Rock climbing is an activity that takes guts, resilience, and true mental and physical strength to continue reaching new heights. But, rock climbing demands trust in your endurance.
If your goal is to become a healthy and well-rounded climber, your ability to maintain your endurance is just as vital as the nerve to begin your climb in the first place. To build endurance, your recovery is just as important as your routine.
Why is Rock Climbing Endurance Important?
In any sport, endurance is a key factor for impressive performance. Endurance is what pushes us to go further, higher, and keep pushing. However, when rock climbers talk about endurance, they're not just referring to how high they can climb. Climbers pay close attention to anaerobic endurance, their limit of near-maximum strength needed to climb a continuously strenuous sequence without rest.
When we climb, oxygen-rich blood pumps into the muscles in our forearms and shoulders. When enough blood isn't reaching these muscles, they're unable to relax. This causes individual muscle fibers to lock up, inhibiting their ability to break down compounds in the blood. When zero blood is reaching the muscle group, it completely locks up, leaving a climber unable to open and close their hands or extend their forearms. This forces a climber to either stop their sequence, or fall.
The goal of endurance training is to allow climbers to go longer without stopping due to limited motion. A higher endurance prevents the premature shutdown of blood supply, allowing climbers to progress further without cramping, and for muscles to relax and flex with each move.
Common Rock Climbing Endurance Injuries
Once climbers get a taste of the adrenaline and fulfillment that comes along with a successful sequence, it can be difficult to get them to slow down. However, while it can be exhilarating to climb on a regular basis, that doesn't necessarily mean your endurance will keep up the pace. Continuous climbing without giving your body an adequate chance to heal can do the exact opposite.
Overuse and repetitive strain are two common causes of rock climbing injuries. Both typically arise when we push our bodies past their threshold of endurance. Overuse injuries occur when a series of small, unhealed tears or inflammation in the muscle tissue accumulate over time. These micro-traumas weaken the muscle, which can impact how efficiently a climber moves.
Common repetitive strain and overuse injuries include:
- Rotator cuff tears
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Trigger-finger syndrome
- Finger flexor tendon tears
- Subluxation in the shoulder or back
- Tendon rupture in the forearm or shoulder
- Tendinitis in the elbow, shoulders, or forearms
Chiropractic Care to Improve Climbing Endurance
Just like trying to bulk up muscle, to improve endurance the muscle must develop strength over time. This means that when the exertion of a climb causes micro-trauma, the body needs a chance to rest first before climbing again. There is where your South Florida chiropractor comes in.
Chiropractic care helps reduce recovery time, improves balance and flexibility, and can help prevent injury. At ChiroCare of Florida, our physicians keep patients in climbing-shape by ensuring that muscles are free of scar tissue and chronic inflammation. Keeping the spine aligned and tissue inflammation-free lowers the chances of rupturing a tendon, developing an overuse injury, and even decreases the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which develops in 25 percent of climbers.
At ChiroCare of Florida, our chiropractic therapy targets efficient body mechanics and joint stability by incorporating treatments such as:
Training to Build Endurance & Prevent Injury
Building up endurance improves a climber's limit strength, and their muscle's ability to sustain effort over a period of time. It also improves a climber's personal threshold for the period of time they can climb without rest without risking injury to muscles.
For this reason, exercises to build endurance are typically done in interval training. Just like when you climb, interval training requires putting forth effort for a specific number of reps, or sequences, before taking a rest of equal time. Interval training can safely be done three times a week, but you should be giving yourself at least two rest days each week. Combined with low-impact strength training, like yoga or body-weight exercises, try these routines to improve your endurance:
1. Pull-Up Intervals
Pull-ups are proven to positively affect climbing, but you don't want to over-do it. The solution? Pull-up intervals. Using a stopwatch to stay on an exact timetable, complete 20 one-minute pull-up intervals. Each set should include a specific number of pull-ups and a rest period taken within that one minute.
- Start your stopwatch and begin with five pull-ups. Feel free to do more or less depending on your strength level, but do not push yourself too hard as you will want to complete this amount each minute.
- After the five pull-ups, dismount and rest for the remainder of the 1 minute.
- At the start of the next minute, perform another five (or your desired amount) of pull-ups. When done, rest again until the next minute.
- Continue these intervals for 10 to 20 minutes. If you do five pull-ups for 10 minutes, you will have done 50 pull-ups. If you make it to 20 minutes, you will have completed 100 pull-ups.
2. Climbing Intervals
Climbing intervals specifically help build forearm and pull-muscle endurance. For climbing intervals, select a boulder problem or route that will be challenging, but at a level you feel comfortable climbing several times. Much like pull-up intervals, climbing intervals alternate climbing with an equal period of rest.
- Climb a route, then begin a rest period that's about equal to the length of time you were climbing. A stopwatch can help you remain on a precise timetable.
- If your climbing phase involved a ten-move sequence that takes 30 to 60 seconds, rest for 30 to 60 second before making your next move.
- Continue the climb-rest sequence until you can no longer complete the climb. If you can successfully perform five or more intervals, select a slightly more challenging climb for your next workout.
Climbing and Bouldering Gyms in South Florida
While coveted climbing destinations like Red River Gorge, Joshua Tree, and Greece's Kalymnos are tempting, local climbing and bouldering gyms are ideal places to train. Luckily South Florida boasts a variety of gyms from Boca Raton to Miami to practice your interval training:
1. Climbing Gyms in Palm Beach County:
2. Climbing Gyms in Broward County:
- Broward College – Tigertail Lake Recreational Center
- Coral Cliffs Indoor Rock Climbing Gym
3. Climbing Gyms in Miami-Dade County:
Pain Prevention Tips from Your South Florida Chiropractors
At ChiroCare of Florida, we understand the need to train, and the need to get back on the climb. But, to reach new heights you have to treat your body the same way you would a big climb: with patience, respect, and a little TLC.
- Stop Over-Gripping: Over-gripping means you're using more energy than necessary to hold onto an edge, tiring out muscles prematurely and increasing your risk of injury.
- Cross Train: Other muscle-building activities such as yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, and swimming can target areas not strengthened by climbing.
- Take Rest Days: When micro-traumas don't have time to heal, the overuse of an area will only weaken and become further injured over time.
Most importantly, keep your body healthy. With 11 offices throughout South Florida, there is always a ChiroCare of Florida chiropractic office near you ready to help reduce your recovery time and keep your muscles in climbing-shape. What are you waiting for? Contact ChiroCare of Florida today.