Another common climbing practice, high stepping, requires a climber to bring a foot up to match with a handhold or to gain better footing. To perform this movement, a climber must maintain flexibility of the hip and knee (Giles et al., 2006). As mentioned in the safety tip, ideally, you should spend 15 to 20 minutes, two or three times per week (or most days of the week) stretching the major muscle groups of the body.

Common climbing practice

Think toe to head, stretching the ankle, calf, thigh (front and back), hip, torso (abdomen, chest, and back), wrist and forearm, upper arm, shoulder, and neck. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 10 seconds and up to 30 seconds. You should feel a mild discomfort or strain in the targeted muscle group so that the muscle and connective tissue become more elastic. Don’t stretch to the point where you feel pain

When performing stretching exercises, don’t stretch to the point of pain. You should feel a slight discomfort in the targeted tissue and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch several times, and always breathe! Remember, it is best to apply static stretching after you workout or climb for the day. Use a dynamic warmup (e.g., easy traversing and or large muscle group actions of the arms and legs) prior to all training or climbing which ensures that your muscles maintain strength.

Repeat each stretch up to four times, alternating through the order each set for maximum benefit (ACSM, 1998). Note that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) indicates that a prestretching warm-up (gentle walking, cycling, running, and so on) does not appear to provide additional benefit over stretching alone.

However, stretching after a workout is usually recommended. When stretching after a workout, you should focus on breathing and relaxing each muscle group during each stretch. The following stretches provide a suggested full-body stretching routine for climbers, preferably completed after a workout or 3- to 5-minute gentle aerobic warm-up using large muscle groups.

Yoga and Pilates also provide excellent fitness training for climbers. These methods of exercise can supplement or replace the suggested stretches. Yoga and Pilates allow you to focus on body movement, which is directly connected to various movements in climbing. Attending regularly scheduled classes at a local fitness facility will provide you with a set time to practice these strength and stretch exercises.

Be sure to use a program that involves training two or three times per week in order to achieve and maintain tissue adaptations. Going to a class less often—such as once every other week—will not enable you to become stronger and more flexibile. To achieve the desired benefits, you must be consistent in your training. Of course, climbing or bouldering provides some of the best training adaptations as you slowly traverse a wall using exaggerated movements. You should always focus on your breathing whenever you are engaged in stretching exercises.

Breathe in deep and slow, then exhale the same way. Continue this pattern throughout your routine. In a yoga or Pilates class, the instructor should cue you into your breathing, usually suggesting slow, rhythmic respirations. Breathing out slowly helps slow your heart rate and puts you in a more relaxed state. Meditation of this type can heighten your concentration level and provide for more relaxed muscles, which in turn can ease your mind and increase your focus on difficult climbing moves.

Typically, beginning climbers think that climbing is about 90 percent physical and 10 percent mental. However, the best viewpoint may be that climbing is 100 percent mental and 100 percent physical; thus, you need to learn to train both. This includes learning to breathe in a slow and controlled manner and progressing to sustained focus and concentration during your climbing ventures.

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