Seven Ways to Continue Training with a Leg Injury

So you sprained your ankle, broke your leg, tweaked your knee, or did something else to cause pain to your lower appendage(s). No problem. Sure, you’re bummed that you have to take a few weeks off during prime bouldering season and your 4X4-training schedule is shut down, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop training entirely; you just have to mix things up.

 Here’s how:

1. TRAIN YOUR CORE. This is your chance to obtain—or enhance—your six-pack. Every full-body climbing movement requires the engagement of your core muscles, so strengthening your core is a great way to maintain fitness for when you return to the cliff/boulders/wall. Start doing planks, sit-ups, push-ups, Russian twists, etc. during the time you’d normally be climbing, or try doing eight or ten-minute abs routes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning when you wake up. Just be careful to choose exercises that won’t aggravate your leg injury.

2. HANGBOARD. Just because you can’t climb doesn’t mean you can’t continue building finger strength. Try hangboarding twice a week to maintain strength and feel like you’re gripping something similar to what you’d normally be climbing on. Never hangboarded before? Try a beginner Metolious workout. Be careful not to increase your hangboard time too quickly, as this can lead to finger injuries that could take longer to heal than your current injury.

3. DO SOME PULL-UPS: As with hangboarding, you don’t want to go from never doing pull-ups to cranking out 100 every day for a week—that’s a recipe for biceps tendonitis. However, incorporating some additional pull-ups into your routine can help maintain power while you’re injured. Want to train endurance at the same time? Try doing five pull-ups every minute for 20 minutes—or try fewer pull-ups if you cannot lift your arms after six minutes—for a power-endurance workout. To mimic climbing, do pull-ups on your hangboard using a variety of holds and offset grips (ex. one hand on top jug other hand on lower crimp then switch).

4. SWIM SOME LAPS. For cardio training and additional arm, shoulder, back, and core strength (and excellent, low-impact cross-training), try swimming. If kicking your legs hurts, then just use your arms. To help fight boredom, try switching up your strokes and/or adding in some pull-ups on the end of the low diving board between laps. You can also test out a pair of waterproof headphones and a waterproof iPod/phone case to keep yourself motivated and entertained.

5a. HIT THE WEIGHT GYM. You don’t need to use your legs to do dumbbell flies, lat pull downs, or military presses. Use this as an opportunity to build overall arm strength and prevent injury by training your antagonist, “push,” muscles that don’t get used as much in climbing.

5b. AT HOME ARM STRENGTH. No weight room access: No problem. You can maintain arm strength and train your antagonist muscles in your living room. Do push-ups, dips, and light dumbbell training to prevent upper body injuries.

6. GRAB A KAYAK, hop in a canoe, or experiment with an arm bike. Use your injury as a chance to try out or further enjoy arm-centered sports that you normally don’t have time for with climbing. If it’s sunny and warm, take a kayak or canoe out for a paddle around the lake or try some sea kayaking. No water near you? You might be able to find a kayaking class at a local pool or could see if your local gym has an arm bike. You can also try a rowing machine, pushing off with your uninjured leg only.

7. BOOGIE. Get off your bum and jump around to your favorite song for a few minutes. You might look funny hopping around on one leg to Taylor Swift’s newest single, but you’ll get in a few minutes of cardio and a quick energy and mood boost that’ll keep you from becoming a complete sullen couch potato while you heal.

NEED A LITTLE EXTRA MOTIVATION? Here’s what Courtney Sanders did to stay sane and strong while waiting for her ankle to heal:

Originally published October 19, 2015, on 


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