As temperatures soar across the country, climbers have left their favorite training facilities to focus on their upcoming projects. While many spend their seasons banging their bodies on rock until winter, learning to climb unscathed will prolong your season. A good way to avoid injury is to warm up, both indoors and outdoors.
This mantra has long echoed from the lungs of the local climbing dad or climbing coach, but the meaning is often lost. First of all, it is difficult to warm up outside. In the gym you have everything you need for a better bouldering session. Hangboards allow for slow, progressive finger loading while allowing your upper body to adjust to heavier loads.
In addition, the indoor climber finds it easier to train the lower body because of the space and level ground. Although everyone’s warm-up is different, today we’re going to discuss principles for a safe outdoor warm-up.
How to warm up
To warm up for the outdoors, you first need an indoor warm-up routine. The first and only rule of warming up is to do the same thing every time.
Consistency gives our body feedback that we can interpret for our session. Knowing when you’re feeling tired, when your fingers hurt, or when your legs feel stiff provides context for the session. For example, it can tell you how long your body will be running at full speed that day.
If it takes a long time for your body to feel fluid, it may mean that the peak of your bouldering session is short. Because we get injured if we continue to do high-intensity exercise exhausted, knowing which days to take it easy will help prevent injury.
Fatigue creates bad shape and forces the body to compensate for the weakness of our tired areas caused by fatigue. Knowing when to retreat will prevent injury. Learning when to back off in their opening routine gives the climber tactical space to make their attempts at projection count.
As for the warm-up itself, you should find a routine that addresses your major muscle groups individually and as a system. A conscientious climber will also consider the resources they have available for the outdoors and how to transfer their warm-up indoors to the outdoors.
Areas to be heated
- fingers and forearms
While that sounds like a lot, a hangboard can at least partially warm up the first five items. We will not prescribe a hangboard warm-up routine as different climbers require different exercises. Other than that, the basic concept remains the same: gradually strain your fingers over a 10-20 minute period. For a list of hangboard routines, click here.
Hangboarding warms up your wrists, biceps, shoulders, lats, and chest, but it won’t fully warm up your upper body as a system. Doing short two-arm lockoffs of five to 10 seconds can heat up these areas a bit more.
Some will prefer to use a band to warm up. Warming up is like strength training while climbing. In rock climbing, the goal of strength training isn’t to complete the exercise, but to get stronger to better climb the wall.
For example, if a person is training front levers, they don’t need to hold a lever for their attempts to have value. The warm up is similar. How you warm up is up to you, as long as your body is warm at the end of the exercise.
In a way, legs are harder to warm up than arms. Dynamic and static stretches, squats, and pistol squats reduce your risk of injury. You should feel a slight burn as you warm up your upper or lower body. Warming up for near-maximum performance requires a little fatigue.
Finally, once you feel warm throughout your body, start climbing progressively harder until you reach the top. Cool off after this peak.
The outdoor warm-up should reflect just that. First, buy a portable hangboard. This irreplaceable tool forms the basis of every session. Metolius has a wonderful little board for around $40 USD and CAD 54 CAD.
Then warm up like indoors. Don’t skimp. It’s easy to just start climbing the crag, but there’s no point in injuring yourself on the first day of the season. Instead, breathe, stretch, lock down, and hang yourself. You will have better attempts. This saves you strength and skin because you climb faster. That means you could end up climbing more.
If you are unable to climb progressively easier boulders because your group has moved straight to your project, try hanging the trains in isolation before attempting from below.