We all know that you need to warm up before doing exercise, but how many of us actually do? In climbing, we are putting a lot of strain on to tiny ligaments and tendons not designed to carry the weight of our bodies. Over time our muscles and tendons adapt to the strain and become more capable of withstanding the pressure we put on them, but this is no excuse not to warm up.
Before my session begins, I always start by raising my heart rate. This is to get blood quickly to the muscles and prepare them for intense activity. If we don't do this, our muscles will be cold and more likely to tear under strain.
To raise the heart rate, five minutes of aerobic activity such as running, skipping or cycling is enough.
The second stage of the warm up is stretching. I like to stretch dynamically before climbing, this promotes the secretion of synovial fluid into the joints, thereby lubricating and preparing them for intense activity (your biology lesson for the day).
Here is an example of a dynamic stretching routine:
The third stage of the warm up is climbing specific. For this, you need to have a good traverse wall (or the bottom of a lead/top-rope wall) with plenty of positive holds on it. The exercise I am about to explain is what I call regeneration (basically traversing about on very easy ground). It's good to do this for about 10-15 minutes because this prepares you well for the climbing you will be doing throughout the session as well as honing your technical skills. Here are the stages of regeneration:
After you have done this, you can begin to up the intensity of climbing until you feel you are ready to pull hard! I usually do a set of Boulder problems building up slowly until I feel I can go for something hard, likewise you can do the same on routes.
And this concludes the warm up! It shouldn't take longer than 30mins until you begin raising the intensity.
As well as warming up, it's always important to relax your body from all the hard climbing it's been doing. If you do this, you will reduce the chances of having stiff muscles in the morning, improve recovery after training and give yourself a better night's sleep by lowering adrenaline levels.
The first stage of the cool down is to do 5 – 10 minutes of regeneration (see warm up). The second stage is stretching, but rather than dynamic like during the warm up, instead perform static stretches.
Here is an example routine:
Once you have completed these, your cool down is finished and also your climbing session.
Robbie Phillips is a Climbing Coach based in Edinburgh. Robbie has produced a detailed series of coaching and training articles for us at UKClimbing.com - due to be published over the next few weeks.
Robbie - who has climbed F8b+ and onsighted multiple F8as - coaches several members of the British Junior Team and also gives private coaching at EICA Ratho.
"I don't claim to know everything there is to know about training and becoming a better rock climber - no-one really does for that matter - yet I am always learning and my enthusiasm for the sport has brought me very far indeed. I have travelled the world climbing outdoors and taking part in competitions and I have helped coach some of Britain's top youth competition climbers such as Natalie Berry, William Bosi and Angus Davidson."
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