The Best 25 Climbing Stretches

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If you’re a rock climber, chances are that you are well versed in the ins and outs of physical exercise. As with all sports, stretching before and after a workout is paramount not only to prevent injury but also to help you properly build muscle and increase your overall mobility. In this article, we highlight twenty-five of the best climbing stretches that you can do anywhere, be it at the gym or at the crag.

As the climbing community and the yoga community often overlap, we have included a variety of yoga poses that pair perfectly with pre and post climbing.

Why is Stretching Important for Climbers?Why is Stretching Important for Climbers?

One of the most common injuries sustained by climbers is pulled muscles. If you’ve been climbing long enough, you’ve probably pulled a few. Many of these injuries are due to overuse of certain muscles. However, many more are due to overtaxing muscles pulled to their limit by stretching just a bit further than usual.

By stretching before your climbing work out, you give your tendons, ligaments, and other muscles the chance to expand, thus mitigating part of the risk of injury. Furthermore, by engaging in post-climbing stretches, you increase blood flow to the muscles, thus speeding up recovery, while also eliminating lactic acid build-up.

Besides being an essential tool in injury prevention, stretching promotes the lengthening of muscles. This length directly impacts the stretch you can achieve when climbing and can mean the difference in crushing several grades above your current ability or plateauing without progress.

An essential aspect of stretching to remember is the difference between dynamic versus static stretching and what stretches are appropriate pre- and post-climbing.

Dynamic Stretch

These variations on stretches are based in the movement where an active stretch moves the joints and muscles through a full range of motion. The stretch moves up to but not beyond the threshold of comfort. These stretches are designed to mimic the movements during a climb and warm up the muscles prior to the ascent.

Static Stretch

These stretches are based on poses that are held for a period of time, around 15-30 seconds. These stretches should be challenging, even slightly painful, but not intolerable. They help increase flexibility and promote blood flow contributing to the repair of muscles after a workout. These stretches should not be performed with cold muscles.

What are Common Climbing Injuries that Not Stretching Can Lead To?

What are Common Climbing Injuries that Not Stretching Can Lead To?

While impact trauma and abrasions due to striking or scraping the rock face are by far the most terrifying injuries that can occur during a climb, the majority of injuries are, in fact, muscle-related. The four most common of these types of injuries are as follows:

1. Shoulder Injury (Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy/Shoulder Impingement

A prevalent injury for climbers, this injury results in part from the overdevelopment of the muscles in the back and shoulders. This is evident in the stereotypical hunched or bowed shoulders typical of climbers. Proper stretching will push the shoulders back, reducing the risk of a shoulder injury.

2. Elbow Injury (Lateral Epichondylagia/Tennis Elbow)

A common injury related to extreme climbing without rest, this injury can be mitigated with proper stretching. Essentially an overuse of the muscles in the fingers, wrist, and forearm.

What are Common Climbing Injuries that Not Stretching Can Lead To

3. Knee Injury (Meniscus Tear)

Essentially, the meniscus (or menisci as there are two per knee), perform the vital task of increasing the surface area of the knee joint. This enlarged surface area prevents excessive stress at any one point. A tear to this muscle can occur when performing technical maneuvers such as drop knees. However, they may also occur after excessive climbing sessions by simply dropping to the mat or ground and impacting the joint.

4. Finger Injury (Finger Pulley Injury)

A very common injury among climbers, finger injuries usually result directly to the immense forces that are directed through the fingers. These forces are especially true when crimping. These excessive forces may overload muscles in the fingers, causing them to rupture.

The Best Upper Body Stretches for Climbers

The Best Upper Body Stretches for Climbers

As climbers, we know that power in climbing comes from the lower and not the upper body. This division of labor does not mean that we can ignore our upper body. If you are primarily using your upper body to pull yourself up the wall, it is merely a matter of time for an injury to occur. Proper technique involves the complex interactions of the muscles in our necks, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms, and fingers, to name a few.

In this section, we recommend a few key stretches to help prevent common injuries, as well as a few bonus yoga stretches that incorporate a spectrum of muscles into each stretch.

The Best Forearm Flexor and Extensor Stretches for Climbers

These stretches will help loosen the muscles of the forearm, top, and bottom, preventing tennis elbow and related injuries.

1. Gorilla Pose — Stretch for Wrist Extensors

A static stretch, this pose helps ease tension from the muscles located at the top side of your forearms. To perform this stretch, start by standing with your feet at hip-width. As you exhale, bend at the waist and reach for the ground while keeping your legs straight. Rock your weight into your heels, and as you inhale, slide your fingers, palm side up under your feet. Place your weight onto your fingers as it is comfortable. Hold this pose for 15-30 sec.

2. Table Top Pose — Stretch for Wrist Flexors

A static stretch, this pose helps ease tension from the muscles located at the bottom side of your forearms. To perform this stretch, start by positioning yourself on your hands and knees. Make sure that your hands are shoulder-width apart, palm down, and your wrists are in line and under with your shoulders. Keeping your back straight, rotate your wrists until your fingers are pointing towards your feet. Hold this pose for 15-30 sec.

The Best Lat Stretches for Climbers

These stretches will help loosen one of the biggest muscles that move your upper body. Lats are especially vital as they help pull your arms close to your body as in a pull-up.

1. Simple Lat Stretch

A static stretch, this pose eases the tension from the latissimus dorsi, or lats, that runs along the side of your torso. To perform this stretch, start by placing your right foot behind your left foot, making sure to keep the heel of both feet flat tot he ground. Reaching above your head with both arms bend your right arm at the elbow. Reach across with your left arm and grasp your right elbow if possible or forearm if not. Pull your body to the left with your left arm until you feel the stretch across your right side. Be sure not to bend at the waist but instead engage your upper body. Repeat on the other side to stretch the left lat.

2. Lat Wall

A static stretch, this stretch can be performed in the gym or at the crag. All you need is a jug or similar hold slightly below your max reach. Standing with your right shoulder facing the wall, reach up above your head with your left arm, and grasp the hold. Then slowly pull away from the wall feeling the stretch through your left side. Rotate your body slightly until you find the maximum stretch and hold this position for 15-30 sec.

3. Lat Chair

A static stretch, this stretch can be performed using a chair or any other suitable object. Kneel down in front of a chair far enough that when you bend at the waist with a straight back and extended arms, your palms rest on the edge of the chair. Bend into the stretch until you feel the muscles extend. Hold the stretch for 15-30 sec. A similar version can be performed while standing by placing your palms against the wall and leaning into the wall bringing your head between your arms until you feel the stretch.

The Best Rhomboid and Shoulder Stretches for Climbers

An often forgotten muscle group, the rhomboid muscles are located between the shoulder blades. As these muscles, in conjunction with the shoulder muscles are used extensively in climbing, they are often very strong and contribute to the stereotypical hunched posture seen in many climbers.

Stretching these muscles opens up the chest improving posture and extending your range of motion.

1. Lie and Flip (Laying T-pose Stretch)

A static stretch, this pose can be performed anywhere. The stretch will help loosen the muscles of the shoulders as well as the chest. To begin simply lie on your stomach with your hands extended to either side perpendicular to the body, like the letter “T.” Proceed to raise your right arm while rolling onto the left shoulder, keeping your left arm against the ground. Continue to reach your right arm up and over your body while rolling your body until you feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold this pose for 15-30 sec. Repeat on the left side.

2. Posterior Rotator Cuff Stretch

A static stretch, this pose is used to loosen the muscles at the back of the shoulder (posterior rotator cuff). Lie on the ground on your right side while bringing your legs up perpendicular to your body with your knees bent at a ninety-degree angle. Raise your right arm up so that your elbow is in line with your shoulder and lean forward. When you feel your shoulder joint/shoulder blade lock in place, hold the position. Bend your right arm at the elbow at a ninety-degree angle. Carefully use your left hand to slowly rotate your right arm towards your knees, feeling the stretch in your shoulders. Hold this position for 15-30 sec.

The Best Pec Stretches for Climbers

One of the most neglected muscle groups by climbers, the pecs do not get much attention at all.

The lack of attentiveness contributes to the hunched posture of many climbers by overdeveloping the muscles of the back while leaving the chest underdeveloped in comparison.

In addition to stimulating the pectoral muscles, it is important to stretch them out, lengthening them, and ensuring proper development.

1. Alternating Arms

As a static stretch, this pose is done while lying on your back and holding each position for 15 sec. Start by raising your right arm above your head while keeping your left arm by your side. Make sure the thumb on your right-hand points towards the floor as you reach up. Remember to exhale as you reach up. After 15 sec alternate arms while exhaling.

As a dynamic stretch, do not hold each pose. Instead, inhale at the top of each reach and exhale as you switch arms. Repeat alternating sides ten times, feeling your pecs tighten and relax as you alternate. Remember to engage your core.

2. Lizards

As a static stretch, this pose is done while lying on your back and holding each position for 15 sec. Begin by bringing both arms to shoulder height while bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle (hands should be pointing “up” towards your head). Alternate bringing your arms up over your head while lowering the other to your torso. The movement should mimic the movements of a lizard, hence the name. Hold each position for 15 sec repeating each side two times.

As a dynamic stretch, flow through each cycle, stretching until you feel the burn across your chest, but do not hold the stretch. Repeat ten times to warm up.

3. Touchdowns

As a static stretch, this pose is done while lying on your back and holding each position for 15 sec. Begin by bringing both arms to shoulder height while bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle (hands should be pointing “up” towards your head). Bring your arms up over your head while straightening your elbows.

As a dynamic stretch, raise your arms above your head to engage the muscles, then return to the starting position. Repeat this process ten times to warm up.

4. T Stretch

As a static stretch, this pose is done while laying on your back and holding each position for 15-30 sec. A better stretch can be achieved by laying on a foam roller, bench, or another object that elevates your body above the ground slightly. Simply lie on your back and extend your arms out perpendicular to your body to form a “T.” When elevated, you may bring your elbows towards the ground (while keeping your arms straight). Feel the stretch across your pecs and hold for 15-30 sec.

5. Y Stretch

As a static stretch, this pose is done while laying on your back and holding each position for 15-30 sec. A better stretch can be achieved by lying on a foam roller, bench, or another object that elevates your body above the ground slightly. Simply lie on your back and extend your arms out at 45-degree angles to your body to form a “Y.” When elevated, you may bring your elbows towards the ground (while keeping your arms straight). Feel the stretch across your pecs and hold for 15-30 sec.

The Best Upper Body Yoga Stretches for  Climbers

For many climbers, a daily yoga routine is an integral part of their workout. Not only does yoga provide mental and physical benefits, but teach poses static and dynamic poses to fully engage your body.

These yoga poses comprehensively target the various muscles of the upper—and some of the lower—body, increasing flexibility, mobility, and promoting the repair of tissues.

1. Cow Pose (Bitilasana) to Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

  • Effective for engaging the back, spine, neck, and the muscles of the forearms.
  • Begin by getting into the tabletop pose (on your hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart, wrists positioned below the shoulders and knees beneath the hips). With your palms flat on the ground, ensure your fingers are plat and not curled. This position will help stretch the muscles of your fingers, wrists, and forearms. Looking forward, inhale while letting your stomach drop towards the ground, curving your spine downwards. Hold this pose (cow pose) for a few seconds. As you exhale, lower your head while arching your spine flowing into the cat pose. Hold this position for a few seconds before inhaling and flowing into a cow pose once again. Repeat this cycle three times. Finish by ending in a downward dog pose.

2. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

  • This pose stretches the muscles in the front plane of your body, including the shoulders, chest, abdominals, and hips.
  • Starting in downward dog (pose where your hands and feet are planted on the ground, hands with your rear up in the air as the highest point, back and legs straight forming a “Λ” shape). Slowly bring your head between your arms while looking forward, lowering yourself onto your palms and toes (plank pose) with your wrists beneath your shoulders. Lower your body onto the ground, while pointing your toes backward, so the tops of your feet touch the ground. Slowly raise your torso off of the ground using your arms, arching your back in the process. Keeping your head facing forward, bend your back as much as you feel comfortable, focusing on bringing your shoulders down and curving your upper back. Inhale and exhale in measured breaths for 30 sec. Finish by slowly lowing yourself back down to the ground.

3. Tree Pose (Vrkasana)

  • Effective in increasing balance while engaging the muscles of the groin chest and shoulders.
  • To start this pose, center your weight on your left foot. Maintaining your balance, move your right foot next to your left with the toes firmly planted on the ground. Slowly lift your right foot until the sole of your foot is resting on your left calf, keeping the toes of your right foot on the ground. In this position, your right knee should be pointing away from your body towards your right side. If you feel comfortable, raise your right foot to rest on your calf below the knee (never rest your weight on the knee joint), or on your thigh, if you are able.
  • Balancing in this position, bring your hands together in front of your body with the palms together, fingers pointing straight up. Holding this pose brings your shoulder blades down while straightening your spine. Slowly raise your hands above your head (keeping your palms together and fingers pointing up) stretching up towards the sky. Hold this pose and inhale and exhale several times until you feel relaxed.
  • Slowly lower your hands, then return your right foot to the ground.
  • Repeat the same pose with your right foot.

4. Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

  • Used to stretch the shoulder muscles.
  • Starting in tabletop pose (on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips), slowly walk your hands forward until your back forms a declining plane. While straitening your arms drop your head and shoulders towards the ground. Slowly bend your back, pushing your stomach towards the ground. Staying in this position, stretch your fingers while bringing your shoulders lower to the ground. Inhale and exhale in slow, measured breaths for 30 sec.

5. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

  • Helpful in elongating the spine while stretching the muscles of the shoulders, chest, abdomen, and obliques.
  • Lie on the ground on your left side. Draw your legs and knees up into a ninety-degree angle (as if you’re sitting in a chair). As you slowly inhale, raise your right arm perpendicular to your body. As you exhale slowly, lower your arm to your right side behind your back, perpendicular to your body. Breath in and out, slowly letting gravity pull you into the stretch. Make sure your knees stay on the ground (use your left hand to press down if needed). Hold this pose for 30 sec.
  • Bring your arm back to the center before raising your knees. Then repeat the stretch on your right side.

6. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

  • This stretch is used to calm your body and mind and is the last pose performed.
  • As the name suggests, this pose is intended to mimic a corpse. Lay flat on your back with your palms open upward. Relax all of the muscles in your body. Close your eyes, and let your mind relax. Let it drift as you focus on breathing in long slow breaths. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel is appropriate, coming back slowly.

Check out the following video to follow along:

The Best Lower Body Stretches for Climbers

The Best Lower Body Stretches for Climbers

As most of the power in climbing comes from the legs, we put a lot of strain on our lower body. As such, it is imperative to increase the stretching ability of our lower body as well as aiding in the repair of muscle post-climbing.

In this section, we recommend a few key stretches to help prevent common injuries, as well as a few bonus yoga stretches that incorporate a spectrum of muscles into each stretch.

The Best Hip and Groin Stretches for Climbers

The muscles in the groin and the hips are essential to climbing, no matter the climbing style you prefer. Not only do they help propel your body up the wall, but they are also a limiting factor determining the length of your reach with your feet. This is especially vital when it comes to technical climbing when contorting your body means the difference between success and failure.

1. Side Angle Pose

As a static stretch, this pose helps aid in balance while stretching the muscles of the groin, hips, and shoulders. Start by standing straight upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Exhale and inhale at a slow, measured pace. On the exhale, take a step back with your left foot as far as you can while staying upright.

Inhale and bring your arms up palms upward, on either side of your torso (like a “T”). As you exhale, turn your left foot 90 degrees, bringing your left heel in line with your right foot. Slowly shift your weight forward onto your right foot, with your right knee above your right ankle. In this position, your left leg should be straight, and your right foot bent into a ninety-degree angle.

As you inhale, twist your torso to face towards the left, resting your right elbow on your thigh while the left arm extends above your head, palm downward. In this position, your body should extend in a straight line from your left foot to your left hand. If you are able, bring your right hand down the inside of your right thigh to rest on the ground. Hold this position for 30 sec then come back to a standing position.

Repeat with the other side of your body.

2. Hip Openers

As a static stretch, this pose stretches the full range of muscles involved in hip motion. Start by seating yourself on the floor. To begin, shift your weight onto your left buttock while positioning your left leg in front of you, knee bent at a ninety-degree angle, pointed to your right. Next, move your right leg to your right side, knee bent at a ninety-degree angle, pointing behind you.

Sitting up straight, with your torso at a ninety-degree angle to your thighs, place your hands on the ground on either side of your hips. Slowly rotate your torso to the right, keeping your back straight as you do so. Use your hands on the ground to engage the stretch as is comfortable. Hold this position for 30 sec then twist your torso to the left and hold for another 30 sec.

Repeat this stretch on the other side of your body, sitting on your right buttock.

For a dynamic stretch, once in position, continuously rotate your torso through the rotating motion, slowly and carefully two to three times on each side.

The Best Glute Stretches for Climbers

Most of the power in climbing comes from the upward forces exerted from your legs. This power, in turn, is derived in large part from the largest muscles in your lower body, the glutes. It is, therefore, imperative that you aid in their repair by stretching them post climbing.

1. Knee to Opposite Shoulder

As a static stretch, this stretch works on the glutes, or the muscles of the buttocks. To begin this stretch, lie flat on your back with your feet pointing upwards. Bring your right knee up to your chest, and using your hands, pull it towards your left shoulder. Hold this position for 30 sec then return it to the starting position.

Repeat this stretch with your left leg.

The Best Calf Stretches for Climbers

Most people can relate to a cramping calf muscle. This phenomenon is a relatively common occurrence, especially for those who boulder, where heel hooks and other technical maneuvers are commonplace. Calf cramps can be avoided by proper stretching before and after climbing.

1. Standing Calf Stretch

As a static stretch, this exercise will help mitigate cramping in the calf. To begin, face a wall, tree, or similar surface. Tilt your right foot up and place the toes flat against the surface while keeping your left foot back for balance. Place your hands flat on the surface in front of you and lean forward onto your right foot. Hold this stretch for 30 sec then bring your right foot back next to your left.

Repeat the stretch with your left foot.

The Best Lower Body Yoga Stretches for  Climbers

Above we addressed yoga stretches primarily targeting the upper body. In this section, we look a yoga poses that comprehensively target the various muscles of the lower—and some of the upper—body, increasing flexibility, mobility, and promoting the repair of muscles.

1. Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • Effective for engaging the muscles of the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and the arches of the feet.
  • Start by getting onto the floor on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders. Next, lift your knees off of the floor, putting your weight onto your palms and toes. In this position, your knees should be slightly bent and your heels off the floor. As you slowly straighten your legs, push your heels towards the floor, if comfortable. Straighten your arms, keeping attention on bringing your elbows in line with your arms and push your fingers against the ground. Make sure to keep your rear raised and pushing skyward, firm your shoulder blades, and tighten your abdomen. Hold this position for 30 sec to one min, then slowly lower yourself to your hands and knees.

2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

  • Effective for engaging the muscles of the lower back, hamstrings, calves, and elongating the spine.
  • Start by standing straight with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale and exhale in slow, measured breaths. As you exhale, fold over at the hips, keeping your back and legs straight. Slowly bend over while bringing your arms together, grabbing the opposite elbow with each hand. Keeping your heels grounded and with your body folded over, slowly rock your torso from side to side, swinging your folded arms like a pendulum. On the exhale of each breath, carefully lower yourself deeper into the stretch. Hold this position for 30 sec to a min. Slowly come out of the stretch by unfolding your torso over your hips and bringing your arms back to your sides.

3. Garland Pose (Malasana)

  • Effective for stretching the muscles of the groin and developing ankle mobility.
  • Start by standing straight with your hands at your sides. Bring your palms together in front of your chest and slowly inhale and exhale in measured breaths. Breathe deeply and on the exhale, slowly lower yourself into a squat, keeping your elbows close to your body and between your thighs. Slowly press your elbows against your thighs to increase the stretch by opening the squat. Hold this position when comfortable for 30 sec to a min. To come out of the pose, lower yourself into sitting position, or slowly stand up.

4. Butterfly Pose (Badhakonasana)

  • Effective for stretching the muscles of the inner thighs and opening the hips.
  • Starting from a sitting position, bring the soles of your feet together in front of you, pulling your heels towards your pubic bone as far as is comfortable while letting your knees fall to either side of your body. Keeping your back straight, inhale and exhale slowly. As you exhale, relax your thighs to lower into a deeper stretch. For an even deeper stretch, lean your torso forward slowly. For another variation, press your elbows down onto your thighs to further open up your hips. Hold this pose for 30 sec to a min. To come out of this pose, bring your thighs up and stretch your legs in front of your body.

5. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

  • Effective for opening up the hip-flexor muscles while simultaneously strengthening the abdominals. Core strength is an integral part of climbing, especially at higher levels.
  • Start from a sitting position with your knees bent and feet flat against the floor. Slowly lean back, engaging the muscles of your abdomen until you find the point of balance between your lower and upper body. Bring your arms together inside your body, stretching forward to maintain balance. When you feel comfortable, slowly raise your feet off the floor, maintaining balance until your legs and torso form a forty-five-degree angle. In this position, your legs should be straight, with your feet at eye level, toes pointing up. Maintain this position for as long as you are able, breathing in and out in slow, measured breaths. To come out of this pose, slowly lean forward while bringing your feet down to rest on the ground.

6. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

  • Effective in stretching the muscles of the lower back and hamstrings.
  • Similar in concept to the standing forward bend, this pose starts from a seated position with your legs stretched out in front of your toes pointing upwards. Start by pointing your toes towards your body while breathing in slow, measured breaths. On the exhale, bring your hands together in front of your body and reach for your toes. BE sure to engage your quads and abdominal muscles. Maintain your breathing, and on each exhale, slowly lower yourself further into the stretch as much as is comfortable. Hold the stretch for 30 sec to a min. Slowly raise out of the stretch on the next inhale.

7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

  • This stretch is used to calm your body and mind and is the last pose performed.
  • As the name suggests, this pose is intended to mimic a corpse. Lay flat on your back with your palms open upward. Relax all of the muscles in your body. Close your eyes, and let your mind relax. Let it drift as you focus on breathing in long slow breaths. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel is appropriate, coming back slowly.

Check out the following video to follow along:

 

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Climbing Stretches

As a climber, it highly important that you stretch your muscles out before and after a climbing session. S will aid in your performance but also mitigate preventable injuries form overstretching muscles as well as assisting in recovery.

When it comes to stretching, it is vital to be aware of the differences between dynamic (warm-up stretches) and static (cool-down stretches) stretching and when each is appropriate. Furthermore, as discussed in the article, there are many stretches that benefit climbers that come from many disciplines.

Many climbers choose to incorporate yoga into their routine as its philosophy uniting body and mind appeals to many. It is important to remember that yoga poses are generally performed as a sequence, flowing from one pose into the next. For this reason, it is a good idea for climbers to learn a full sequence to add to their practice.

In this article, we have included a variety of stretches, both dynamic and static, to bring you what we consider to be the best 25 climbing stretches. We are confident that adding them to your routine will result in tangible results.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like our other climbing tips here.

> 19 Rock Climbing Exercises at Home

> 15 Climbing Core Workout Tips

> 50 Rock Climbing Tips for Beginners and Intermediates

> How to Warm-up Before Climbing

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