Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (1): The Warm-Up (EASY)

Warm up before trying a hard project.

By changing or manipulating one simple aspect of your climbing routine, you could potentially experience the following benefits:

  • Improved muscle power;
  • Quicker reaction times and movements;
  • Longer staying power throughout your climbing day/workout;
  • A reduction in lactic acid buildup;
  • Enhanced mind-muscle connectivity; and
  • Decreased risk of muscle/tendon tears and other injuries.

What climber wouldn’t want to experience these effects?

Given these advantages, it’s amazing to observe how many sport climbers and boulderers still shirk on the warm-up or do away with it entirely, despite the definite and well-understood physiological benefits of warming up before attempting to perform athletically at one’s peak.

What Happens During a Warm-Up

As explained in ACTION Personal Trainer Certification: 2nd Edition (Volume 2), performing a proper warm-up prior to harder exercise/training or an athletic competition provides the participant with numerous proven benefits.

Warming up gradually increases your heart rate and respiration, instead of causing a potentially dangerous spike in heart rate as your lungs and heart strive to provide your muscles with the oxygen that active muscles require. Gradually increasing your heart rate enables your heart to keep pace with your body’s increased demands due to physical activity — making for more efficient delivery of oxygen to your working muscles and an increased ability of the muscles to utilize that oxygen. As your warm-up progresses, your blood vessels dilate, allowing blood to pass more quickly through them, which enhances delivery of oxygen and nutrients. This increase in blood flow enables your body to more efficiently remove metabolic by-products of exercise, such as lactic acid, which can cause premature fatigue if it accumulates too quickly (as all climbers know!).

Your core temperature gradually rises as you warm up, with your muscle temperature rising to an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. This increase in temperature makes your body less viscous and more fluid, allowing for quicker movements in your muscles, joints and tendons. Less viscosity (think “gumminess” or “gooeyness”) makes for quicker neural transmissions, too — so your brain’s messages to your muscles travel faster, resulting in faster responses to external stimuli than you would have without warming up. Your muscles become more elastic. You also prime your mind for what’s to come by climbing easier routes or rehearsing harder moves one at a time as a part of your warm-up. And last but not least, by warming up, you decrease your potential risk of injury significantly, partially due to an increase in your mental awareness of your body’s status, along with the aforementioned physiological benefits.

Improve Your Climbing Performance By Warming Up Right

If you’re one of those climbers or boulderers who believes that warming up “just doesn’t work for you,” or that you perform best by not warming up at all — or you just can’t seem to have the discipline to stick to your warm-up plans despite your best intentions — you might want to reconsider this strategy. It’s hard to argue against the value of warming up when there’s so much scientific evidence backing its benefits. However, this doesn’t mean that your best buddy’s warm up is right for you. In fact, this is one of the biggest pitfalls climbers experience in creating an effective warm up; they try to use someone else’s warm-up protocol, it doesn’t work, and they decide that warming up is a bogus concept altogether.

If this sounds familiar, instead of giving up on developing your own warm-up routine entirely or thinking that somehow, miraculously, you of all people in the world have been blessed with a body that doesn’t respond to warming up or that needs no warm up for peak performance, take into account all of the benefits listed above and perhaps then, you’ll reconsider your relationship with warming up. The key is for you to develop a warm-up routine that works for you and your body — however long and whatever components that may entail.

Be careful not to get sucked into the all-too-common game of “I’m such an awesome climber that I can warm up on xx grade,” which can often lead to a total destruction of an entire day of climbing — or longer — should that “warm-up route” turn out to be way too difficult to actually be a warm-up. Keep in mind that the grade you warm up on at your home crag or on your better styles might very well push your limits to your maximum or beyond if you’re climbing at a new, unfamiliar climbing area or at an area that exploits your weaknesses. Your warm-up isn’t about crushing or climbing hard; it’s about preparing your body to do that in the future. In other words, it’s more than okay to say “take” on your warm-up to avoid sabotaging the rest of your climbing day.

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

Enhancing & Improving Your Sport Climbing and/or Bouldering Performance

BS1

Want to improve your climbing ability and skills in 2013, 2014, and beyond? I bet you do! I know I do. And you know that I am always looking for ways to improve – not just for myself but also for my coaching clients along with anyone who reads this blog or any articles on the topic that I write. My motivation in sharing training information is really quite simple: I love to learn about better ways to train for climbing. I love experimenting on my own body to see what works best and what flops miserably and everything in between. And (lucky you!) I actually enjoy distilling the information out of general athletic training resources and research and trying to apply them and shape them for climbing training and performance purposes – specifically for sport climbers and boulderers.

I’ve often asked myself, “Why do I do this – try to share what I’ve learned? Why do I even care?” Frankly, I don’t have 100 percent of the answers to those questions. But I think there are a couple components that play into this: 1) I simply enjoy helping others; 2) I love improving at climbing and getting stronger, and I have enjoyed the past several years of “smarter training” the most out of all my climbing years; and 3) If I can help others get stronger and improve, shorten their time on the dreaded plateau, relieve their chronic overtraining, or correct poor training practices, that’s awesome! It goes back to #1: that I like helping others and it makes me happy to make other people happy. I love to hear about others’ climbing (and training and fitness and life) successes; it makes all my efforts to share what I learn as I go here worth it to me.

On to my focus here this year, then – I’m planning to post a series of entries and articles to help you (re)shape and (re)evaluate what you’re doing right and wrong or more efficiently/less efficiently in your climbing training and efforts at improving your climbing performance. I’m going to tackle these areas from easiest to hardest. So I’ll start out with the “easy tweaks,” or the areas of training and/or climbing that I believe are the easiest to modify and correct so that you can experience an almost immediate bounce in climbing performance. From there, I’ll move into the more medium areas, the murkier components of climbing and training that can be quick fixes for some people but take longer for others. Finally, I’ll delve into what I consider to be the most difficult areas and aspects of training for climbing – including those areas that take time and dedication and patience to produce the desired results.

What’s the timeframe for this series of articles and entries? At this point, I’m not sure – as I mentioned earlier this week, I have several other new major projects underway this year as well as all my usual “stuff;” this means that sometimes, I’ll struggle to find the time to put entries together (I’m guessing particularly when I’m traveling or at climbing events). But I’m aiming to do my best to put out at least 1-2 entries a month. This may actually be a good thing for you, though – as each entry is published, if there’s some lag time, you can think it through, contemplate whether the information applies in your particular case, and then take any and all appropriate steps to adapt your climbing and training plans as needed to work toward faster improvement. If you get slammed with material all at once, this can be overwhelming and counterproductive; taking it one step at a time has the benefit of allowing you to make it a habit and ingest the knowledge before moving on to the next area I cover.

Improve at Sport Climbing Table of Contents

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (1): The Warm-Up (EASY)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (2): The Cool-Down (EASY)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (3): Breathing (EASY)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (4): Clipping (EASY)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (5): Resting (EASY-MEDIUM)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (6): Promoting and Maximizing Recovery (EASY)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (7): Using Two Key Training/Exercise Principles – SAID and Overload, Part 1 of 4 (MEDIUM – HARD)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (7): Using Two Key Training/Exercise Principles – SAID and Overload, Part 2 of 4 (MEDIUM – HARD)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (7): Using Two Key Training/Exercise Principles – SAID and Overload, Part 3 of 4 (MEDIUM – HARD)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (7): Using Two Key Training/Exercise Principles – SAID and Overload, Part 4 of 4 (MEDIUM – HARD)

Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (8): Strength Training (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (9): Building Power, Part 1 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (9): Building Power, Part 2 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (9): Building Power, Part 3 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (9): Building Power, Part 4 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing: (10): Power Endurance, Part 1 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 2 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 3 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 4 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 5 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 6 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 7 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 8 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 9 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 10 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 1 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 2 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 3 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 4 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 5 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 6 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 7 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 8 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 9 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (11): Endurance, Part 10 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 1 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 2 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 3 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 4 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 5 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 6 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 7 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 8 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 9 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 10 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 1 (EASY-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 2 (EASY)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 3 (EASY)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 4 (EASY)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 5 (MEDIUM)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 6 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 7 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 8 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 9 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 10 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 1 (HARD)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 2 (HARD) (Fear of Heights/Falling)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 3 (HARD)
(Fear of Failure/Success I)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 4 (HARD) (Fear of Failure/Success II)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 5 (HARD)
(Positive Thinking)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 6 (HARD)
(Visualization)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 7 (HARD)
(Your Mind on the Climb 1)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 8 (HARD)
(Your Mind on the Climb 2)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 9 (HARD) (Setting Goals)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 10 (HARD) (Cultivating an Ideal Training Mindset)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 1 (Introduction)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 2 (EASY-MEDIUM)
(Five General Injury Prevention Tips)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 3 (MEDIUM-HARD)
(Five More General Injury Prevention Tips)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 4 (MEDIUM-HARD)
(Overtraining and Overuse Injuries I)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 5 (MEDIUM-HARD)
(Overtraining and Overuse Injuries II)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 6 (MEDIUM-HARD)
(Impact & Other Sudden Injuries)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 7 (MEDIUM-HARD)
(So I’m Injured, Now What? (I) – First Steps)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 8 (HARD)
(So I’m Injured, Now What? (II) – Physical Training)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 9 (HARD)
(So I’m Injured, Now What? (III) – Mental and Emotional Challenges)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 10 (HARD)
Starting Back After an Injury (or Any Break)

One Climber’s Story: Five Injury Case Studies (I)
Case Study One: Finger Injuries

One Climber’s Story: Five Injury Case Studies (II)
Case Study Two: Torn Muscles in Left Armpit Area (2006)

One Climber’s Story: Five Injury Case Studies (III)
Case Study Three: Ankle Busting (2008)

One Climber’s Story: Five Injury Case Studies (IV)
Case Study Four: An Array of Overtraining Incidents and Relatively Mild Overuse Injuries (2008-2012)

One Climber’s Story: Five Injury Case Studies (V)
Case Study Five: Nerve Impingement (2012)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 1 (HARD)
Introduction

Move of the Month 1: Eyes on Your Feet (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 2 (HARD)
Top 3 Areas of Focus for Sound Athlete Nutrition

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 3 (HARD)
Optimizing Body Composition and Strength-to-Weight Ratio (1)

Move of the Month 2: Straight-Arming Your Rests (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 4 (HARD)
Optimizing Body Composition and Strength-to-Weight Ratio (2)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 5 (HARD)
Alcohol and Athletic Performance

Move of the Month 3: The Backstep (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition Part 6, (HARD)
Supplements

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 7 (HARD)
Proteins, Carbs & Fats

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16) Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 8 (HARD)
Pre-, During and Post-Workout/Competition Fueling

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 9 (HARD)
Hydration & Performance

Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 10 (HARD)
Nutrition Series Summary

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, Part 1 (IYC 17)
Introduction

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, Part 2 (IYC 17)
The Football Analogy

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, Part 3 (IYC 17)
Back to Climbing

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 4 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (1): Too Much Climbing Is Not

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 5 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (2): Climbing Without Any Thought to Specifics Training Is Not

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 6 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (3): Climbing (Relatively) Easy Stuff and/or Only Stuff That Plays to Your Strengths Is Not

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 7 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (4): Climbing (Relatively) Easy Stuff and/or Only Stuff That Plays to Your Strengths Is Not (cont’d)

Happy New Year 2015! Improve Your Climbing Turns Two

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 8 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (5): “Just Climbing” Probably Isn’t the Best Training for Climbing…for Anyone

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 9 (IYC 17)
Plateaus (6): “Just Climbing” Probably Isn’t the Best Training for Climbing…for Anyone

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 10 (IYC 17)
More Specific Training Can Help You Climb Off of the Plateau or Perhaps Avoid it Altogether

Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 11 (IYC 17)
More Specific Training Can Help You Climb Off of the Plateau or Perhaps Avoid it Altogether (2)

Move of the Month 4: The Open-Hand Grip

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions 1: The Lactic Acid Myth

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints & Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (A)

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (B)

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (C)

Move of the Month 5: Initiating Movement (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions 2: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) (IYC Series), Part 1

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions 2: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) (IYC Series), Part 2

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 1

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 2

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 3

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 4

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 5

Move of the Month 6: Straight-Arming Moves

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions (3): Cross-Training Is Good Training for Climbing (Part 1)

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions (3): Cross-Training Is Good Training for Climbing (Part 2)

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (3): The Sport-Specific Training Approach

Move of the Month 7: The Grip Release/Relax Trick (a.k.a. Avoiding Overgripping in Climbing)

Weight Training Using Deadlifts: Ultimate Core Exercise for Rock Climbers & Improved Fitness Overall

Training Advice to Improve Your Climbing Weaknesses for Better Climbing Performance (Climbing Training Talk 12 by Pro Climber/Climbing Coach Alli Rainey)

If you’re going to do one single weight-training exercise or one core exercise, I urge you to choose the deadlift. Learn to do it properly, and this exercise can help improve not only your climbing performance but also, your life in general.

These days, I love deadlifts. That’s because I seek out the most efficient and effective means to work on weaknesses to improve my climbing ability, and deadlifts fit in with this approach perfectly.

What do deadlifts have to do with rock climbing, you ask?

Climbers often make the mistake of equating core with abs, but they’re not the same thing. Abs are a part of your core, sure. Strong abs can help you get your feet back on if they come off on a steep climb. But what if you could make it so your feet didn’t pop off – so they only ever came off when you truly needed to dyno? That’s where deadlifts come into play.

As explained by David Robson in his article Deadlifts: The King of Mass-Builders?, “deadlifting will strengthen the entire back and its surrounding muscles, making this lift great for rehabilitative, and preventative, purposes. In fact, the deadlift is the most effective exercise for building the core strength that supports all other major muscle groups.”

What climber wouldn’t want that?

Deadlifts can enhance and improve your climbing ability by building up your core strength. You’ll notice this particularly on steeper rock, since deadlifts engage the same muscle groups you use to help keep your feet on the rock. In other words, they’ll improve your ability to hold core tension from the tips of your toes through the tips of your fingers. (Adding in some front shoulder raises will help out with this as well). If you don’t use grip wraps, deadlifts will also eventually challenge your grip strength. And, as I mentioned earlier, adding deadlifts to your climbing training routine will increase your core strength and stability not only for climbing but also, for real-life applications, by improving your ability to lift heavy objects without injury.

People get scared by deadlifts because they think deadlifts will injure them, but my guess is that a life without deadlifting stands a greater chance of injuring you if you ever have to lift and carry objects – because if your body isn’t trained to do so with proper form and strong enough to handle the weight of daily living tasks, you can get injured just from picking something up. However, if you’ve trained proper lifting form regularly in the gym and strengthened your body with deadlifts gradually, you’ll be less likely to sustain an injury from life challenges that involve lifting. Couple this with the fact that deadlifting stands to improve your climbing ability, and most climbers should be running to the gym to learn how to deadlift safely and smartly from a trained professional.

As is true with all new exercises, start slowly, get a professional to observe and modify your form until you know how to lift properly, and move the weight up slowly, always paying attention to form, since it’s true that you can get injured if you deadlift with bad form. BodyBuilding.com and StrongLifts.com provide helpful illustrations and pointers about how to safely perform deadlifts (as does the Dave Robson article linked above). StrongLifts.com also provides 5 Reasons Why Deadlifts Are Killing Your Lower Back, which can help you figure out and correct any technical errors you may encounter when deadlifting. And finally, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog as well, ExRx.net provides deadlift standards to help you establish some goals for your deadlift training.

Climber. Writer. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner.

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