Category Archives: Blog

Static Stretching for Rock Climbing

The topic of static stretching is a prime example of why I wrote Beyond Tape.  I was starting to see more blog posts stating things like “there is absolutely no research that shows static stretching can help to prevent injuries”.  From time to time, we all regurgitate information that we believe to be true (whether it be related to health, politics, education, etc.) but do not always have clear examples of why we believe what we believe aside from hearing it from a source we trust (professor, coach, politician, news source, etc.).  I wondered, “Am I doing that?” and “Do these people know something I don’t?”  I went back through the research to organize the solid studies showing that a statistically significant decrease in musculotendinous injuries (sprains and strains) occurs when static stretching is used.1,2,3,4,5  There are also research results that call into question the benefits of static stretching for injury prevention.6,7,8  However, these conflicts are resolved in almost all cases when looking at the types of injuries and types of activities that are studied.   For example, stretching will most likely not prevent injuries such as dislocations or fractures that occur due to a traumatic event.  Another important point is that the research showing benefits of static stretching has been done with activities that require explosive movements or the athlete using the end ranges of movements, such as soccer.  In contrast, I think it is reasonable to argue that static stretching may not be beneficial for injury prevention for activities such as long distance running where end ranges and explosive movements are not typically used.  The bottom line is that static stretching is recommended for musculotendinous injury (strains and sprains) prevention with climbing due to the facts that these types of injuries are highly prevalent in the climbing population and that climbers are frequently testing end ranges of motion, especially in their shoulders and hips, as well as performing explosive movements especially with bouldering and sport climbing.

What is static stretching, how should I do it, and what stretches are best for climbers?

Static stretching occurs when a muscle is held at its end range for a prolonged period of time.  Research shows that a minimum of 30 seconds is best for muscle lengthening1,9,10,11 and holding for 1.5-3 minutes or more can additionally help release any myofascial restrictions that may be present.12,13,14,15

Check out my rock climbing warm up article for the reasons why static stretching is best used after climbing and on rest days, as opposed to before climbing.

The following are examples of important stretches for climbing specifically due to either the repetitiveness of some motions (finger/wrist flexors), the explosive nature of movements that use certain muscle groups (finger/wrist flexors, latissimus dorsi, hip extensors), and/or the likelihood of reaching into the end ranges of certain body parts on a regular basis (shoulder and hip joints).

  1. Wrist/finger flexors – used to grip the rock with all types of holds
wrist flexor stretch
wrist/finger flexor stretch

2. Wrist/finger extensors – used to stabilize the wrist and oppose the wrist flexors

wrist flexor stretch
wrist/finger extensor stretch

3. Pectorals – pectoralis minor contributes to rolling the shoulders forward in the typical “climber’s back” posture

pec minor stretch
pectoral stretch

4. Latissimus Dorsi – used extensively in the pulling motions of climbing and also contributes to rolling the shoulders forward in the typical “climber’s back” posture

latissimus dorsi stretch

5. High step (hip adductors, extensors, internal rotators) – lack of flexibility can limit climbing ability and cause significant strain on the muscles in their most lengthened position

high step stretch – hip extensors, adductors, and internal rotators

6. Spinal twists with shoulder horizontal adduction – lack of spinal flexibility contributes to excessive motion at the shoulder and hip joints; this pose also stretches the muscles of the posterior shoulder which is used extensively in pulling

 

spinal twist with shoulder horizontal adduction stretch
spinal twist with shoulder horizontal adduction stretch

 

Check out Beyond Tape: The Guide to Climbing Injury Prevention and Treatment for more information about warming up, stretching, and other climbing injury related topics.  Subscribe here to get the latest posts and like my facebook page for updates and more information.  My primary motivations for Beyond Tape and any of the posts are to:       1. Check out the most relevant and up-to-date research for each topic in order to dispel myths, sift out conflicting views, and help people to prevent or heal from injuries – letting me know about new research or opposing views is helpful and greatly appreciated       2. Contribute to the local and global communities by donating 100% of my net profits from Beyond Tape to service-based non-profit organizations, such as Rotary International, Doctor’s Without Borders, Access Fund, etc.

1 Woods K, Bishop K, Jones E.  Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury.  Sports Med 2007; 37 (12): 1089-1099.
2 Hartig DE1, Henderson JM.  Increasing hamstring flexibility decreases lower extremity overuse injuries in military basic trainees.  Am J Sports Med. 1999 Mar-Apr;27(2):173-6.
3 Cross KM1, Worrell TW.  Effects of a static stretching program on the incidence of lower extremity musculotendinous strains.  J Athl Train. 1999 Jan;34(1):11-4.
4 McHugh MP1, Cosgrave CH.  To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.
5 Amako M1, Oda T, Masuoka K, Yokoi H, Campisi P.  Effect of static stretching on prevention of injuries for military recruits.  Mil Med. 2003 Jun;168(6):442-6.
6 Pope RP1, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ.  A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury.   Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Feb;32(2):271-7.
7 Arnason A1, Andersen TE, Holme I, Engebretsen L, Bahr R.  Prevention of hamstring strains in elite soccer: an intervention study.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008 Feb;18(1):40-8.
8 Thacker SB1, Gilchrist J, Stroup DF, Kimsey CD Jr.  The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Mar;36(3):371-8.
9 de Weijer VC1, Gorniak GC, Shamus E.  The effect of static stretch and warm-up exercise on hamstring length over the course of 24 hours.  J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003 Dec;33(12):727-33.
10 Davis DS1, Ashby PE, McCale KL, McQuain JA, Wine JM.  The effectiveness of 3 stretching techniques on hamstring flexibility using consistent stretching parameters.  J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Feb;19(1):27-32.
11 Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M.  The effect of static stretch and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles.  J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1998 Apr;27(4):295-300.
12 Ajimsha MS1, Binsu D2, Chithra S2.  Effectiveness of myofascial release in the management of plantar heel pain: A randomized controlled trial.  Foot (Edinb). 2014 Jun;24(2):66-71.
13 Barnes JF.  Myofascial Release:  The Search for Excellence.  Paoli, PA:  Rehabilitation Services, Inc., 1990.  Print.
14 Standley P.  In Vitro Mechanical Strain Modeling of Myofascial Release.  Date: 11/3/2011.  http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/events/annual-aoa-research-conference/2011-research-conference/Documents/10-30-2011/1—10-30-2011–BiomechanicalRegulation-of-Cell-Function—-Standley.pdf (presented at the 2011 Research Conference of the AOA).
15 Cao TV1, Hicks MR1, Zein-Hammoud M1, Standley PR2.  Duration and magnitude of myofascial release in 3-dimensional bioengineered tendons: effects on wound healing.  J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2015 Feb;115(2):72-82.

The Rock Climbing Warm Up

Maybe not the most exciting part of climbing, but one of the most important for keeping you on the rock and off the couch.  We’re all excited to get to our projects.  When warming up, many of us are hoping to hit that sweet spot between performing enough easier climbs to get us ready for more challenging routes/problems but not overdoing it on the warm up and blowing our chance to give a serious effort to the goals of the day.  Thankfully, Schweitzer provided us with a solid range of routes/problems to work off of.  His study from 2001 showed that roughly 100-120 moves, or 3-4 routes/8-12 boulder problems, were required for the finger flexor tendon pulley system to show an increased amount of pliability.  This means that the tendons are better able to tolerate the loads that are being placed on them.1,2,3  So, the recommendation is 3-4 easy routes or 8-12 easy boulder problems before attempting climbing near your upper limit. Warm up routines and their relation to injury prevention have yet to be researched specifically in the climbing community (hint, hint for any doctoral students out there looking for a thesis topic), however, the evidence  from sport-specific warm ups and warm ups with the three components listed below shows a correlation between warm ups and decreased injury rates for various sports such as soccer, basketball, football, as well as with military recruits.4,5,6  Furthermore, a basic aerobic warm up, such as light jogging for as little as five minutes, hiking to the climbing area or jumping rope in the gym, has been shown to increase flexibility and prepare the body for the upcoming activity.7,8

The Business:  3 parts to the warm up

  1. A mellow aerobic activity – light jogging or cycling for 20-30 minutes or the approach to the climbing area (although, even as little as 5 minutes has been shown to increase flexibility and prepare the body for the upcoming activity)7,8
  2. Stretching – dynamic stretching (stretching through motion), as opposed to static stretching (holding a stretch for prolonged periods), is best used during the warm up. Static stretching has gotten a bad rap as far as injury prevention and treatment, which I’ll discuss in a later post, but there’s some evidence that it decreases performance when used immediately prior to competition.9,10,11,12  There is however some evidence that dynamic stretching can help to improve immediate performance,13,14 which is why I recommend dynamic stretching during the warm up.  Dynamic stretching can be worked into #3 below, or here are 3 examples of helpful dynamic stretches for climbers:

High Step

Wrist flexors/extensors

Latissimus Dorsi

  1. An activity specific to the sport being perform – this is your 3-4 easy routes or 8-12 easy boulder problems

Check out Beyond Tape: The Guide to Climbing Injury Prevention and Treatment (currently sold locally in Bishop stores, on my website, and soon to be on Amazon) for more information about warming up, stretching, and other climbing injury related topics.  Subscribe here to get the latest posts and like my facebook page for updates and more information.  My primary motivations for Beyond Tape and any of the posts are to:       1. Check out the most relevant and up-to-date research for each topic in order to dispel myths, sift out conflicting views, and help people to prevent or heal from injuries – letting me know about new research or opposing views is helpful and greatly appreciated       2. Contribute to the local and global communities by donating 100% of my net profits from Beyond Tape to service-based non-profit organizations, such as Rotary International, Doctor’s Without Borders, Access Fund, etc.

1 Wright DM, Royle TJ, Marshall T.  Indoor rock climbing: who gets injured?  Br J Sports Med 2001;35:181–185.
2 Hockhoelzer T, Schoeffl.  One Move Too Many…  Druckerei Sonnenschein, Ebenhausen, 2003.  p. 109.
3 Schweizer A.  Sport climbing from a medical point of view.   Swiss Med Wkly. 2012;142:w13688.
4 Fradkin AJ1, Gabbe BJ, Cameron PA.  Does warming up prevent injury in sport? The evidence from randomised controlled trials?  J Sci Med Sport. 2006 Jun;9(3):214-20.
5 Woods K, Bishop K, Jones E.  Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury.  Sports Med 2007; 37 (12): 1089-1099.
6 Herman K, Barton C, Malliaras P, Morrissey D.  The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review.  BMC Med. 2012 Jul 19;10:75.
7 Samson M1, Button DC, Chaouachi A, Behm DG.  Effects of dynamic and static stretching  within general and activity specific warm-up protocols.  J Sports Sci Med. 2012 Jun 1;11(2):279-85.
8 O’Sullivan K1, Murray E, Sainsbury D.  The effect of warm-up, static stretching and dynamic stretching on hamstring flexibility in previously injured subjects.  BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009 Apr 16;10:37.
9 McHugh MP1, Cosgrave CH.  To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.
10 Winchester JB1, Nelson AG, Landin D, Young MA, Schexnayder IC.  Static stretching impairs sprint performance in collegiate track and field athletes.  J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):13-9.
11 Gergley JC.  Acute effect of passive static stretching on lower-body strength in moderately trained men.  J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):973-7.
12 Simic L1, Sarabon N, Markovic G.  Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):131-48.
13 Little T1, Williams AG.  Effects of differential stretching protocols during warm-ups on high-speed motor capacities in professional soccer players.  J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Feb;20(1):203-7.
14 Myers, T.   Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web.    IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Number 4.  April 2011.