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Alex Honnold Workout Routine, Diet Plan and Supplements

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 14, 2021

I’ve been following Alex Honnold on social media for quite some time now, and I’m so impressed with his skills I had to try his workout routine.

I spent hours researching his lifestyle, how he spends his days, what he eats, what supplements he uses, and here’s everything I found out!

Alex Honnold's Bio

Alex Honnold in the mountains

Born in 1985 in Sacramento, California, Honnold started his climbing career when he was just 5 in his family home kitchen, where he would scale the kitchen fridge before moving on to the house's roof.

By the age of 10, he was a regular at his local climbing gym.

Honnold went to Berkeley but had a tough first year due to some personal problems. He often skipped classes to go climbing and eventually dropped out.

He’s famous for being the only person thus far to do a free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

Honnold also holds the record for the fastest climb of the triple crown at Yosemite: Mount Watkins, The Nose, and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

To say that Honold is one of the best free climbers in the world would be an understatement.

Honnold won several climbing awards, including the Golden Piton and the Piolets d’Or.

A Day in the Life

Free rock climbing is a sport that has no established training methodology. The time of the year, goals, and rock type are the only things that define its path.

Because of that, the regular gym workout consisting of biceps curls and squats don't cut it, says Honnold.

The climber uses a hangboard workout routine based on an Olympic lifting program his close friend Jonathan Siegrist, also a climber, uses to strengthen his extremities.

The climber also does other exercises, such as hanging leg raises, pull-ups on the small, half-inch edge of the door, and similar exercises which simulate climbing and strengthen the core.

But most importantly, Honnold also practices falling. The climber says he has desensitized himself to falling because climbing without a rope means pushing yourself until failure, and you can’t push yourself to the limit if you fear.

When Honnold has no significant climbs on his plan, he's typically focused on building his fitness base. He does so with mountain running. He's doing aerobic training while maintaining strength for rock climbing.

Honnold doesn't allow himself to get distracted with music or attention-diverting thoughts while he's long-distance conditioning.

Running is his way to reflect and prepare his mind while preparing his body. He thinks about and visualizes his objectives.

 

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A post shared by Alex Honnold (@alexhonnold)

His Lifestyle

alex honnold discussing with a group of people

After dropping out of college, the climber lived in his van for years. Even after achieving world fame, Honnold is still living in modesty trying to give back to the community.

The climber founded the charitable organization the “Honnold Foundation” in 2012.

The main goal of the organization is to improve the lives of people in a simple and sustainable way by promoting solar power in developing countries.

Honnold doesn't do fundraising but donates a large part of his own earnings.

Fitness Routine

white man climbing steep mountains

As the El Cap champion reveals, he may spend an entire day climbing or do shorter climbs that last only a couple of hours.

Lengthy hikes to the place where he's climbing are also a part of his training. Here are some of the essential tips for a successful fitness journey the climber shares.

Honnold says it's essential to:

1. Keep a Journal

Honnold says he keeps a journal where he records all his climbs and notes what he needs to improve.

2. Know When Enough is Enough

Honnold says climbing sometimes doesn't feel right, and you need to know when to say when. The climber always listens to his instincts and credits this practice for his incredible success in free soloing.

3. Practice the Technique

Many think that the most crucial thing in free solo climbing is getting to the top. However, the El Cap champion says that focusing on the technique is an integral part of the training. Practicing the technique is what helps him improve.

4. Recognize Your Weaknesses

Instead of just racing up the wall, Honnold recommends identifying your weaknesses and working on them. Working on those areas and practicing particular skills is what helped him improve his strength.

5. Find a Mentor

Before you actually start climbing, you should find a mentor or several experienced climbers who have already climbed and have been in this sport for some time. Try to learn everything you can from these people.

6. Be a Turtle

Channel your inner turtle, don't rush, and focus. Honnold himself isn't a fast climber. He goes steadily, avoiding burnout and the need to stop.

7. Honnold’s Workout Style

If you'd like to climb a mountain one day or even conquer the El Cap, you might want to start with climbing at the gym. When you feel you're ready to climb outside, look for a community of climbers.

You also want to build strength and muscle balance. You can achieve this by doing press-ups, planks, and hanging leg lifts.

If you want to be strong enough for your climbs, you may want to do some hiking and running, too. You can run or hike on the way to your climb, any day you don't climb, or do some shorter sessions.

Alex Honnold’s Hangboard Workout

man using a hangboard

"A hangboard is a little piece of wood with edges, holes and slopes," says Honnold.

 

"There's different strategies for different things—hanging, varying grips, adding weight. If I do a hard finger workout, I'm definitely sore."

Using a hangboard will help you choose how many grip positions you want to add to your workouts. The grips usually vary on the style of the hangboard.

Some of the Honnold’s go-to grips include:

  • Three-finger
  • Half-bent/ half-crimp (where the first joint of the finger is hyperextended, or bent the “wrong” way)
  • Open hand position

If you want to try out hangboard workouts, you need to choose a set number of grips and do three sets for each type.

Follow these steps for each set:

  • 7 reps — 7 seconds on 3 seconds of— hang and let go
  • 3 minutes rest
  • 7 reps, body weight
  • 3 minutes rest
  • 6 reps, medium weight added
  • 3 minutes rest
  • 5 reps, heavy weight added

Repeat these steps for each grip, do three sets for each different grip.

Other Workout Routines:

Alex Honnold's Diet

green salad in a bowl with a spoon on it

Honnold eats a vegetarian diet which is pretty similar to vegan.

The climber bases many of his dietary choices on environmental reasons.

Since soloing doesn’t have a season, Honnold’s diet is pretty much the same all year round.

He typically has cereal and non-dairy milk or an egg scramble for breakfast.

Next, Honnold snacks on whole foods such as nuts, fruit, or avocados on bread throughout the day.

He even has a basic camping cooktop in his van. The climber uses it to make his simple meals. In the evening, these meals may include squash, peppers, spinach, and noodles, topped with cheese and pumpkin seeds.

If you want to follow his diet, here are some suggestions on what you should eat and avoid:

What to Eat

  • Muesli
  • Flax meal
  • Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Hemp milk
  • Eggs
  • Apples
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Bell peppers
  • Avocados
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cheese (in moderation)
  • Seeds
  • Cookies

What to Avoid

  • Alcohol
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • GMO foods
  • Processed foods
  • Junk food
  • Anything with a long list of ingredients

Supplements

Honnold eats really simply and doesn’t reveal much about his supplementation, but since he’s vegetarian, he might need some of the following supplements:

  • Vitamin B-12 is hard to get from plant-only sources [1], so the climber probably takes some B-12 supplementation.
  • Calcium and vitamin D are also hard to absorb from plants [2], and bones and joints take special beating while climbing, so calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen, are recommended to all vegetarians.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce joint stiffness and inflammation.

Vitamins C and E are incredible antioxidants that help our bodies get rid of the free radicals created during hard exercise.

FAQs

Does Alex Honnold eat eggs?

Yes, Honnold eats eggs. In fact, scrambled eggs are very often a part of his breakfast.

Does Alex Honnold drink alcohol?

No, Honnold has never had alcohol.

Is Alex Honnold vegan?

No, Honnold is a vegetarian and active in environmental issues.

Does Alex Honnold lift weights?

No, Honnold doesn’t lift weights. He uses a hangboard instead to build his strength.

Will You Train & Eat Like Alex Honnold?

Honnold is a true inspiration to every athlete. He trains hard and constantly pushes his limits, setting an example to all future climbers. What do you think about his lifestyle and fitness routine? Share your thoughts in the comments!


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-nutrients-you-cant-get-from-plants
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448090/

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