Yorkshire-born Steve McClure is one of the most accomplished rock climbers on the face of the planet.  The 46-year-old forged what’s still the UK’s toughest sport route back in 2007, and it’s a climb that’s been repeated just once in the near-decade that has followed. 

Steve, a respected ambassador for the British Mountaineering Council, is also a performance coach who is involved in pioneering a new breed of qualification for aspiring trainers. Here he gives us his top tips to help you improve your climbing strength and mobility, plus he fills us in on one of his favourite workouts…

“Don’t underestimate the value of having good aerobic fitness. But…

“Do limit the time you spend getting aerobically fit. If you’re going for long runs, long bike rides, and really pushing your limits, don’t expect to climb well in the days afterwards because you’ll simply still be recovering and won’t be able to perform anywhere near where you want to be. You need to be fit, you don’t need to be knackered. Climbing is massively about anaerobic endurance, not just general fitness. It’s a really classic mistake for rookie climbers.

“Don’t go into climbing with a weak mind. Climbing is a movement-based sport that incorporates three key areas – physical power, technical skill, and mental strength. They’re all as important as each other. No matter how strong you are, if you’re scared to try hard you’ll never get up a route. Natural strength will take you so far, but you also need absolute determination.

“Do train yourself not to be scared. And that only comes through spending hour upon hour at height. It’s such a natural environment for me now that I can be 300m up a vertical gorge and looking down produces the same sensation as someone stood on the ground looking horizontally across a nice view. If you spend enough time in that element you’ll learn not to be fearful of it at all.

“Don’t be ruled by fear. If you’re scared on a rope you’ll grip too hard, you’ll use too much strength and you’ll get pumped. Relax, breathe and concentrate on the moves.”


He says: “This is my take on HIT training and I’ve got climbing friends who absolutely swear by it. The idea is to do 10 pull-ups, 10 press-ups and then 20 sit-ups one after the other with no rest. You should aim to do all three of these sets in one minute. Then repeat a further four times taking you to five minutes – 50 pull ups, 50 press ups and 100 sit ups – without a rest. By the time you’ve done three minutes you’ll be really out of breath. Once you’ve got used to those rep numbers look to increase to six minutes – or even more. My record is 7 minutes. It’s best done at the end of the a workout session as it’ll take you failure. Or if you’re really good, you can use it as a warm-up. It’s just five minutes out of your day, and that’ll surely appeal to many people.”