As athletes, we sometimes feel as though we have everything under control in our own sport. For me this is especially true; I’ve grown so comfortable with climbing that I often jump straight into it once I hit the gym, and neglect to do a proper warm-up. But don’t let yourself be fooled. Every athlete can benefit from warming up before they exercise. Research shows that proper warm-ups can offer tons of benefits in terms of athletic performance, including raising the temperature of the blood, muscles, and even helping you to sweat later on! As heat travels through your blood stream, oxygen becomes more readily available to be delivered to respiring (active) muscles. With warm muscle fibers comes greater elasticity, reducing your chance of injury from strains. It is, however, important to note that stretches bring the most benefit when done following a cardio-rich exercise in your warm-up. This way, your muscles and tendons have already been warmed, and are in state of full flexibility.
For some, warming up even offers mental and psychological gains. It offers a time to clear your mind, relax, and get in the proper mind-set for your activity. This can improve focus, and more easily prepare you for your exercise or performance. In a competition setting, warming up provides time to self-motivate as you relax, simultaneously improving your confidence while setting panic and worry at ease. Remember, the more intense your workout or activity, the more vital it is for you to warm-up beforehand. Rock climbing, for example, is one of the most physically demanding and intense sports, especially for those just starting out, and requires a good mind-set and serious focus. Therefore, warming up for climbers is that much more important (and will probably help you send that project you’ve been working for 2 weeks). Just like you wouldn’t take a test without studying first, you really shouldn’t exercise without first warming up.
Now, for those of you who don’t already have a tried and trusted warm-up, here’s two examples of warm-ups that work for other rock climbers:
Warm-up by Robbie Phillips, a rock climbing coach in Edinburgh:
Start out with 5 minutes of aerobic activity, such as running, cycling, or skipping to raise your heart rate. Then, stretch dynamically, making sure to stretch your neck, shoulders, ankles, hips, and fingers. Examples of dynamic stretches include rolling your neck from side to side, rolling your shoulders forward and backward, rotating your hips and ankles, and scrunching your fingers. Following your stretches, work on each of the following on a traversing wall or system board for 2 to 3 minutes: foot-work, body positioning, momentum (non-static climbing), and increasing speed while maintaining good technique.
Warm-up by J.P. Whitehead for Climbing Magazine:
Begin with 10 minutes of walking, jogging, or biking to improve circulation and prepare your leg muscles. Follow with dynamic stretching, (which more accurately simulates the movements executed while climbing than static stretching). Try head rolls, arm windmills, side twists, walking lunges, etc. Afterwards, climb a few routes that are well within your ability in order to engage your climbing muscles and refresh your technique. Rest for about 5 minutes, then move on to a slightly more difficult climb. Rest again, and climb a route that is just below your level of ability. If you’re planning on projecting, try to pick a route that has a style similar to that of your project. Take a final rest (10 minutes for boulderers, 15 minutes for sport climbers), and you’re ready to go.