When I was younger I used to train and box, having a number of amateur bouts. One thing I was shown that has stayed with me, and I have shown to countless others since, is a great way of recognising and releasing tension within the body.
When we are climbing, or engaged in any other activity, we want to use as little force as possible to ensure progress. However it is usual that many of the muscles that should be relaxed during certain movements are firing unnecessarily.
Once practiced enough, it is very easy to spot extraneous muscular tension, even during cruxes. This exercise is also great to do if you’ve had a stressful day and are finding hard to unwind.
So how do you do it?
First start by lying flat on the floor.
Settle into a relaxed state where your breathing is regular and smooth. This may take a few minutes.
Now you are going to move through the body squeezing certain muscle groups for 10 seconds, and then you will let them relax again.
Start with the feet, curl your toes tight but isolate them from the calf muscles. Hold and then relax.
Notice the release of tension and understand the difference between the two states. When you are ready it’s time to move on.
Pull the calves up as hard as you can in isolation and repeat the process.
Tense your quads in isolation and repeat.
Clench your buttocks and repeat.
Scrunch your abs and repeat.
Flex your pecs. Many people find it hard to isolate the chest muscles but it comes with practice.
Tense the lats (the wings under your armpits).
Tense the upper arms, this will fire the shoulders too.
Roll your fingers inwards so your hands are in a tight ball. Your forearms will be firing when you squeeze.
Lastly squeeze your facial and tense your neck - everyone is beautiful but make the ugliest face that you can - no-one is watching.
And then relax.
Notice how light you feel and try to remember that feeling of tension release in everything you do. With a bit of regular practice you will be doing it automatically, in everything do do.
In moments of danger or perceived danger, our unconditioned body might well cause abnormal tension, and most things go straight out of the window.
Condition yourself to do this whilst doing easy climbing or bouldering in safety. Stop on a jug and find a rest position. Now quickly monitor your body. What’s under tension and if so, should it be?
If it is unnecessary tension then see if you can relax it just by being aware. It gets easier the more you try.
When this becomes 2nd nature, start to slowly stress proof it in more taxing situations.