The 3 Best Stretches for Rock Climbing
Improve your rock climbing and minimize injuries with 3 of the best rock climbing stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published May 12, 2010 | Updated April 17, 2019
Walter Smith changed the perception of rock climbing from hobby to sport when he climbed Napes Needle in the 1880’s. In the 1930’s, Emilia Comici was credited for new equipment such as belays and tag line as well as big wall climbing. Nowadays, there are many styles such as; ice climbing, indoor climbing, free rock climbing, etc.
Muscles used in Rock Climbing
Although it may seem that a climber requires more upper body than lower body strength, with good technique most of the power should come from the lower body, with the upper body providing the ability to balance and stay close to the wall. Here’s a list of the muscles or muscle groups most used in rock climbing:
- 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.
Most Common Rock Climbing Injuries
Both chronic (overuse) and acute (traumatic) injuries are common in rock climbing, with most acute injuries due to falls. Common injuries in rock climbing include:
- Climber’s finger (a strain or tear of the tendons and ligaments that mobilize the finger joints);
- Carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow);
- Shoulder impingement;
- Shoulder labral tears;
- Rotator cuff tears;
- Knee meniscus tears;
- Iliotibial band syndrome; and
- Ankle sprain and fracture (mostly due to a fall).
Injury Prevention Strategies
Here are some areas to specifically focus on when preparing for rock climbing of any kind. This preparation allows climbers to move quickly through an extreme range of motion or hold a position without tiring too quickly, which is very important for preventing injuries:
- Warm-up properly, including stretching, prior to climbing.
- Allow an adequate cool-down and recovery period after climbing, or between climbs.
- A good strength training program that focuses on both strength endurance (the ability to hold certain positions for a long time), and strength power (especially important for the lower extremity but it should be developed in the upper body as well).
- Good flexibility training will reduce injuries from tight and inflexible muscles, and also help the climber to perform key skills like edging, stemming and manteling.
- Avoid climbing when tired or afraid. Practice mental skills.
- Use protective equipment like helmets, and maintain all other equipment like harnesses, ropes, carabiners, bolts, nuts and camming devices.
The 3 Best Rock Climbing Stretches
Rock climbing stretches are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for rock climbing; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Find out how this new resource can take your climbing up a grade…
Sounds strange? Before I tell you how you can get your hands on a new stretching guide that is proven to help climbers with their flexibility and overall performance on the rock, I want to ask you…
This isn’t the first time you’ve looked into loosening up for the sake of your climbing, is it?
In the next few moments, I’m going to introduce you to a simple solution to your flexibility fiasco and have you crawling up difficult climbs like a spider within a few months.
But first, I want to introduce you to Dylan…
Dylan is your typical avid rock climber. He can’t get enough of climbing and trains everything from his grip to his core specifically to improve his climbing ability.
Like most climbers who are serious about the sport, he was constantly looking to push himself and tackle more and more difficult routes…
In the last 6 months, he has upped his highest grade from a 5.9 to a 5.11b and left his buddies in the dust (or chalk).
But things were not always so great…
Dylan had always struggled with his flexibility since well before rock climbing. However, in other sports he had been involved with before, limited flexibility hadn’t been a major issue. But as we all know flexibility is crucial to becoming a well accomplished and technical climber.
Dylan was tired of seeing his friends easily pull off moves that he struggled with just because they seemed to have hamstrings made of elastic while his were rope…
After hitting a wall for a while and being stuck at the same grade, Dylan stumbled across my book “The Ultimate Sports Stretching Program for Rock Climbers.”
Within a few months, Dylan had loosened up those areas that were previously as stiff as a board. But more importantly, he had learned about areas he had previously didn’t know needed stretching.
Using “The Ultimate Sports Stretching Program for Rock Climbers” doesn’t just have to work for Dylan though…
Learning how to do the essential stretches for elite rock climbing is great, but what the book also covers is…
So, don’t wait any longer. Click the button below to get your hands on this essential climbing resource straight away!
Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 14). Rock Climbing, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Pierpoint, L. Klein, M. Comstock, R. (2017). Epidemiology of Rock Climbing Injuries Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 2006–2015. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(4), 374-375.
- Woollings, K. McKay, C. Kang, J. Meeuwisse, W. Emery, C. (2015). Incidence, mechanism and risk factors for injury in youth rock climbers. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(1), 44-50.
- Draper, N. Brent, S. Hodgson, C. Blackwell, G. (2009). Flexibility assessment and the role of flexibility as a determinant of performance in rock climbing. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 9(1), 67-89.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.