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Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 3

Now the real work begins! This is the beginning of Phase 2: Foundation / Build. You’ll be adding strength work and cross training to your daily training routine.

Fit to Climb: Week 3 Schedule

1 Rainier Dozen (*see below) / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (40 min) 52 min. Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Strength Circuit Training x 2 (*see below) 38 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 hr) 72 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (2 hrs) 132 min. Medium
Total 6 hrs

You’ve been doing the Daily Dozen for two weeks, going forward the new Daily Workout will be the Rainier Dozen. The Rainier Dozen is based upon the Daily Dozen and it’s a more advanced workout.

Here are a list of the exercises. You may be familiar with all or some. A description is added below for each exercise. Following the Rainier Dozen, you’ll find a description of the Day 4 Strength Circuit.

1.  Steam engine
2.  Three quarter squats
3.  Turkish Get Up
4.  Lunge
5.  Arm extender
6.  Triceps Dip
7.  Deep squat
8.  Steam engine laying down
9.  Mountain climber
10.  Push up
11.  Ranger crawl
12.  8 Point Body Builder

If you have any concerns about performing these exercises, consider hiring a coach or fitness trainer to help you learn how to get the most from each movement.

1. Steam Engine
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands clasped behind your head. Lift your left knee, simultaneously twisting your body to the right, while keeping the muscles of your core engaged. Alternate the movement, using your right knee and left elbow.

2. Three Quarter Squats
How to do it: Stand with legs shoulder width apart and arms at your sides. Swing your arms forward and up, raising them above your head, palms facing forward. At the same time, bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair. Hold the Squat briefly, then stand up by pushing through your heels, until you are in a full upright standing position.

3. Turkish Get Up
How to do it:
Step 1: Starting in a laying down position, with the right hand vertically toward the sky, bring the right knee into a bended position, while rolling towards your left. Placing the left hand on the ground, bring the right foot over the body and placing it on the floor. From here, keeping the right arm vertical, bring your body into the lunge position. From this position, push down on the right leg to bring your entire body into the standing-upright position.
Step 2: Drop back to the lunge position, with your left foot back. Place your left arm on the ground. Simultaneously rotate your body towards the right, while extending the right leg. Place your bottom on the ground, proceeding to lay flat while the right arm remains vertical throughout.

4. Lunge
How to do it: Stand upright, feet and legs together, hands on hips, elbows out to sides. Step your right leg backward. Bend your left knee until the kneecap is directly above your foot, causing the leg to form a 90-degree angle. Simultaneously lower your right leg until the knee almost rests on the ground, forming another 90-degree angle. Step back to starting position, and repeat, stepping backward with the left leg. Continue to alternate legs.

5. Arm Extender
How to do it: Standing upright, start with the hands and elbows at shoulder level. Simultaneously extend elbows outwards three times, and on the fourth time, completely extend the arm to finish with arms completely straight out to the side. Pause, and repeat.

6. Triceps Dip
How to do it: Find a solid object, such as a wall, stairs, or a bench. Facing outwards, place the hands behind your body on the edge of the object. Your legs can be straight, or to reduce the resistance, they can bent at the knees. With the core muscles engaged, simply lower your body until the angle behind your forearm and upper arm is approximately 100 degrees. Be careful to not lower yourself more than this, because to do so will place undue strain on the shoulders. Reverse movement to start position.

7. Deep Squat
How to do it: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart, toes pointing out at 45-degree angles. Put your hands on your hips and bend your knees out to the sides, making sure to keep them in line with the toes. Lower your body in a Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and then push up through your heels to a standing position. Repeat.

8. Steam Engine (on ground)
How to do it: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, head slightly raised, taking care not to pull on your neck. Extend your legs fully, holding them an inch or so off the ground. Bend the left knee in toward your body as you extend your right elbow to touch the left knee. Alternate the movement, touching your right knee to your left elbow as you extend the left leg fully.

9. Mountain Climber
How could the mountain climber not be good for mountain climbing! Seriously though, the mountain climber is a great exercise for core strength, hip flexor extension, agility in the calves and strength in the feet and ankles. How this benefits the climber is through the improved flexibility, coordination, strength and endurance required during the stepping-up motion.
How to do it: Starting in the plank position, bring the right foot forward as if you were in the starting blocks of a 100 meter sprint. From here, simply alternate your left and right legs between this position with a small hop or jump, as if running or bounding. The length of the movement can be shorter or longer depending on your level of ability.

10. Push Up
How to do it: Start with palms and toes on the ground, body in the air, as straight and strong as possible. Your arms should be directly underneath your shoulders, and you can spread your fingers wide for stability. (If this is more of a challenge than you’d like right now, do a modified Push-up with your knees on the ground.) Keeping the back and neck straight, inhale, bend your elbows and lower yourself until you are about 2 inches off the ground. Exhale as you push back up into the starting position. Repeat.

11. Ranger Crawl
How to do it: Starting in the plank position, bring the right knee towards the right elbow. Pause, then return to the start position. Then, switch feet and bring the left knee towards the left elbow, again, pausing, before returning to the start position. Repeat. What’s important with this exercise is to engage the core muscles and the arm and shoulder muscles prior to beginning the movements. Keep the hips low to maintain the plank position.

12. 8 Point Bodybuilder
How to do it: Starting in the standing position, drop to the ground and then thrust both legs back to the plank position. Perform a push up. Then, perform a scissor, spreading the legs wide, then returning them to the start position. From here, bring the feet forward into a position to be able to perform a power jump. Finally, perform the power jump, finishing with a hand clap before returning to the start position (see this video for an explanation).

A. (Rainier Dozen to warm up) - 12 minutes
B. The 8 exercises for this circuit (40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest) x 2 - 16 minutes, based on the Rainier Dozen, are:

1.  Stem Engine
2.  Push Up
3.  Squat
4.  Lunge
5.  Plank
6.  Jump rope / Jumping Jack
7.  Mountain Climber
8.  Side Lunge

C. (10 Minute Cool Down) - 10 minutes. See the Home Stretch for exercises.

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

Comments (6)


Great question about using a training mask to simulate altitude. They have been marketed quite heavily and are certainly significantly cheaper than using an altitude tent! In looking through available research, however, the use of a training mask doesn’t appear to correlate with increased athletic performance at any altitude and certainly hasn’t been shown to increase performance at altitude. Rather than altering the ratio of oxygen in the air the way an altitude tent does, the training mask simply creates resistance to inhalation. This has been shown to increase strength in the muscles of the diaphragm, however, hasn’t shown increased performance because the strength of the diaphragm is rarely the limiting factor in performance.

It also strikes me that the principle of the training mask is inverse to normal altitude training theory. In general, for any high-intensity sport, the mantra is to sleep high and train low. When you sleep at a high altitude, your body is stimulated to build more red blood cells, adjust the pH of the blood, and generally begin the process of acclimatization. Training at high altitude, however, means that you are always oxygen limited when you are training, thus the upper end of the intensity that you can achieve is decreased significantly. This can have an impact on muscle development. Typically athletes do most of their high-intensity training at low altitude to allow them to push as hard as possible for the muscular development.

Otherwise, the routine you describe seems like a great workout as a part of a mountaineering training plan. Climbing 1,300 ft in 40 min probably equates to 2,000’ in an hour, which is about twice the pace that we typically climb (1,000 ft per hour). 33 pounds is a reasonable load as well. Your pack will probably be slightly heavier on the approach to Camp Muir, and slightly lighter on summit day. Remember that this is only a piece of the training program, however. Accommodating for varying terrain is a really important piece to be prepared for the climb, as a stair master is far more consistent than the actual climb will be.

-The RMI Team

Posted by: RMI Expeditions on

What is the efficacy of using a training mask while working out on a moving staircase. I’ve been using this exercise for some time carrying 33 lbs. and going vertical 1300 ft in 41 min.

Posted by: John Chirinko on

Hi Rick,

We couldn’t find a video of the Arm Extender but here is an alternative description from Colver’s Book Fit By Nature:

“This is a 4-count exercise to warm up the arms and upper/middle back. Bend your elbows and move them as far behind your back as you can, looking for a squeezing sensation in your shoulder blades. Do this three times. On the fourth count, perform the same movement but with arms fully extended.”

You are essentially raising your hands to chest level and holding your elbows parallel with the ground, then holding that position and squeezing your shoulder blades together three times - bringing your elbows out and backwards, on the fourth time you extend your arms while still squeezing your shoulders together.

- The RMI Team

Posted by: RMI Expeditions on

Hi—I’m not sure I understand the description of the “arm extender” exercise in the Rainier Dozen.  Is there a video available?  Thanks!

Posted by: Rick on

any specific for the 1 hr cross training and the 40 minute stair interval?

Posted by: Kelly Thynes on

8 Point Bodybuilder
Question: After the push up you are to roll on to your back, perform a scissor.  Then slide feet forward?  Sliding them back seems to gain a better position for a jump.  Please explain the power jump.


Posted by: Randy Glach on

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