We’ve all been there: you’re climbing, and your foot slips. The next thing you know, you’re on the ground looking up at a bunch of people who were watching from below. Climbers often wonder how to avoid these embarrassing falls.
One way is by warming up before climbing with some stretching exercises that will help loosen muscles and joints, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of injury.
Why Should you Warm up Before Climbing?
Climbing is an intense sport that requires a lot of energy. This means you need to be sure your body is ready for it before you start, especially if you are going for some challenging ascents. Before you start climbing, do some light stretching for five minutes to loosen your muscles and increase blood flow so that they’re ready for the intense activity ahead.
Stretching is a great way to warm up before beginning an ascent because it improves range of motion in joints, helps maintain muscle function, and increases circulation. These are all important things to focus on before you start climbing because your muscles need to be warm, flexible and ready for action.
Stretching and warming up also improves your flexibility, strength, and reduces muscle soreness after the climb. The muscles you use the most during climbing are:
- Forearm muscles: brachioradialis, pronator teres, flexor carpi, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris and flexor carpi radialis. Grip strength is very important in rock climbing and comes from the forearm muscles working as a unit.
- Leg muscles: the real strength in climbing comes from the legs, particularly the quadriceps muscle. Other important muscles are the hamstrings, gluteals and calf muscles.
- Shoulder muscles: deltoids and rotator cuff.
- Torso muscles: pectoralis major (smaller role), latissimus dorsi and rhomboids.
3 Excellent Stretching Exercises to do Before and After Climbing
There are many types of stretching exercises you can do that will help prepare your body for a climb, or help reduce/prevent muscle soreness after your climb.
Here are a few examples of stretches to help you get started!
For each exercise, move slowly into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7/10. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, relax and breathe deeply. After 2 or 3 repetitions, move on to the next stretching exercise.
Exercise 1: Rotating Wrist and Forearm Stretch
Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Exercise 2: Squatting Leg-out Adductor and Groin Stretch
Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.
Exercise 3: Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch
Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
Tips on How to Avoid Injury While Climbing
One of the best ways to avoid injury when you’re climbing is to make sure that your body has plenty of rest and hydration before you head out on a climb. Avoiding climbing if you are exhausted or have consumed alcohol can help prevent injury because fatigue leads to muscle cramping, which in turn slows down reflexes and motor function.
Also, there is no need for you to rush your climb. Take things slowly if you’re not feeling confident and don’t hesitate to stop for a break if you need one. Rushing your climb can lead to injury, which is the last thing we want.
Using the proper climbing equipment is another way to avoid injury. It’s important that you have the right shoes, clothes and protective equipment for your climb or industry. If you’re unsure of what gear is best suited for you, make sure to read through our climbing gear guides.
For more tips about avoiding climbing injuries, check out our other in-depth article with 6 more tips.
Final tip: check out The Ultimate Sports Stretching Program for Rock Climbers by StretchCoach.com!