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Swing like a monkey

Posted on December 01 2013

Brachiation (from “brachium”, Latin for “arm”), or arm swinging, is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms.



We have all seen the monkeys at the zoo or on the TV swinging limb from limb in the tress with what looks like effortless ease. As it turns out we are not so different from our monkey ancestors, as a species the human skeleton is still evolved, or un-evolved depending how you look at it, to swing by the arms. Our shoulders have full rotation, our arms are structured to hold our full body weight whilst out straight, and the hands are designed for gripping things. So what, you may ask, has this to do with climbing? Well my friend it has everything to do with climbing, climbing is one of the few exercises humans do that uses brachiation regularly.  Most of us sit in our chairs at work, come home and sit in from of the TV. Some people go for a jog or play some kind of team sport, football, netball, cricket, polo whatever, after work, and this is great it certainly helps to get the blood flowing and keep the heart and lungs healthy. This cardio vascular work out is important for our health, however designed as we are to spend at least some of the time hanging from our arms, these “normal" exercises miss some vital skeletal health benefits that climbing can provide. 

When you are pushing up the 9a+ sport route or doing your next V15 boulder problem, the way you hang from your arms is actually working you upper skeleton in a beneficial way. The lower spine which is compressed from sitting down all day, begins to pull part and elongate, the shoulder rolls up and back, your posture improves, and the ribs expand, allowing the lungs to work better. The pressure you put through the lower body also drops out a little, knees and ankles can loosens up a little, at least until you fall off. All of which create lasting benefits to the skeleton, and particularly the spine, which quite frankly gets and bit a beating in normal life. 

So take heart that your chosen sport of climbing not only keeps you fit in the traditional sense, but adds that extra benefits to your spine and upper body which other sports simply can’t offer.

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