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Climbing Drills
From: FM 7-22 October 2012



The purpose of the CL is to improve upper body and trunk strength, and the ability to climb and negotiate obstacles. Success in climbing and surmounting obstacles depends on both conditioning and technique. These drills include exercises that condition the muscles of the body that are predominant in climbing. The entire body is involved during climbing by helping to change or stabilize position.

  • The hands and feet act as anchor points and initiate movement to the next position.
  • The abdominal and back muscles stabilize the body’s position.
  • The arms push and pull upward with assistance from the much stronger legs.


Climbing drills, when combined with CDs, the push-up sit-up drill, the GD, and the strength training circuit comprise a well-balanced program of functional strength development. Climbing drills are performed during the activity part of a PRT session.


The CLs are best performed on climbing bars (Appendix B). To conduct the CLs with multiple Soldiers at one time, allow at least one bar for every three Soldiers. At least one bar is required for every six Soldiers when the CLs are coupled with other strength and mobility drills.


Soldiers will wear ACUs and boots or IPFU. Boots and ACUs will be worn when performing the CD in combination with the GD. Additional equipment such as body armor (IOTV), ACH, and weapon will be used when performing CD 2 in the sustaining phase.


The CDs are best conducted on climbing bars. The thickness of the bars is no more than 1 ½-inch outside diameter. The bars are supported by 6-by-6 inch pressure-treated posts sunk at least 3 feet into the ground and secured with cement. The bar distance from inside post to inside post must be at least 5 feet. The bars should be no more than 8 feet off the ground. A variety of heights or steps should be available to accommodate all Soldiers. Figure 9-22 shows the recommended climbing bar apparatus and Soldier use. (Appendix B provides detailed specifications for constructing climbing bars.)


Two spotters are used during CL 1 and 2 to ensure precision, adherence to proper cadence, and safety by assisting Soldiers who are unable to properly perform the desired number of repetitions. All Soldiers performing CL 1 and 2 are required to use spotters, unless they demonstrate the ability to perform 5 repetitions of an exercise unassisted. The Soldier then gives a verbal cue “no spot needed.” As Soldiers develop more strength, they will require less assistance from the spotters.

Spotting the Straight-Arm Pull, Pull-Up, and Alternating Grip Pull-Up

The front spotter assumes a staggered stance with the palms toward the exerciser at approximately chest level. The front spotter’s primary role is to support the exerciser if their grip fails. The rear spotter assumes a staggered stance and holds the Soldiers feet on their thighs or abdomen. The hands are placed above the ankles to hold them securely. The role of the rear spotter is to provide a stable base for the exerciser to push against with his legs. When spotting is performed correctly, the rear spotter will neither have to lift nor go up and down with the exerciser. The rear spotter must anticipate the last repetition and release the Soldier when the “down” command is given before the “dismount” command. Soldiers are required to use the foot pegs when mounting and dismounting the bar. This is done to ensure safety and to reduce injuries. Jumping from the mounted position causes compression to the spine and other joints of the body, possibly resulting in injury.

Spotting Heel Hook and Leg Tuck

One spotter stands on each side of the exerciser in the straddle stance. The rear hand of each spotter is placed in the small of the back and the forward hand is placed beneath the thigh above the back of the knee. Both hands remain in contact with the exerciser throughout the exercise. The rear hand is used primarily to prevent the exerciser from swaying, while the forward hand helps lift the legs into the ‘up’ position. Soldiers are required to use the foot pegs when mounting and dismounting the bar. This is done to ensure safety and to reduce injuries. Jumping from the mounted position causes compression to the spine and other joints of the body, possibly resulting in injury.




Figure 9-22. Climbing pod



Three Soldiers are assigned to each bar. One Soldier exercises and two Soldiers perform as spotters.


Both a PRT leader and an AI are required in order to instruct and lead CLs. The PRT leader must be familiar with the method of teaching the exercises; the commands and counting cadence; cumulative count; formations; and the use of AIs as described in Chapter 7. The PRT leader must ensure that spotters are properly trained and maintain positive control of the Soldier performing the CL at all times.

Soldiers should memorize the exercises by name and movement. The exercises are always given in cadence. Soldiers rotate during each exercise until all three have completed the exercise. Only then may the PRT leader move them to the next exercise. Considerable time and effort must be expended during the early stages to teach precise performance of each exercise.


Climbing drills lose much of their value unless performed exactly as prescribed. Spotters ensure safety and precise execution by helping Soldiers who are tired or unable to properly execute five repetitions on their own. Two spotters help Soldiers though each exercise. As Soldiers become more proficient in each exercise, they will need less assistance and should eventually be able to perform the drill unaided; however, spotters are always present. Spotters help reduce swinging and stabilize body position. Precision should never be compromised for quantity of repetitions or speed of movement. Soldiers should, therefore, perform all movements in a controlled manner without jerking into or out of positions. They should avoid relaxing in the extended hang position, as this can place excessive stress on the shoulder and elbow joints. Soldiers should maintain a contraction in the muscles of the shoulders and upper back to avoid a relaxed, extended hang.


In the sustaining phase, Soldiers progress from 5 to 10 repetitions of each exercise in CL 1 with or without assistance, using only their body weight as resistance. The goal is to perform all five exercises unassisted.

In the sustaining phase, Soldiers perform CL 2 while under load. Soldiers increase resistance by wearing LBE/LBV, ACH, body armor (IOTV), and individual weapons. Spotters provide assistance until Soldiers can complete all five exercises without help.


The primary emphasis of the CLs is functional strength development. The use of equipment in CL 2 develops the Soldiers’ ability to manipulate their body weights under load. The various exercises also involve movements that require mobility. Climbing drills, when combined with CDs, the push-up sit-up drill, the GD, and the strength training circuit comprise a well-balanced program of total body functional strength development.


Climbing drills 1 and 2 each consist of five 2-count exercises.


Throughout the drills, a variety of hand positions are used to thoroughly train the musculature of the arms, forearms, and hands. Hands are placed shoulder-width apart with thumbs around the bar for the overhand grip. Hands are placed next to each other with thumbs around the bar for the alternating grips (Figure 9-23).


Figure 9-23. Hand positions


Climbing Drills:


From: FM 7-22 October 2012 

  (Page last modified Feb 2, 2013) is dedicated to providing all the information you need to conduct the Army Physical Readiness Training as an individual or with a unit.  Everything you need from FM 7-22 is right here.
Chapter 1 Approach
Chapter 2 System
Chapter 3 Leadership
Chapter 4 Types of Programs
Chapter 5 Planning Considerations
Chapter 6 Special Conditioning Programs
Chapter 7 Execution of Training
Chapter 8 Preparation and Recovery
Chapter 9 Strength and Mobility Activities
Chapter 10 Endurance and Mobility Activities
Appendix A Army Physical Fitness Test
Appendix B Climbing Bars
Appendix C Posture and Body Mechanics
Appendix D Environmental Considerations
Appendix E Obstacle Negotiation
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