The Three Stages Of Essential Climbing Warm Ups

The Three Stages of Essential Climbing Warm Ups women female climber stretchingLots of climbers don’t take warm up seriously. That’s how you get injuries! Common climbing injuries include finger pulley strains, shoulder rotator cuff tears, forearm tendonitis and knee strains due to lack of hip mobility.

There are three essential stages to warming up properly - cardio to warm up your body, dynamic stretches to increase your flexibility and mobility, and slow climbing up and down.

The first 2 stages can be completed in less than 10 minutes, which is probably the time you spent waiting for your morning coffee.


Stage 1: Cardio to promote blood flow (3 to 5 minutes)

The first stage aims to raise your heart rate so that your muscles and tendons are warm and stretchy from lots of blood flow, rather than cold and stiff. This stage is especially important in winter. Here are some cardio exercise ideas:

  • Cycle to the gym
  • Jog or skip rope on the spot until you are puffed out (at least 60 seconds)
  • Do 20 mountain climbers, 20 alternating lunges and 10 burpees
I prefer to do the mountain climber set as you don’t require any equipment and you are also warming up your legs and shoulders.
The Three Stages of Essential Climbing Warm Ups mountain climbers
Mountain Climber

Stage 2: Flexibility and mobility (4 to 6 minutes)

Next, lubricate your joints and stretch your muscles to increase your range of motion. Yoga moves and active stretching are great for this:

  1. Finger clenches - Whilst you’re doing the lunges, clench your fist tightly as if you’re squeezing a stress ball. This activates your forearms. Then flick your fingers open and stretch your fingers outwards. Keep repeating until you finish your lunges.
  2. Dynamic arm swings - Swing your arms slowly 360 degrees, 10 rotations forwards and 10 rotations backwards. That is 20 rotations for each arm.
  3. Active hangs - Jump onto a bar and hang with your feet dangling in the air. Activate your shoulder blades by squeezing them together. Your whole body should lift slightly. Relax. Repeat 10 times.
  4. Core twists - Find a big hold that is at the same level as your shoulder. Hold it with your right hand and lean back slightly so your upper body is angled about 30 degrees away from the wall. Engage your core to twist your body towards your right arm so you’re looking over your right shoulders. Be conscious not to pull with your arm. Repeat 10 times on each side.
  5. Wrist stretch - Kneel on the floor with your arms directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your palm and fingers as flat as possible on the floor whilst rocking your body weight forwards and backwards. You should feel a stretch in your wrist and forearms.
  6. Lizard lunge - from a downward dog position, step your right foot forward to the outside edge of your right hand, coming into a lunge position. Drop your left knee to the ground as you lean your hips forward, intending to lower your elbows as close to the ground as possible.
The Three Stages of Essential Climbing Warm Ups wrist stretch
Wrist Stretch
The Three Stages of Essential Climbing Warm Ups lizard lunge
Lizard Lunge

Stage 3: Easy climbing up and down

Start climbing from the lowest grade and make your way up, focusing on control, technique and precise foot placement. When climbing down, reverse your route and use only holds from the same problem. Do 5 of these climbs in succession until your arms start to get sore. If there are not enough low grade climbs, you can choose to do a rainbow traverse.