Big Mountain Climbing Training Program


  • 10 weeks, 5 days/week
  • Designed to build strength, then stamina and endurance for big mountain expeditions
  • Strong focus on durability to keep you healthy in the mountains
  • This training plan is one of the 182+ Plans included with an Athlete’s Subscription.

Product Description


This 10-week training program is designed to prepare athletes for multi-day/week non-technical mountaineering expeditions such as climbing Denali, remote peaks in the Canadian Rockies and big mountains in the Himalaya.

You’ll train 5 days/week for a total 50x training sessions. The first 4 weeks of the plan are gym-based and designed to build a base of “mountain chassis” strength. The plan pivots to big mountain endurance and stamina for the final six weeks.

Program Goals:
(1) Strengthen your legs and lungs for miles and thousands of vertical feet you’ll be hiking up and down during your climbing trip.

(2) Build your core/midsection strength and overall strength so your body will be able to perform well with a loaded backpack, and be able to recover from long days in the mountains.

(3) Increase your overall durability and injury resistance.

Program Progression:

The first few weeks of the program has a solid strength and work capacity focus. The goal here is to build your strength – specifically leg and midsection – to increase your durability for the climb and build a solid “base” of work capacity.

At week 4, the plan begins to pivot toward climbing – specific strength and endurance. We work on eccentric leg strength for the downhills, and uphill hiking under load via increasing numbers of step ups.


How long should the training sessions take?
Most training sessions are designed to be completed in 60-75 minutes. The Wednesday sessions during the final 6 weeks of the plan, may take up to 120 minutes.

What if I can’t keep up the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Training Schedule?
Do not skip a training session. Rather, complete all the training sessions in succession. Whatever the schedule, always take two days a week, ideally together, as total rest.
For this plan, Training Sessions 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41 and 46 are Mondays.

What if I can’t complete the exercises using the prescribed loads?
Drop, or “scale” the load or load as necessary to meet the prescribed number of reps or intervals. For example, if the training session calls for 5x Mr. Spectacular’s at 25# dumbbells and these are to heavy for you, drop to 20# dumbbells – whatever is required, to get 5 reps.

What if I’ve never trained in a gym before?
This training program is going to be quite an adventure in athletic training for you! Our strength training is built primarily around classic barbell exercises. These are not complicated exercises, but they can be awkward at first. If needed, you can seek exercise instruction from a local coach or personal trainer. You can also teach yourself these exercises by being patient, using lighter loads, and sticking with it. Practice helps! There are many web-based sites and resources to find information on performing these common exercises. You’re not helpless. Be resourceful.

What equipment do I need?
This plan is designed to be completed in any commercial gym, but there are 2-pieces of special equipment you will need:
Sandbag – During the first 4 weeks of the plan, male athletes will need a 60# sandbag, and female athletes will need a 40# sandbag. During the final 6-weeks of the plan, male athletes will need to increase the weight of their sandbag to 80#, and female athletes will need to increase the weight of their sandbag to 60#. Sandbags can be made from duffle bags, old army gear bags, or purchased through our online store. Use wood pellets or mulch made from ground up tires for fill. Be resourceful.

Kettlebells – Some of the training sessions call for kettlebells or dumbbells. If you don’t have access to kettlebells, don’t worry about it. Dumbbells can be used in place of kettlebells for all the prescribed exercises. Kettlebell weights are in kilograms. Here are common kettlebell weights in pounds:
Kettlebell Dumbbell
8kg 15#
12kg 25#
16kg 35#
20kg 45#
24kg 55#

Backpack – During the second 6 weeks of the plan, you’ll be doing thousands of stepups wearing a backpack with weight. Any sturdy backpack or day pack will do. Regular weight room iron plates can be used for weight – but be sure to wrap the plates in a towel before putting them in your pack so they don’t chafe your lower back during step ups.

Is the loading different for men and women?
Yes – It is indicated in the exercise which load to use for men and which to use for women.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run Calculator is listed as an exercise.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.

Good Luck!

Questions? Email

Required Equipment

- Fully equipped commercial gym (barbells, rack, dumbbells, etc)
- Sandbag - 60# for men, 40# for women
- Backpack for step ups


Love your training plans. I used to the PreSeason backpacker and Big Mtn V2 for training for this years hiking season in the PNW (I live in Vancouver, BC). I was in great shape for hiking in our area - day hikes and multi-night trips. I also cruised through a 7 day hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. At 43, and with sedentary work, I was in the best shape I have ever been for carrying heavy weights in my pack overs trails with elevation gain and long distances. Many thanks to you and your team. - M


Also , just wanted to let you know how great your big mtn program was.   I trained with it the past 10 weeks and made a successful summit of mt rainier two weeks ago in 60 mph winds.   The program had me in excellent shape for that mountain all while living here at sea level

  • J



The dust has settled after another season in the high mountains of Peru. I used the Big Mtn plan and the bodyweight plan for 4 months prior to prep. It was technical climbing at altitude. My work schedule often prevents gym access, so I used the bodyweight plan to supplement when I couldn't get to the gym.

I've never felt stronger in the mountains. My regular climbing partner even remarked that he'd never seen me that fit. The only thing I can think of was paying closer attention to my diet that was different than last time I did the Big Mtn. Anyway, thought I'd pass along the kudos. I ripped it this year.

Looking forward to ice season now.


- C


Finished your program and summited mount Rainier with ease.  Great program!

This past weekend I was able to successfully summit Mount Rainier (my first attempt on any mountain). I used your Big Mountain Training Plan to physically prepare myself. It was a crucial and very effective part of my preparation. Thanks again for putting together a simple and effective training plan.Below is some feedback on the program and how it related to my experience if you're interested:

I feel the plan met all 3 stated goals. My legs felt strong for the duration of the climb and descent. I barely noticed the weight of my pack at any point. During and after the climb I remained injury free. My quads and hamstring are a bit sore but nothing to complain about. Success on all fronts there.

Other feedback/thoughts

  • step-ups, leg blasters and SBGU are a brutal combination that I simultaneously hate & love

  • the first full leg blaster (session 26) destroyed my quads

  • hundreds of step-ups not only built leg stamina but mental stamina. The time it took to do 1000x step-ups seemed like hours. Whereas climbing thousands of feet flew by in minutes (at times)

  • I am curious about what effect, if any, there would be in varying the height of the step-ups in the program. Sometimes you'd do step-ups at the normal height (16"-20") but other times do stepup at a lower height (maybe 10"-14"). The vast majority of my steps on the mountain were not nearly as high as the steps on the stepups.

Not a ton of feedback. This plan felt really dialed in for what I needed. Thank you.


In preparation for climbing/skiing a technical line on Aconcagua I thought I would try something new for preparation and used your Big Mountain Training Program.  While I did supplement the program with long runs (9-14 miles) 4-5 days a week and big weekend outings here in Breckenridge there is no doubt that the program had me in the best climbing shape of my life.  All of my mountaineering/skiing/climbing partners have all commented on how much stronger I am.  At no point during the entire 2-weeks on the mountain did I feel strength was ever a limiting factor.

I completely plan on continuing to utilize the workouts going forward and will use the full program again when it's time to get ready for the next big climb.



I recently completed your Big Mountain Training Plan. I trained with the plan in preparation for an international climbing expedition to the Tien Shan Mountains in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Our goal was to do an attempt on a 7,000m peak called Khan Tengri.

The training plan was an enormous help! Throughout the climb my legs felt strong and well conditioned. The tough mental programing I developed while training allowed me to function confidently, physically and mentally, in hard times such as while climbing in inclement weather. The Tien Shan turned out to be a highly unstable mountain range. Our 4 person team acclimatized well and took advantage of several good weather windows. We were able to summit a 6,090m peak but were unable to summit the Khan due to very bad weather. In any case it was an amazing learning experience. I am totally pumped on your training plans. Thanks again!!


Hi Rob,

I recently finished up the Big Mountain program and I wanted to thank you for making me strong again.  I do mountaineering and search and rescue and I am much more effective now confidence wise and physically as well.  I tell everyone on my SAR team about your gym and I consider it "my gym" even though I'm in New Mexico.


I am employed with the Canadian Forces and am in the sand box right now and have completed your 12 week Big Mountain Training Program. I have been able to give it my full attention, well made time for it and have never been this fit, flexible or satisfied. I have been traing conventionally for 10 years now, along with 1/2 marathons and work up training for two deployments in nine years.



Bought the Big Mountain Training Program last year and it changed my fitness and climbing forever. It fixed weaknesses I had in my body for many years from injury or neglect and made me a more complete and better athlete.

- M.

Hey Rob -

On Friday - I'll complete the 10 week Big Mountain program. I leave for Denali next week.

Thanks for putting together a program like this. It's totally worth every penny. I feel more prepared physically now then any climb I've done before. I also feel really mentally prepared. It took something to complete every workout as it's written. I loved the program and will recommend it to all of my fellow climbing friends. I can't wait to see how all of my hard work will pay off over the coming weeks.

- A.

Rob -

I wanted to say that your program is awesome. I honestly can say my legs have never felt this strong before. I am a month and a half out from leaving for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for a climbing expedition. Your program has helped me to acquire a good deal of confidence. Thanks again for everything!

- N.


I just got back from climbing 2 volcano peaks 18.4K and 17.1K in Mexico this week and the Big Mountain programming worked great,  2nd time I've used it and it really translates well to the outdoors.


Sample Session

Below is Week 1 from this Training Plan:



Obj: Strength/Work Capacity

Warm up:

5 Rounds

  • 10x Goblet Squat w/Dumbbell (M-35#, W-25#)

  • 10x Push ups

  • 10x Situps

  • Instep Stretch


(1) 6 Rounds

  • 4x Thrusters - increase load until 4x is hard, but doable, then immediately

  • 2x Burpees

  • Pigeon Stretch

(2) 6 Rounds

  • 5x Walking Lunge each leg holding dumbbells - increase load each round until 5x is hard, but doable

  • 5x Scotty Bobs (M-25#, W-15#)

  • 3x Floor Slide

(3) 4 Rounds As fast as Possible

  • 10x Hippity Hops each leg (20x touches total)

  • 10x Weighted Situps (M-25#, W-15#)



Obj: Stamina/Core


(1) Run 4 miles, moderate pace

Moderate = comfortable but not easy

(2) 4 Rounds

  • 15/15/15 Low Back Complex

  • 15/15 Low Back Lunge

  • 15/15 Kneeling Founder

  • 10x Face Down Back Extensions

  • 15x Hamstring Hell each leg



Obj: Strength

Warm up:

  • 4 Rounds

  • Barbell Complex @ 45#

  • Instep Stretch


(1) 6 Rounds

  • 4x Front Squat - increase load each round until 4x is hard, but doable, then immediately ….

  • 3x Squat Jumps

  • 5x Shoulder Scarecrow @ 2.5#

(2) 6 Rounds

  • 8x Hinge Lift - increase load each round until 8x is hard, but doable

  • 5x Bench Press - increase load each round until 5x is hard, but doable

  • 3/3/3 Toe Touch Complex

(3) 4 Rounds

  • 20x Situps

  • 45 Second Front Bridge

  • 5x Kneeling Plate Halfmoon @ 25#

  • 10x Face Down Back Extensions



Obj: Work Capacity

Warm up:

  • 5 Minute Sandbag Getup (M-60#, W-40#)


(1) 8 Rounds for Time

  • 4x Sandbag Clean and Squat each side - 8x Total (M-60#, W-40#)

  • 5x Ankles to Bar

  • 8x Touch/Jump/Touch

  • 3x Scotty Bobs (M-25#, W-15#)

(2) 4 Rounds

  • 15/15/15 Low Back Complex

  • 15/15 Low Back Lunge

  • 15/15 Kneeling Founder

  • 10x Face Down Back Extensions

(3) 2 Rounds

  • 30 Second Jane Fonda each leg



Obj: Strength/Work Capacity

Warm up:

5 Rounds

  • 10x Back Squat (M-75#, W-45#)

  • 10x Push ups

  • 10x Situps

  • Hip Flexor + Instep Stretch


(1) 6 Rounds

  • 5x Back Squat - increase load each round until 5x is hard, but doable

  • 4x Scotty Bob (M-25#, W-15#)

  • 3/3/3 Toe Touch Complex

(2) 10 Rounds

  • 8x Front Squat (M-85#, W-55#)

  • 50x Step ups @ 20" Box

  • 30 Seconds Rest

Sprint to the rest each round

(3) 4 Rounds

  • 10x Ankles to Bar

  • 5x Barbell Roll out (Barbell with 5# Plates)

  • 5x Standing Russian Twist (M-25#, W-15#)

  • 10x Back Extensions

Not Ready?

Complete Bodyweight Foundation Training Plan 

"This is a total body strength and conditioning training program. It includes strength training for your lower body, upper body and core, as well power training and aerobic endurance." - Rob

Whats Next?

Complete Mountain Base Helen

This Training Cycle combines gym-based strength, speed-over-ground endurance, aerobic base training, chassis integrity, multi-modal endurance and climbing strength/work capacity in the same cycle.

Our Stuff Works. Guaranteed.

By Rob Shaul

I received notes frequently from athletes hesitant to purchase a subscription or training plans asking me to sell them on why they should make the purchase.

While I understand the question, I’m not a salesman - so I can't put a hard sale on anyone for our programming.

I can tell them the process we go through to design our programming.

We begin with extensive research on the fitness demands of the event, identify the exercises and progressions which sport specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the plan.

Then we test the cycle on ourselves and our lab rats here in Wyoming. We document, note what works and doesn’t work, re-assess, and make changes and modifications.

Then we publish the programming in the form of one of our plans or as part of our subscription daily training sessions for tactical and mountain athletes.
We don’t stop there - our daily programming is the “tip of the spear” for our programming evolution. We use these sessions to learn and make continuous improvement.

As we learn more and improve, we go back, and update the sport-specific training plans on the website. For example, we’re currently on Version 5 of our Ruck Based Selection Training Plan and Version 3 of our Dryland Ski Training Plan and Version 4 of our Big Game Back Country Hunting Training Plan.

We understand our programing isn’t cheap, but we believe it’s a great value. The $79 for the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan, and $39 for the Dryland Ski Training Plan reflect the, research, work, innovative theory, iteration, testing and feedback we've put in and received to make these plans effective.

All that matters for us is outside performance, and we feel strongly that Our Stuff Works in the real world.

Here’s our guarantee:

1) Individual Training Plan Purchase:
If you purchase an individual training plan, follow it as prescribed before your season/event/pft/selection, and if you don’t feel you were physically ready for your season/event/pft/selection, and/or didn't see dramatic improvements in your early season performance, we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.

2) Athlete's Subscription
If you purchase an Athletes' Subscription, follow the training sessions as prescribed, and are not satisfied with the quality of the programming, notify us within 30 days of purchase, and we'll refund your money, no questions asked.