At the wall or the crag, you usually see some bizarre warm up practices, and often you see no warm up activities at all. There are a lot of people doing a lot of things so let’s look at a warm up routine that is simple and effective.
What exactly is a warm up?
Warming up gets your body and mind prepared for activity.
This preparation does many useful things:
Increases heart rate, temperature and blood flow (oxygen and nutrients)
Gets the body ready for certain exercises
Allows for enhanced movement of joints
Provides mental separation from your work, life and other potential stresses
It doesn’t have to be long and protracted - the easier it is the more likely you’ll do it - simple is always better - but a few minutes of targeted warming up each session will really help. Good things come in threes so let’s follow suit.
1. Get Warm - 5 minutes
The first stage is the classic pulse raiser. Jogging, cycling, skipping (rope or ropeless) and star jumps are all good for this. Be gentle with yourself, especially if you’ve just woken up or have been sitting down all day. Start easy and build up gradually over 5 minutes so that you can feel your heart beating faster and your body producing heat.
2. Get Dynamic - 5 minutes
A few dynamic stretches are the best way to tick a lot of boxes in the warm up process. Dynamic stretches use muscles to make active movements, and unlike the more traditional static stretches, are not held in the end (stretched) position. Always do dynamic stretches in a slow controlled fashion after your ‘get warm’ exercise, but before your main activity. Two great dynamic warm up exercises for climbers are Inchworms and the fluid Sun Salutation sequence from yoga (go to a class on your rest day). You are validating your working range of motion so don’t push it.
These compound exercises work really well once learnt but if you want to add individual movements then this warm up demonstration from Jonathan Siegrist gives plenty of ideas.
You can rotate or swing almost anything but but please avoid neck rotations - just move the head from side to side and forward to back.
More advanced climbers can prime their CNS (central nervous system) by adding a few ballistic movements like clap pushups or ballistic pull-ups at this stage.
3. Get Real - 10 minutes
The third warm up phase is an easier version of the main event. Climb some very easy (for you) boulder problems or a low grade route or two. Use this time to concentrate on some technique drills or footwork improvement.
After 10 minutes of easy climbing you can gradually step it up and you’ll have a good foundation for your session.
There you are - an effective 20 minute warm up of which 10 minutes is actually climbing.
The Warm Up summary:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Do it.