, unstable training is unstable. You're very likely to have something slip or snap. That's not to say it shouldn't be done, but you need to lighten the load a lot such that the weakest part of the chain can handle the load. For example, bench pressing gets to use your massive pectoral muscles for the majority of the load, but with the yoke you're putting a ton of strain on your shoulder stabilizers that just aren't used to the weight, so you would pick a weight that your shoulders can handle, not your pecs.

  9. Looks like you could really improve if you integrated low weight, high reps into your instability routine 💪
    Good video man!

  10. Increase the weights on dumbbells for the press and you'll get the same shaky hands 🙂 engaging stabilizing muscles is good. I'd watch athlean x videos, you always, whatever you do, should train like an athlete, meaning you need to train everything not to get injured.

  11. Hey 🙂 some bit of form advice for the pull ups: be mindful of pulling equally strong with both sides so that you don't start swinging from left to right and stay centered between the rings

  12. Instability training help grow muscle (particularly stabilizers) and increase control ? Ring gymnasts stand in awe before such a revolutionary statement.

    Though I have doubt about the press movements. Things like handstand or push-ups and dips on rings would be safer and better.

    Also, if you shake like crazy, you won't efficiently learn to control your body, ease the load and move up only once you have good control.

  13. Would definitely recommend very light weights to begin with when working with instability exercises. Looks like a great addition to training thanks!

  14. That was incredibly interesting to watch and observe the differences between the two. Instability looks like it would increase overall coordination and body awareness.

  15. Interesting results. There might be other things going on in addition to the instability.

    I find that the grip affects me significantly more than the instability when it comes to pull-ups. I can do more Ring Pull Ups than Regular Pull Ups, but that is primarily because the rings allow me to turn my hands so that my palms face me at the top, making it more like a Chin Up.

    I also perform significantly better with Ring Dips vs Regular Dips on the parallel bars. But that is primarily due to me finding parallel bars a little too wide. Dips on the rings allow me to bring them in closer so I feel like I can use my triceps and lats more.

  16. I guess the unstable training is probably causing fatigue in a lot of the smaller muscle groups around your shoulders. This could have benefits for building more robust shoulders, but ultimately using stable training methods might have bigger benefits for pushing the larger muscle groups to their max. I think it could be a good supplement, but not a complete replacement.

  17. Is there a certain way on how to attach the weight bands? For me it looks like you create a momentum around your grip is that done intentionally?

  18. IMO the dumbbell training exercises are also with instability, only with different difficulty level (instability level).

  19. might i suggest that you look into – Dr. Eric Cobb has a very good "Balance Gym" set of protocols to help with balance control. Most people have a balance deficit and they don't even know it. Also, seeing as you wear glasses, part of your balance issue issue might be with your vision. This is something that people don't know either, your eyes and ears are connected – very tightly when it comes to body control. Zhealth also offers a "Vision Gym" program to assist people improve their vision. If you get onto their email list, you will start getting Dr. Cobbs blogs on overall body movement and how your vision and balance all tie into how well we move 😉 there are also tons of youtube videos on Dr. Cobbs neurologically based training methods as well. It is really cool stuff 🙂

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