/ suppleness improvements

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john morrissey - on 13 Jan 2018

Hi all.  Anyone know of a good way forward in building suppleness, especially to improve hip movement and the ability to "frog" the knees.  My suppleness is seriously holding back my climbing and as I am getting older really need to work on it. About to leave my 40's behind.  I am not expecting to do the splits or anything, just make some improvements. 

DannyH001 on 13 Jan 2018
In reply to john morrissey:

Yoga is always a good option. There are several free short yoga demos that can be found easily on Youtube that can be done once or twice a week.

The other option that I'd recommend is to purchase a theraband and make a regular habitual routine of warming up and cooling down after each climbing session with some light stretching included.

You should see noticable results within a month or two. Just be sure not to push it too far and earn yourself an injury

kenr - on 14 Jan 2018
In reply to john morrissey:

Climbing itself is a good way to build suppleness - (as long as you don't overdo it),

How many times a week do you climb?

The recent research is finding now that stretching often weakens muscles. And lots of people have gotten injured with stretching and with yoga. Sometimes having muscles + tendons or ligaments that are too loose or long could cause postural problems or injuries.

So perhaps best to do only stretching for specific shortcomings related to climbing performance -- or other specific problems that have been diagnosed by a physiotherapist.

You're right that "frogging" or opening the hips outward into a "pliee" helps with some climbing sequences, so choosing one of the known exercises for stretching that is good.

Another climbing-relevant "suppleness" might be ... stepping your foot up very high -- so I do specific stretching for that also. Note that stepping your foot high is also a _strength_ thing, so I do separate strength training for making high steps.


stp - on 18 Jan 2018
In reply to john morrissey:

Relax into Stretch by Pavel Tsatsouline is probably the best book on stretching. Very scientific but currently out of print. You can find a PDF version though if you search around. It's pretty concise and easy to read so fine to read on a PC.

And there's a near infinite supply of Yoga lessons by expert teachers on Youtube. Just search for Yoga and Hips.

Tom Merrick's Youtube channel is also a good source of info. EG.:

stp - on 18 Jan 2018
In reply to kenr:

I think it's right to be a bit cautious. But whilst it's true that being hyperflexible can lead to joint instability it's also true that being inflexible can cause injury too and in our culture, and within climbing, I suspect that's far more likely to be the case than being too flexible. I also suspect most injuries from stretching will be from people pushing too hard rather than actually becoming too flexible.

One thing I only learned recently was the fact that 'stretching' isn't actually about stretching your muscles or connective tissue at all. They're already plenty long enough and don't need to be stretched. What you're actually doing when you 'stretch' is reprogramming your central nervous system to persuade it that the new position is safe to be in. That is why calm and steady breathing as in Yoga is important.

Another way to persuade your CNS to allow you more movement is to actively work on making the muscles stronger too. If you want to do the splits then strengthening the hip adductors will help. The idea is if you're strong in that position your CNS, which is trying to protect you from injury, is more likely to allow you a greater range of movement.

Personally I'd love to be a bit more flexible for climbing. Some of the most inspiring climbers to watch for me are those who are also very good at yoga.

Martin Bennett - on 18 Jan 2018
In reply to kenr:


> Another climbing-relevant "suppleness" might be ... stepping your foot up very high -- so I do specific stretching for that also. Note that stepping your foot high is also a _strength_ thing, so I do separate strength training for making high steps.

> Ken

Ken - can you explain the stepping high exercises for me please? I used to be known for my ability to do it. Since entering my sixties (12 years ago) I've become gradually worse at it. I first noticed it when I had trouble stretching down to pull me wellies on for caving trips. I always used to joke that when you had to sit down to put yer socks on you were past it. On that basis I'm very nearly past it now! 

Despite my age and the onset of osteo arthritis in my shoulders I have little or no discomfort in hips and knees so am hopeful that with the correct exercise regime I might yet regain some suppleness in those joints.

Any ideas? Thanks.

GreatApe - on 18 Jan 2018
In reply to john morrissey:

Have a look at They have a range of programmes.

I use Elements and Focused Flexibility and am seeing regular incremental improvements after years of hunching over a desk.

They also have a free article about exercises for climbing you can google.

Post edited at 11:51
john morrissey - on 20 Jan 2018
In reply to GreatApe:

Thank you for the link.  checking it out.

Wayne S - on 21 Jan 2018
In reply to john morrissey:

Hi,  Yoga has certainly helped my flexibility, and at fifty I am probably more flexible now than in my thirty’s.  Personally I do not think I would take to or keep up Yoga practice if my introduction was an on-line video.  

Also yoga can be more than an exercise, with the breathing and relaxation both adding to the benefit of the practice. The contribution to the benefits for climbing go beyond just flexibility.

I would suggest finding a class and being taught, having a trained teacher might help avoid the potential injury others have mentioned.  

Classes range from cringe worthy hippy trippy to one click away from structured exercise alone.  You take what you want from a class.

More than flexibility, practice of holding poses for extended periods clearly has benefit in climbing , as does regulating breathing.  

Extra bouldering with sit starts will also help.

Also, see improvement in months and years, not weeks.  If you couldn’t do the splits as a child then you probably won’t now.  Be realistic and over time improvements creep up on you.

Good lucK


AlanLittle - on 21 Jan 2018
In reply to Martin Bennett:

I'm not Ken, but I'll chime in with a suggestion anyway: hip circles. You can do these standing: raise one leg, bent knee, and just make as big a circle to the side with the knee as you can. The is to be rotating the hip socket as far as it will go, move everything else as little as possible. A few rounds in each direction.

Benefits: active range of motion. Your nervous system gets used to moving the leg into high/wide positions *under its own power*. Lubricates the bearing surface inside the hip joint. And a moderately challenging balance exercise too if you do it free standing. Although if that's a problem, holding onto something with the opposite hand is fine too.

You can also do the same thing lying on your back, but then with a straight leg.

Knees: just deep bodyweight squats.

Post edited at 09:56

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