Prep Wrists and Fin­gers to Send

Climbing - - SKILLS -

Most climbers know bet­ter than just to jump on their project cold. A thor­ough warm-up in­creases blood flow, muscle flex­i­bil­ity, and body con­trol. (E.g., a 2016 study of hand­ball play­ers by An­der­s­son et al. showed that a com­pre­hen­sive warm-up pro­gram can de­crease in­jury rates by up to 28 per­cent.) In climb­ing, a com­plete warm-up in­cludes four com­po­nents, best per­formed in suc­ces­sion: In­crease blood flow, im­prove mo­bil­ity, tar­get sta­bil­ity, and be­gin climb­ing.

IN­CREASE BLOOD FLOW

Per­form 5–10 min­utes of aer­o­bic ex­er­cise ( jump­ing jacks, a run, ex­er­cise bike, the ap­proach hike, etc.) to el­e­vate your deep-muscle tem­per­a­ture, which makes mus­cles more adapt­able and less likely to strain or tear. A sim­ple guide­line is once you start sweat­ing, your body is warmed up. If you want to be sci­en­tific, warm up with a tar­get heart rate of 50 per­cent of your max—sub­tract your age from 220 and di­vide by two.

IM­PROVE MO­BIL­ITY

Dy­namic stretch­ing—smoothly mov­ing through a full range of mo­tion, spend­ing equal time in each phase—helps im­prove mo­bil­ity prior to climb­ing. Per­form the wrist and fin­ger ex­er­cises on these pages for 6 min­utes, al­ter­nat­ing in 30-sec­ond blocks be­tween the two stretches in each section above.

TAR­GET STA­BIL­ITY

The fore­arm and fin­gers con­tain two types of ma­jor muscle groups: Flex­ors on the palm side, and ex­ten­sors on the back. Climb­ing overde­vel­ops the flex­ors, which can lead to overuse in­juries and weak­ness of the ex­ten­sors, which help to sta­bi­lize the wrist and fin­gers. Given this im­bal­ance, it’s im­por­tant that we ac­ti­vate the ex­ten­sors prior to climb­ing. To ac­ti­vate a muscle, you need to main­tain a sus­tained pres­sure against light re­sis­tance. This en­cour­ages a brain-body con­nec­tion to “wake up” the tar­geted muscle. (Note: You can also cus­tomize time spent on ei­ther Mo­bil­ity or Sta­bil­ity. E.g., if you have stiff mus­cles and lim­ited flex­i­bil­ity, do 4 min­utes of mo­bil­ity stretches and 2 min­utes of sta­bil­ity ex­er­cises—or vice versa if you have loose joints and ex­ces­sive flex­i­bil­ity.)

BE­GIN CLIMB­ING

Af­ter you com­plete the first three steps of your warm-up, be­gin climb­ing grad­u­ally, with “high vol­ume/low in­ten­sity,” and progress into “low vol­ume/high in­ten­sity”—this lets the mus­cles, ten­dons, and ner­vous sys­tem adapt to the pro­gres­sive de­mands of climb­ing harder. I recommend start­ing with two to three (high vol­ume) eas­ier climbs three num­bers be­low your con­sis­tent up­per grade (low in­ten­sity). For ex­am­ple, if you climb 5.11, warm-up on 5.8s; if you boul­der V5, warm-up on V2s. This is also a great time to fo­cus on tech­nique. Hone your foot­work, limit the ten­dency to over­grip, and fo­cus on fluid body move­ment. Slowly be­gin to de­crease the vol­ume to one to two climbs of slightly higher in­ten­sity un­til you’re ready to hop on your project.

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