If you ask 10 people this question, you are probably going to get 10 different answers. Fingers training? Core? More weighted pull-ups, push-ups, front levers? Visualization and sequencing? These are all good things to consider when design an efficacious plan (especially if you know you are lacking any of these) however, there is one thing that will determine if all or any of those things are actually going to pay off. This more often than not, overlooked part of your training plan, which everyone needs to have in order to be a successful, long-term badass climber is…drum role please…
Maybe not the answer you were hoping for. Right about now you might even be asking yourself: “How the hell is injury prevention going to be the most important thing in my climbing if I can’t do this, that and the other, show up my climbing partners, or impress my friends and family with my feats of strength and might?” Well that is a great question. Let’s dig a littler deeper to find out why it will keep your progress and performance more consistent, as well as what you can do about it.
Time and time again, one of the biggest road blocks that motivated people face isn’t a lack of information, resources, or even time. Those are all things of abundance, for many of us. The ever growing wealth of information on the internet, an easily accessible gym with its rows upon rows of training equipment, your friends and their knowledge, all these have something to add to your climbing know-how. If you climb long enough, consistently enough, with some semblance of intention, you will become a better climber. You’ll get stronger, smarter, more efficient at the things you do (for better or worse). That is the nature of training, even if it involves a half-hatched training plan. Unless of course you don’t put in effort, aren’t learning, aren’t trying, which is a different topic all together and this might not be for you.
Training, in its many forms, takes your body to the edge of what it can handle. Incrementally, and with enough of this pushing, the edge moves, you progress, and all is as it should be. Presto. It’s a dance that you repeat as you progress. Unfortunately, if you train too hard, don’t rest enough, underestimate a situation in which your body is overmatched, the result can be injury. And just like that the progress train stops, and you’re stuck. Sidelined, you are no longer able to push your limits and expand your skills. Depending on the injury, the amount of time you spend stagnating can turn into regression. No small incremental gains, no large leaps and bounds, no grind, no learning, no fun. This is much much worse than any plateau that you experience. It’s demoralizing and painful.
Are You Actually Talking to Me? Probably not, right?
If you, much like myself, figured out half a decade into your climbing career that you need to figure out how to keep your body happy so you can continue to do the thing you love, well great news, it’s probably not too late. Probably. Remember this article is not a substitution for going to see your doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, shaman or whoever you see to really let you know what the hell is bothering you and how to fix it. What this is, is a good start in learning to think, listen to your body, and take action when you need to.
If you’ve been climbing for a year or two, have a good grasp of what you need to work on, what parts of you are starting to not feel right, stiff, or unresponsive, now is also a great time to get to work. If you like improving and doing it often, let’s not forget to keep your biggest assets working for you. Your body’s stability/mobility relationship is what keeps your movement crisp, healthy, and repeatable.
Now, if you are reading this and you are brand spankin new to climbing, wonderful! This a great time to take note and start small. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Invest in your body. The future climbing you will thank you.
What Needs Your Love?
For better or worse, the more you climb and the harder you climb, the greater your chance of injury. You ask more and more of your body and hopefully are matching your requests with care. Your body is a magically cohesive system of levers and pulleys that gets you to the top of climbs, and ideally even back down to the bottom. When everything is humming along nicely, great, but we need to keep it that way too.
Although climbing is a full body sport, there are some parts of it that take on a little bit more abuse than others. Depending on how and what you climb, these areas tend to be the most problematic, in no particular order. Since we are all unique in our physical makeup, you’ll need to be your best judge:
What Does This Look Like?
Let’s talk practice. How can we start including a little bit of work in our program or training to keep our body happy? Well for starters, including some sort of strengthening/mobility drills into your warm-up great, and just as important, simple. Here are 2 sample warm-up supplements that require minimal equipment and can be done almost anywhere:
- Face Pulls
- Wall Slides
- Cossack Squats
- Wrist Hammer Curls
- Sword Draws
- Prone Prisoner Rotations
- Hack Squat
- Reverse Wrist Curls
Adding these routines along with some sort of short cardio bout and gentle pre-climb hangs on a board or bar can do wonders for you. Remember:
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re feeling real messed-up go see a good sport physio, someone who understands what sorts of forces your body takes on. They’ll be able to help set you on the right track. This read is not a substitute for a proper diagnosis or prescription from a qualified professional. Similarly, working with a good coach on movement is a great way to ensure that you will not be repeating the same patterns that got you into trouble.
Do you already have a routine or set of exercises you find valuable? Please feel free to share them and help spread the word on what helps keep you healthy and strong! Train smart and be good to your body.