While studies have demonstrated that static stretching prior to athletic activity can actually hinder performance, a thorough warm-up routine using appropriate pre-climbing exercises can lead to improved performance and prevent injuries, too. Learn training exercises to incorporate into your climbing or bouldering warm-up period. Then, discern how your body type dictates the structure and length of your climbing warm-up exercises.
Begin With Light Aerobic Exercise
Though sport climbers and boulderers often complain about walking even small distances to a climbing area, a relatively easy warm-up hike is probably the best start to any climbing day, in terms of priming muscles for top performance. If the crags or boulders have little or no approach, consider jogging in place or taking a five to 10-minute stroll to start warming the muscles and increasing blood flow prior to engaging in more climbing-specific exercises.
Specific Climbing/Bouldering Warm-Up Exercises
After a light aerobic warm-up period, sport climbers and boulderers should move into performing more climbing-specific warm-up exercises prior to attempting any challenging sport climb or boulder problem. Appropriate climbing and bouldering warm-up exercises include the following:
- Several sub-maximal sets of pull-ups or assisted pull-ups, starting with low reps and increasing reps with each set, but never pushing into feelings of pain or real exertion;
- Light finger and hand exercises, such as dead hangs, that are appropriate to your climbing ability level; and
- Other climbing-related dynamic flexibility exercises that mimic climbing movements in a controlled fashion, such as standing by the rock and kicking the legs out to the side increasingly higher.
You can perform the above exercises prior to ever actually bouldering or climbing a sport route, or in conjunction with starting your climbing day. If you choose the latter, start with one or more (preferably already familiar) sport climbs or boulder problems of a very or relatively easy grade level for you, so that you can climb in a controlled, relaxed fashion while you warm up.
As you climb, focus on stretching out the body on the rocks, moving the limbs and fingers through their full range of motion. You can stop on bigger holds and do a few pull-ups or assisted pull-ups or dead hangs, and also work the fingers into a crimp position and back to open-handed position a few times. Don’t forget to engage your legs and core while warming up as well.
Learning Your Body’s Warm-Up Routine
Experiment to discover the climbing or bouldering warm-up exercises and routine that works best for you. Some climbers warm up faster than others – often those who experience their peak performance on difficult projects on their first or second attempts of the day. Other climbers may need four or five warm-up climbs of increasing difficulty, including one attempt on their project, before their body is ready for peak performance.
Figure out what your body needs in terms of a climbing/bouldering warm-up routine by paying attention to what happens when you shorten or lengthen your warm-up period, as well as when you vary the difficulty of the exercises/warm-up climbs you choose. Gradually, you’ll come to learn what works best for your body, and then, you can start every climbing or bouldering day knowing what you need to do to achieve top climbing or bouldering performance.
Warm Up to Improve Sport Climbing and Bouldering Performance
While all climbers should follow the general guidelines of light aerobic exercise followed by more climbing-specific warm-up exercises, aim to develop your own individual warm-up routine for top performance and injury prevention. Once you’ve established an optimal warm-up routine, you’ll be able to recognize with more ease those days when you’re not recovered enough to climb – if the warm-up exercises feel much harder than usual, it’s probably best to wait until another day.