Free kettlebell & climbing strength program: The Wolf Pup

This 6-week block based on Geoff Neupert’s Wolf program should be a good challenge for an athlete who is familiar with kettlebells and training for climbing. It is not a climbing-strength-specific program, but rather a general preparatory phase. This means it would be ideal for use in an off-season, like during bad weather, or during a period where life is too busy to get a lot of climbing in.

Caveats/downsides: this program does not include any energy system work, or mental, technical or emotional drills. It is just designed for conditioning. If you want to focus on climbing performance and you don’t get why this isn’t ideal, you should read Non-physical factors in climbing performance. However, there are times in our climbing life when it makes sense to focus our effort elsewhere. This program is for those times.


Two kettlebells of an appropriate weight (if you are not experienced enough with kettlebells to be sure, this might not be the program for you)
Training board or spray wall of around 40 degrees
Pull up bar (optional)
Rings (optional)

Program structure

Day 1: KBs. Clean x5 Front Squat x5 Press x5 Clean x5 Front Squat x5
Day 2: Finger training, Board repeats, [Weighted Chins/Pulls x5, Prone Ring IYT x3]
Day 3: KBs. Front Squat x5 Press x5 Clean x5 Front Squat x5
Day 4: Finger training, Board limit

Week 1: 3 sets (1:2 work:rest)
Week 2: 4 sets (1:2 work:rest)
Week 3: 5 sets (1:2 work:rest)
Week 4: 3 sets, (1:1.5 work:rest)
Week 5: 4 sets, (1:1.5 work:rest)
Week 6: 5 sets, (1:1.5 work:rest)

This gives each week 4 work days and 3 rest days. It’s up to you how to structure the days. However, even though this is a preparatory phase, I recommend putting rest days before the climbing days, especially the board limit day. Only the conditioning is affected by the set/rest progression, as the goal of this program is to improve general strength and overall work capacity.

Less-conditioned athletes can simply do the program in however long it takes. Just do week 1 day 1, 2, 3, 4 then week 2 day 1, 2, 3, 4, etc, resting as much as needed between days.

Session contents:

KB sessions:

I’m not going to get into kettlebell technique; this program assumes you are experienced with these movements. If you need a refresher I recommend Mark Wildman, Kettlebell Hardstyle Pros, Strong First, or Rogue Fitness.

Board repeats:

RPE7 repeats on a training board – spray wall, Moon board, Tension board, etc. Rest as much as needed between problems, 3-5 minutes. Volume of session is autoregulated, but keep it consistent week to week and save energy for conditioning. If your max on a board is V5, you can use V3 or V4s. Consider using open feet at this level. If your max on a board is V8, you will probably repeat around V4 or V5. etc. The emphasis is on successfully and smoothly repeating problems; try to send on at least 85% of tries. If you aren’t sending, the problems are too hard.

Replace with sub-limit climbing outside, around the same RPE.

Board limit:

RPE9 attempts on a training board. Work individual moves and rest a lot. End the session early, while you still have some gas in the tank. If you notice your power drop by 10%, the session is over.

Replace with a project session outside.

Finger training suggestions:

3 weeks: Density hangs. 2-5 reps total. 15-25mm edge; train both major grips if relevant to you, or just half-crimp. 20-30 seconds TUT or to failure. Slow, static load, low intensity. Rest 3-5 minutes between reps. Progress TUT through the cycle.

3 weeks: 1-arm recruitment pulls. 1 set each open hand and half crimp. 2-4 reps. Each pull is a few seconds to reach peak force, then pull as hard as possible for 3-5 seconds. Hold a weight in the offhand if needed to keep from lifting off. Rest 1-2 minutes between reps. This will progress by itself – just pull hard. You can use a load cell to measure these if you like.

You can run these suggestions in either order (density -> recruitment or recruitment -> density.) I suggest choosing based on what finger training you were doing going into this program, or what you plan on doing afterward.

More advanced athletes could do add grip variety to these sessions, like using front-3 and back-3 grips instead of (or in addition to) open hand and half crimp.

Optional supplementary training:

Well-conditioned athletes may also wish to do the weighted chins/pulls and prone IYTs on day 2. These should follow the same set scheme as the KB conditioning. Rather than reducing the rest for weeks 4-6, increase the load/angle slightly.

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