Rock Climbing Gym: 10 Simple Leg Drills for Beginners

You might be wondering what are effective leg drills you can do inside a rock climbing gym. Look no more for here are the top 10 leg drills that will take you from being a novice to a rad rookie!

Whenever I’m working on a new skill, I always look for ways to learn it fast. And from my experience, you can boost your climbing performance by improving your balance, power and flexibility. In this article, I’ll be sharing to you some of the rock climbing gym leg drills that I found effective. These leg drills helped me a lot as a beginner and I bet that this will help you crush your project climb routes too!

These leg workouts are for beginners. But if you still find them difficult to do, then do these rock climbing leg exercises at home and progress with them first.

Each of the leg drills listed below are focused on developing your lower body for climbing. Another great thing is that you can do them without a belay partner. You might find that a bit of core and upper body strength would be necessary for some of them. But I recommend that you focus the bulk of the workload of these exercises on your lower body.


What are these leg drills for?

Tier 1 drills are focused on building the strength and balance foundation for your climbing.

Tier 2 drills are techniques used to make climbing easier. They are focused on developing the strength and balance necessary for limited rock hold options. Don’t skip to tier 2 drills if you can’t do all tier 1 drills.

Tier 3 drills are focused in combining the basics you’ve learned from Tier 1 and 2 drills. You risk injuring or frustrating yourself if you go directly to tier 3 drills without being good with the lower tier drills.


1. Symmetrical Wall Squats

(Difficulty: 1 out of 5 / Tier 1 leg drill)

The most basic rock climbing leg drill you need to master is the symmetrical wall squat. This exercise will prepare you for more advanced movements later on.

As a beginner, chances are that you will use the “hand holds” to “pull yourself up”. Avoid it at all cost. Minimize pulling yourself up and lessen the use of your upper body as much as possible. Instead, try to “push yourself up” using your legs.

Rad Rookies | Rock climbing gym leg drills | symmetrical wall squats | Step on the foot hold with your toes
Step on the foot hold with your toes
  • Select your holds. If you will be doing this for the first time, then select 2 big or easy hand holds. Use 2 foot holds that aren’t too big or too small. They should be big enough to allow most of your toes to step on it but small enough not to allow your whole foot on it.
  • Use toes as point of contact. Use your toes as the main point of contact of your feet to the rock holds. Don’t use your whole feet and even your heels to step on the rock holds for this exercise.
  • Push yourself up with your legs. Focus on pushing yourself up with your legs and minimize pulling yourself up with your arms.
  • Raise your heels. When standing up, try to raise your heels as high as you can. This will train your legs to extend as far as possible.

You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by using smaller holds and more inclined wall angles. What you should picture is a ballerina walking with the tip of her toes. She can walk gracefully while carrying the weight of her whole body on it.

The reality is that at the beginning, you’d be surprised at how painful it can be to step on really small holds. Your toes aren’t used to handling your whole body weight. Give your toes the workout it needs by doing this drill regularly in your rock climbing gym.


2. Switch Feet

(Difficulty: 1 out of 5 / Tier 1 leg drill)

There would be times when you have to switch your standing foot for the sake of gaining better balance. Learning how to switch feet is important if you want to progress quickly.

  • Select your holds. Select 3 holds that form an inverted isosceles triangle. Use two big rock holds for your hands and a small one for your foot. The foot hold should be small enough to allow only one foot standing on it.
  • Find your balance. Remember that the goal of this leg drill is to train your legs for climbing. Make sure that you find your balance by aligning your core directly above your standing leg. Not doing so will strain your arms.
  • Switch your feet. When switching feet, be conscious about the shift in your balance. It is important that you are able to find your balance quickly after you’ve switched feet.

Remember to maintain balance using your legs and core. Try to imagine the stability you are aiming for as being able to stand on your leg without the help of your hands. Try to be less dependent on your arms for balance.

You can increase the difficulty of this drill by using a smaller foot hold, smaller hand holds and more inclined wall angles. The appropriate difficulty for you should be not easy and not too hard either.


3. Weight Shifting

(Difficulty: 1 out of 5 / Tier 1 leg drill)

The first 2 leg drills had symmetrical weight distributions and muscle training. But more often than not, the routes that you’ll be climbing are asymmetric. The holds you’ll encounter aren’t leveled symmetrically. And the force you’ll need to ascend a certain position might be more stressful for your right side or vice versa.

Learning how to properly shift your weight from one leg to another is a must.

  • Select your holds. Total of 3 rock holds. Select 1 big or easy hand hold. Use 2 foot holds that aren’t too big or too small.
  • Toes as point of contact. Use your toes as point of contact to the foot holds. Being on your toes will allow you to pivot your feet even on a small rock hold.
  • Hips over standing leg. Shift your weight on one leg. You can do this by moving your hips closer to your main standing leg. You should feel that 70% to 90% of your body weight is supported by your main standing leg.
  • Switch sides. Switch from left to right by pivoting your toes. Do the same from right to left. Do the weight shifting leg drill repeatedly to master it.

4. Asymmetrical Wall Squats

(Difficulty: 2 out of 5 / Tier 1 leg drill)

You must be able to perform decent symmetrical wall squats and weight shifting leg drills before attempting asymmetrical wall squats.

  • Select your holds. Select 2 big or easy hand holds. Use 1 moderate sized foot hold and 1 very small foot hold. The moderate sized foot hold should be in the middle of your hand holds.
  • Hips over standing leg. Shift your body weight to your active standing leg. You should feel majority of your body weight on it. Bring your butt as low as you can. Make sure that your position is stable.
  • Push yourself up with your standing leg. Avoid pulling yourself up with your arms. Stand up using the leg that supports most of your body weight. Your standing leg might feel wobbly at first because of the uneven body weight distribution.
  • Do the same for your other leg. Repeat the asymmetrical wall squat for your other leg.

5. Flagging

(Difficulty: 2.5 out of 5 / Tier 2 leg drill)

The flagging leg drill requires you to have decent asymmetrical wall squats.

Flagging is a technique used by rock climbers to balance themselves when there are only 2 holds available for a position. One rock hold for an arm and another for the leg from the opposite side of your body.

This leg drill will help you train your balance and stop you from “barn dooring”. Barn dooring is a swing caused when you use 2 holds on the same side of your center of gravity.

  • Select your holds. Select 2 big or easy hand holds. Use 1 moderate sized foot hold. The holds should form the shape of an inverted triangle with the foot hold at the bottom.
  • Starting position. Start with the same position as the asymmetrical wall squats. Right foot should be standing on a hold.
  • Shift weight to right leg. Shift 70% to 90% of your body weight to your right leg. Your hips should be over your right foot to properly shift your weight. Pivot your right toes so that your right knee points to the left. Your right leg might feel a bit shaky or wobbly at the beginning because your body is adjusting to maintain balance.
  • Extend your left leg. Extend your left leg to your left side without stepping on a hold. Your toes should be making contact with the wall. Make sure that you put some pressure on your left toes to create friction and help with balancing your body.
  • Release the right hand hold. Release the hold from your right hand. Left hand should still be grabbing a hold. Keep your left arm straight.
  • Adjust both legs. Find the sweet spot in balancing your body by adjusting your flagged left leg and standing right leg. Pivot your right foot and adjust the position of your left foot to feel which adjustments provide better balance.
  • Hold the position. Hold the flag position for 5 to 10 seconds before shifting to your other side.
  • Do the same for your other limbs. Do the starting position. Shift weight to your left leg. Extend your right leg. Release the left hand hold. Adjust both legs. Hold the position.

6. Flagging Wall Squats

(Difficulty: 3 out of 5 / Tier 2 leg drill)

The flagging wall squat requires you to stand up from a flag position. It’s good to keep in mind that you are bound to introduce instability whenever you move. If you can’t hold the flag position for at least 5 seconds, then you aren’t ready for this leg drill yet.

  • Get into a flag position. Hold the position for at least 3 seconds to train stability.
  • Push yourself up with your standing leg. Push yourself up as high as you can using your standing leg. Stand on your toes and make sure that you lift your heel to gain extra inches in reach.
  • Minimize pulling yourself up with your arm. Avoid pulling yourself up so that you train your legs to get stronger.
  • Do the same for your other limbs.

If you can already do the flag but still can’t do the flagging wall squats, then I suggest you do rock climbing leg exercises at home. Exercise and work your way up to the half pistol squats and then try the flagging wall squats again.


7. Back Flagging

(Difficulty: 2.5 out of 5 / Tier 2 leg drill)

The back flagging drill requires you to have decent asymmetrical wall squats. This drill is slightly more complex than basic flagging.

Back flagging is a technique used by rock climbers to balance themselves when there are only 2 holds available but both are on the same side. These points of contact are sure to give you a huge barn door without the back flag.

Rad Rookies | Rock climbing gym leg drills | back flagging | 2-point contact | right hand and foot holds
2-point contact | right hand and foot holds
Rad Rookies | Rock climbing gym leg drills | back flagging | close up | right foot on hold and left leg extended to right side
Close up | right foot on hold and left leg extended to right side
  • Select your holds. Select 2 big or easy hand holds. Use 2 foot holds that aren’t too big or too small.
  • Starting position. Start with the same position as the symmetrical wall squats.
  • Shift weight to right leg. Shift 70% to 90% of your body weight to your right leg. Your hips should be over your right foot to properly shift your weight. Pivot your right toes so that your right knee points to your right.
  • Release the left foot hold. Slowly release the hold your left leg is stepping on. Put your left knee behind your right knee. You might feel a bit shaky or wobbly at the beginning because this is a new position for your body.
  • Extend your left leg. Extend your left leg to your right side without stepping on a rock hold. Your toes should be making contact with the wall. Make sure that you put some pressure on your left toes to create friction.
  • Release the left hand hold. Gently release the hold from your left hand. Right hand should still be grabbing a hold. Make sure that your right arm is straight so that you won’t spend too much energy.
  • Adjust both legs. Find the sweet spot in balancing your body by adjusting your flagged left leg and standing right leg. Pivot your right foot and adjust the position of your left foot to feel which adjustments provide better balance.
  • Hold the position. Hold the back flag position for 5 to 10 seconds before working your other side.
  • Do the same for your other limbs. Do the starting position. Shift weight to your left leg. Release the right foot hold. Extend your right leg. Release the right hand hold. Adjust both legs. Hold the position.

8. Back Flagging Wall Squats

(Difficulty: 3 out of 5 / Tier 2 leg drill)

The back flagging wall squat requires you to stand up from a back flag position. It’s good to keep in mind that you are bound to introduce instability whenever you move. If you can’t hold the back flag position for at least 5 seconds, then you aren’t ready for this leg drill yet.

  • Get into a back flag position. Hold the position for at least 3 seconds to train stability.
  • Raise up and extend your free hand. Reach up your free hand to the furthest you can. This will help you stretch your upper body and prepare you to reach far holds.
  • Push yourself up with your standing leg. Push yourself up as high as you can using your standing leg. Stand on your toes and make sure to lift your heel to gain extra inches in reach.
  • Minimize pulling yourself up with your arm. Avoid pulling yourself up so that you train your legs to get stronger.
  • Do the same for your other limbs.

If you can already do the back flag but still can’t do the back flagging wall squats, then you should do rock climbing leg exercises at home. Exercise and work your way up to the half pistol squats and then try doing back flagging wall squats again.


9. Footsteps Sequence

(Difficulty: 4 out of 5 / Tier 3 leg drill)

Requires that you can do decent tier 2 drills. Skipping ahead to tier 3 drills will only make you frustrated.

The footsteps sequence is also known as horizontal traverses. You’ll have to travel the climbing wall horizontally while using the different drills you’ve read from this article. This leg drill integrates all drills you’ve learned so far while being constantly on the move.

Focus on gaining balance through your legs and body positioning when doing this exercise. Avoid relying too much on your arms to traverse the wall.

  • Select a wide wall. Select the widest wall for your current level. The wider the wall, the better it is for your endurance training.
  • Start from your right. Start from the right side of the wall and slowly traverse to the left side. Use jugs or big holds for your hands.
  • Plant your foot first. Make it a habit to step on the next foothold first before grabbing on the next handhold. Doing this will train your body to be more efficient with your legs.
  • Do not overgrip. Using too much grip will needlessly waste your upper body energy. Learn to relax and straighten your arms. And learn when you need more arm tension for switching handholds.
  • Always find the best balance. Always feel and evaluate if you are doing the best balance for your current position. You introduce instability every time you move to a different hold. It is part of your training to figure out the best body position for the specific holds you encounter along the traverse.
  • Repeat from the other side. It is important to have good strength for all your limbs. You can make your strength more balanced by repeating the footsteps sequence for your other side. Traverse from the left side of the wall to the right.

You can make this leg drill more difficult by using more challenging rock holds. Using smaller hand holds will force your body to be more dependent on your legs for stability. Using smaller footholds will strengthen your toes.


10. Blind Footsteps Sequence

(Difficulty: 5 out of 5 / Tier 3 leg drill)

This leg drill requires that you are already good with the footsteps sequence.

The blind footsteps sequence is a more difficult version of the footsteps sequence. You’ll be relying on the friction created by your feet and the wall. Or depending on the walls available, you can step on very small foot holds instead. This will train your toes to apply more pressure on the wall when traversing.

It is normal to feel that you arms or upper body gets tired quicker in this exercise. The less support you have from your legs, the more your arms will have to compensate for it. Your goal in this leg drill is still to transfer most of your body weight to your legs.

Conclusion

Work your way up from Tier 1 leg drills to Tier 2 drills and finally Tier 3 drills. Never skip to more advanced leg drills if you can’t do the lower tier ones. It takes patience and consistent hard work to progress in rock climbing. You can also read how I spent my 20 hours of active rock climbing time and use it as a guide.

I hope this article was helpful to you! If you enjoyed reading this, then share it to your friends! And if you enjoy reading more content like this, then subscribe to my mailing list. Have fun rock climbing! Be good at anything fast and be a rad rookie! 🙂

21 thoughts on “Rock Climbing Gym: 10 Simple Leg Drills for Beginners”

  1. I’ve never tried doing drills before, but I now realize how important they are in training our legs, especially when we want to fully utilize it more in rock climbing. I’m learning so much about rock climbing, when can I start na kaya?

    1. I know you’ve been exercising so I’m pretty sure you can already start with the beginner walls. And use the guide from this article as supplementary exercises to improve faster. 🙂

  2. A very informative topic for those in this kind of activity. It also big help to those who love hiking.
    One question, I noticed you haven’t wear harness? Is it safe?

    1. Yes, it is safe. No harness is needed for leg drills from such a short height from the ground. 🙂

      You’ll need to wear harness and use rope when you plan to climb a full wall though.

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips. Your body and legs look very toned after being into this sport.

    Question: do you have any advice or remedies if someone experiences pain after the climb? I may not be into indoor climbing but I used to climb easy mountains. Thanks!

    1. Hi Danica! Yes, your body and legs will look very toned if you climb regularly. 🙂

      If you experience pains after the climb, then it means that your body isn’t fully prepared for it. You can use the following:

      1. You need to catch up on exercises to strengthen your body. The stronger your body is, the less painful your climbs will be.
      2. You need to lessen your climbs. A good rule of thumb is to regularly climb just 70% to 80% of your full capacity.
      3. Eat a healthy combination of greens and protein for faster recovery.

      These are long term approaches and are quite beneficial for your body.

    1. Hi Karla! No, I’m an not an instructor but I’ll take that as a compliment, haha. Yes, I’m adventurous and I enjoy studying how to get good fast at any skill I fancy. All of these things I write in this blog involve heavy research and personal experimentation. 😉

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