stand at the bottom of a steep route At your gym, you scan the sequence. Wide blocking action, heel hook and big stride. You start to think that the route may have been set by Cirque du Soleil performers.
But you will give it a try. You stretch your hips and shoulders, tie and take off. Then you get to the awkward transition on the roof. Your spine arches as you reach over your head to prop up your lips slightly. You are stretched to the limit as your body bends towards the roof. Next time keep just a few inches away, but across your body, use your other hand. You walk towards it slowly, battling stiffness and resistance, cursing yourself for skipping a yoga class and being an inch too short.
Just when you’re about to grab the grip, your foot pops out and you’re gone. If only you were more flexible.
Flexibility is essential for climbing. That’s what adapts your body to the climbing wall. Most climbers know the benefits of flexible limbs (arms and legs) but forget the importance of a flexible trunk (spine). Flexible limbs can help you go further and higher, but a flexible torso allows you to twist your body into difficult positions.
trunk movement Three planes: sagittal, frontal and transverse.
• Sagittal plane: forward and backward
• Front: Left and Right
• Landscape: Rotate
Sagittal (forward/backward) and frontal (left-right) spinal movements are relatively common in climbing sports. This happens when you arch your spine back when transitioning to the roof, flex your spine forward when you take a high step, or bend your body to the side when you lock and reach the top of your head. Lateral plane movements (rotations) are also common in climbing movements, but are most commonly used in twisting poses such as rose movements, crosses, and strides. In these cases, a good spinal rotation can open up more possibilities for hold options on the wall, allowing you to reach farther and beyond your body. Because these rotational movements often place your arms, legs, and spine in twisted positions, spinal mobility also reduces your risk of injuring your upper or lower body while climbing.
Here, Brooke Raboutou demonstrates three exercises to improve your spinal flexibility and rotation for climbing. Do three sets of 30-second exercises each day.
This stretch is best for improving your spine flexibility when you’re doing the rose pose (a stretch so complete that your torso turns outward) or any other type of oblique stretch. If you hang your right arm above and the next grip is on your right, flexibility in your spine can help prevent shoulder strain. The more you can get through your spine, the less likely you are to twist your upper body in awkward stretches.
When you reach or transition to a hold on the other side that your feet are facing (for example, both feet and one arm are pointing to the right, while the left arm must reach the rest); or during internal or external marking. Imagine your left foot resting on the outside edge, your right foot hanging down on the wall, your right arm pulling sideways, and you need to reach the next point of support on the left side of your body. This stretch improves your spinal flexibility to help you rotate to the left for a left-handed grip.
Lateral rotation stretch
This stretch can improve your spinal flexibility during gradual movements. It rotates your spine and brings your center of gravity closer to the wall as you pass.
Use range of motion
Add an exercise to the end of your stretch that utilizes the movement you just got from the stretch: for example, sit-ups, elbow-to-opposite knee stretches, or squat lunges with full-body rotation. You can even perform the same stretches described in this article dynamically, by moving in and out of position in a controlled manner, rather than holding the stretch statically. The key is to use the movement you just got from stretching. Use the acquired range of motion creatively. The closer your follow-up practice is to a simulated climb, the better the carryover will be.
All photos of Stephen Gross
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