The right way to Get Rid of Flash Pump When Climbing

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Now you’ve made it. You wanted to wow the entourage, so you warmed up on a route two sizes harder than usual in hopes you’d style. You got pumped at bolt two but persevered anyway, clawing and punching skyward out of sheer stubbornness. Climbing in chains, you had a massive case of blasted forearm syndrome (BFS): that burning, tight, tingling flash pump that signals the end of all real climbing for the day. Don’t sneak back to the campsite just yet though – there is hope. With a few stretches and lactic acid shunt routines, you can still bounce back and clip the steel gates of success, winning the hearts and admiration of sycophantic groupies everywhere.

Massage.

To break the clenched, rigid muscles in your weapons, you have to go deep. Make a loose fist with one hand and rub knuckles over forearm of other, twisting slightly. Working in a grid pattern, press only to the point of pain and release after five seconds. Describe a series of pressure points from wrist to elbow. Drop your hand where it wants. You can also massage your thumb, cross rub your forearm with the heel of your hand, and/or massage the palm of your hand to loosen your finger tendons.

Stretch.

When you’ve worked both arms, gently stretch for five to 10 minutes. Your movements should be steady and secure — no hopping — and you should hold each stretch for at least 10 to 15 seconds. Hold your palm out as if stopping traffic. With the other hand, withdraw the fingertips of that hand for 10 seconds; Release. You can also walk finger by finger and/or point your fingers to the earth – the key is to stretch your wrist. To straighten the top of the forearm, bend your wrist, arch and bend your hand toward you, and gently pull the cupped paw with the other hand.

Now face the cliff and place one hand flat against the wall at shoulder height, palm vertically aligned. Gradually twist away from the hand until you feel a subtle stretch along your inner arm and into your pecs and shoulders. You can also play with turning your outstretched palm left or right. Alternatively, when you find a flat surface at knee-to-waist height, bend forward, then place your hands flat, fingers pointing backwards, and move into the stretch. You can also do this on all fours or one hand at a time if it puts too much stress on your wrists with both.

Iron.

Properly stretched, it’s time to iron. With one hand in a karate chop position, palm toward you, “iron” your opposite forearm from elbow to wrist. Apply even, gentle pressure and move slowly, repeating as needed. Do the same with the extensors on the top (outside) of your arm. Now bend and straighten your fingers to bring blood to your fingers and rotate your wrists in small circles.

Regain the step.

Repeat the above routine as needed – I might go through it 2 or 3 times before jumping back onto the rock. Keep the bar a little low and stay on easier, more vertical terrain until you feel normal, healthy blood flow returning. You might want to massage and stretch before each route and skip the proj for the rest of the day. I suffered cases of BFS for weeks when I didn’t listen to my body.

Matt “Spaghetti Arms” Samet is Senior Editor at Climbing.