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Rock Climbing Warm Up

Most of the time, when I go to climb, other climbers are asking me if there is a good warm up that I know before starting the session. In this article, you’ll gain access on why it is important to have a proper warm-up and what exercises are specific for rock climbing, especially to reduce the risk of injury.

A 2016 study by Andersson et al. showed that a comprehensive warm-up program can decrease injury rates by up to 28 percent. A complete warm-up includes four components, all to be performed in the following succession:

  1. Increase blood flow and activate your joints with mobility exercises

Mobility is the ability to move within an available range of motion. In climbing, for example, mobility allows you the range of motion to crimp down on a tiny hold.

Mobility exercises during your pre-workout warm-up period prepares your body completely for the vigorous movements that make up the main part of your climb.

If you have stiff muscles and limited flexibility, improve mobility by performing a longer duration of mobility exercises and a shorter duration of the others. If you have loose joints and excessive flexibility, target stability by performing a longer duration of stability exercises and a shorter duration of mobility stretches. If you’re not sure, spend equal time utilizing both mobility and stability exercises to warm-up.

2. Improve flexibility with dynamic stretching

A dynamic stretching is the best way to increase blood flow to the muscles and tendons in the body. This method prepares the body for a specific activity and can help reduce injury rates. They are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion and also be functional and mimic the movement of the activity or sport you’re about to perform. An example is bending down to touch your toes while counting to three and coming back up to standing while counting to three.

3. Target stability with muscle-activation exercises

Climbing is a sport that develops many of the muscles that hunch your body forward into a poor posture. This is why climbers begin to develop curved spines and arms that rotate in the inward direction. This hunched position can lead to weakness of the postural muscles that oppose the typical climbing movement . These oppositional muscles are known as antagonist muscles. The development of oppositional muscles is necessary to protect your body from injury while climbing and belaying. The key is to activate oppositional muscles prior to climbing. You can do so by maintaining sustained pressure against a light resistance band for up to one minute. This increased duration of time allows you to develop a brain-body connection and will “wake up” the muscles. Targeting stability is a great way to prevent rock climbing injuries.

4. Begin climbing with a gradual increase in route difficulty

The most important rule for climbing is, never jump from easy climbing straight to hard stuff. Build up through the grades over a period of at least 15 minutes.

Watch the video below, showing an ideal 10 minutes warm up that’s covers all these components above:

Warm up list: Mobility: Shoulder Wall Rotation 10xside Tendon slide salutations x10 Wrist rotations with arms straight x10 Resting dog + Cobra x10 Hip knee in to out and out to in x10 x side Knee to chest x 10 Dynamic stretching: Hamstring dynamic stretching x 5 x leg Quads dynamic stretching x 5 x leg Glutes dynamic stretching x 5 x leg Shoulder Blade taps x10 Forearm flexors / extensor dynamic stretching x5xarm Muscle activation sport specific: Squat and pelvis rotation x10 Shoulder stability lunge with elastic band x 10 x leg Shoulder press with elastic band x10 Waitress ER elastic band x10 Reverse outside flag x 10 Squat Jump x10 Spider plank x10

References 1. Aguilar AJ, DiStefano LJ, Brown CN, Herman DC, Guskiewicz KM, Padua D. A dynamic warm-up model increases quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):1130-41. 2. Fletcher IM, Anness R. The acute effects of combined static and dynamic stretch protocols on fifty-meter sprint performance in track-and-field athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):784-7. 3. McMillian DJ, Moore JH, Hatler BS, Taylor DC. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):492-9. 4. Neil Gresham. Improve your climbing with Neil Gresham maser class part 1. Film. 2005. 5. Sim AY, Dawson BT, Guelfi KJ, Wallman KE, Young WB. Effects of static stretching in warm-up on repeated sprint performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2155-62. 6. Winchester JB, Nelson AG, Landin D, Young MA, Schexnayder IC. Static stretching impairs sprint performance in collegiate track and field athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):13-9.

By Andrea Cutrupi

November 2022

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