Posted on February 20 2015
These days it seems impossible to walk into a climbing wall without seeing an advert for some variety of yoga or another. Initial confusion at this correlation gave way to the realisation that
aside from ‘restoring inner peace’, ‘centering (not an actual word) ones self’, and doing something to your ‘chakras’, yoga involves quite a bit of stretching. Believe it or not improving your flexibility will improve your climbing. This may come as a surprise to some of the guys who read this and basically campus everything, but to the girls who use their feet to climb just this should be pretty evident.
Stage one: Realising you have a problem
If you are unsure why you bothered to buy climbing shoes as they just seem to add weight to the other two inconveniences hanging below your waist, its time to do some research. Go to the wall and watch some other people climb. If you can manage to do it without salivating or appropriating a lecherous stare pay attention to the girls. You will notice that they use the appendages below their waists to take the weight off their arms. There will be smears, heels, high steps and all would be impossible if it weren’t for flexibility.
Stage two: Doing something about it
Technique and movement will take years of practice to improve, there aren’t really any shortcuts except watching better climbers and trying to copy them. You wont be able to simulate their movements if you cant get into the same positions so its time to get stretching. You could enrol in a yoga class and have your mind fixed along with your body but if you don’t think your minds that bad, and are concerned that an hour spent trying not to fart in a small room full of strangers may prove too much you can always try it at home.
Types of stretching:
Like all exercise you are supposed to ‘warm up’ and stretch before doing it. As it turns out stretching is only a small part of your warm up where the over all aim is to increase your heart rate. There are also two different kinds of stretching:
Unsurprisingly this is where some moment is involved in the stretch. Its the kind of stretch you should do before exercise to get the muscles and joints ready for use. This is fortunate as this type of stretching requires similar movements to those utilised whilst climbing easy routes and probably explains why were not all crippled despite most of us never specifically stretching when we arrive at the wall. If you aren’t one for public displays of flexibility then simply climbing really easy routes as a warm up seems to work for lots of people. You need to have the self control to avoid getting on anything with small holds or big pulls too early as there is only one way thats going to end.
This is the good stuff. This is the kind of stretching that will increase you flexibility (as well as being the kind that you should do after exercise). Basically get yourself into a position where you are stretching a muscle and stay there for 30-40 seconds. I’m not an expert on the various kinds of stretches you can do so google it if you don’t know any. Concentrate on your legs. Being able to reach a hand down to your back to your arse might impress your yoga teacher but will do bugger all to help you climbing. Having flexible hips allowing you to keep your weight close to the wall or use high feet and will prove useful. In the same way being able to spread your weight between your legs (bridging), takes a lot of weight off your arms and will allow you to rest in some instances. The wider you can bridge to more rests you’ll have! winner winner.
Once you have finished climbing, like all exercise you should warm (cool?) down. Whilst smoking a cigarette on the way to the car may leave you with a deep sense of satisfaction it probably cannot be regarded as a warm down. Doing the same stretches as those needed to increase flexibility but holding them for half as long will leave your muscles relaxed and decrease the likelihood of injury. It also increases the speed of recovery, encouraging blood flow to damaged areas and thus decreasing the time for repair.
The key thing to remember here is that stretching is a great way to increase your climbing ability. It requires none of the effort that campusing does and inflicts none of the boredom that fingerboarding might. The great thing about it as a way to increase you climbing performance is the fact that you can do it nearly anywhere, even in a yoga class; if nothing else its a good place to study other peoples flexibility.