Are you new to climbing and seem to see people with all kinds of injuries everywhere? Are you seasoned but feel like you’re always on the verge of getting hurt? Do you have hardened fingers, but don’t want rust to set in?
Here’s a quick guide to avoiding injuries in 7 easy steps.
The recipe for injury in climbing is relatively simple: perform the same difficult moves hundreds of times over the course of an evening, do acrobatics without feet after a very long climbing session, don’t exercise your antagonist muscles and neglect stretching. Before you know it, you’ll have a creaky elbow, a sore finger, squeaky shoulders, not to mention a worn-out knee.
The recipe for avoiding injury, however, requires a little more discipline. That’s where a climbing injury expert comes in. This physiotherapist specializes in climbing injuries and devours everything he can in terms of sports studies. His clients are all climbers.
Here are his 7 commandments to avoid tendonitis, bursitis, and other painful “bites”.
1 – WARM-UPS THOU SHALT DO
“There are enough good reasons to warm up,” he says at the outset, with studies to back it up. A warmer muscle will react better, will be able to release its maximum strength more quickly and will be more flexible. You should aim to increase the temperature of the muscle and avoid long stretches (over 8 seconds).
2 – YOU WILL PROGRESS GRADUALLY
This truism may seem obvious but it is necessary: you must be careful not to get carried away too quickly, in terms of difficulty and volume. For an expert, you have to give your body time to get used to it. Think of your progression as a pyramid: you have to work on the base – or the less difficult routes/blocks – before moving up the ranks. Otherwise, the pyramid won’t hold – and maybe your body won’t either.
For beginners, do one session, see how your body reacts and master one grade before moving on to the next. Don’t skip any steps, and this is also true for those returning to the sport after a break!
3 – THOU SHALT AVOID CHICKEN WINGS
This is not a sports bar menu, but a less than effective way to climb. In an attempt to bring the hips closer to the wall, a climber will tend to bend the elbows to 90 degrees and have the face against the wall.
The catch is that this method loads the wrists and elbows by overusing the biceps and shoulders – thus putting a lot of stress on the upper chain. To avoid the trap, you should unfold your arms and try to work more with your hips and legs, and not just climb on the inner square of the shoe.
4 – YOUR SCAPULA YOU WILL ENGAGE
The idea here is to keep the shoulder and scapula engaged during movements. Lowering the scapula during a finger workout on a beam, engaging it when doing a push up, etc. “It is important to avoid that it is only the ligaments and muscles that hold the shoulder in place, because they are quickly exhausted,” emphasizes the physiotherapist. It is important to avoid “rolling” the shoulders forward, for example.
5 – BRING YOUR CHIN CLOSER TOGETHER
Both for climbing and belaying, you should avoid bending your neck backwards. The more you bend your head backwards, the more weight you put on your cervical vertebrae and other neck structures, and the body system is not designed for this.
An exercise to do: develop the deep flexors by keeping the chin close to the body – examples can be found on the Internet. To belay, a simple solution: belaying glasses allow you to avoid this position.
6 – VARY THE TECHNIQUES OF THE HOLDS
Climbing holds – what you squeeze between your fingers, pieces of plastic or rock – come in various shapes and sizes.
To avoid injury, it’s best to avoid always working the same way. For example, don’t just be “open-handed” or “arched” (thumb over index finger), because muscles will inevitably get injured. Think of the holds as your diet: you need to vary!
7 – IN CASE OF INJURY YOU WILL CONSULT
You’ve followed all the advice but still have a sore finger? If your fingers hurt, it’s best to take a break. If a finger is deviated by more than 20%, it’s time to go to the hospital.
Otherwise, if the pain persists for more than a week, you should consider consulting a doctor.
Especially since a prognosis will allow you to recover more quickly with adequate treatment, “because the body is still in ‘I’m healing’ mode,” says the expert. More and more people are interested in climbing and injuries, and according to him, there will be more and more specialists who will be able to help injured climbers.