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I'm sure you have at some point of your life gone rock climbing cause we all knew that one kid that had his birthday party at a rock climbing gym... Or I did anyways haha

Could never say I ever got into the sport of scaling rocks or attending rock climbers gyms but it definitely has been something I have participated in here and there for a fun activity to do during the week.

If you haven't before but are interested in how rock climbing works, what are the area of concern, weakness you may have that may impact performance or even how to improve performance read on :)

Rock Climbing Area Of Concern

For starters you have to say falling off the top has to be the main issue with climbing, depending on what safety gear you are using falling by any means is going to hurt. Going to climbing gyms provides you the cushions and harnesses with locks to ensure if you do fall its not the worst thing in the world. Might surface some bruising if you hit the wall hard or slip and hit the floor hard but after a few days rub it with concrete and you should be sweet!

Outdoor climbing or I like to call this dare devil climbing is for those experienced (or not) climbers that are willing to take a risk. Yes there are points of safety you can use but in the great outdoors you aren't going to have smooth rocks with cushions at the bottom. If you fall there are bigger chances the recovery is going to take a while longer than a few days... There are harnesses, shoes, ropes and head gear that gives you that extra safety and protection but leaving out some of the gear you would get at a gym increases the risk of injury/damage.

Now I've exhausted you with falls, everyone knows falling is never good but what else should you be weary of when it comes to climbing...?

Definitely the overuse injuries that come with the sport! You are using your fingers and wrists in overdrive when climbing. From pulling yourself up or even gripping on a rock you will be placing your wrist and finger joints under strain to hold your entire body weight in sometimes very compromising positions. In a climbers gym with different levels comes different grips starting with large easy to hold grips and going as hard as a rock that encompasses only the size of 2 finger nails...

In the great outdoors you will have to assess the points you are travelling up to and feel each groove in the rock before climbing. Some points may be easy some very very difficult. The increased difficulty just means you have less joints, muscles and grip that you hold onto essentially holding the rock with the end of your finger tip...

But HOW does someone get to that level of strength???

Injury Prevention For Rock Climbing

I always like to say that injuries are caused when joint load > joint capacity. With the fingers and wrist you have to realise due to how small the joints are in the area it wouldn't take much of a load for there to be damage...

Remember that your fingers/wrist are not only holding you up as your whole body hangs off the side of a rock but also having to lift and launch you into your next gripping point! Now you may understand why rock climbers tend to be pretty thin. Lower BW means less load upon the joints you need!

Instead of quitting or not even trying the sport there are ways you can prevent injuries within your fingers/wrist and doing these actually improves your performance in the sport!! You will be scaling rocks with increased confidence and spark than ever before.

To fix the injury concern in the equation you have to increase joint capacity or decrease joint load but how do you do this?

Increase your joints capacity by increasing flexibility within your fingers/wrist so they are able to move freely in multiple directions. This means you are going to be able to grip different rocks of different shapes/sizes if you have better mobility. Some exercises which are good for this include:

  1. prayer pose - palms together start pushing down towards the direction of your wrist without lifting either hand off of the other

  2. finger stretches - pulling fingers backwards towards wrist when palm facing down

  3. wrist rotations - interlock your fingers and start moving against each hand in a circular motion trying to push each wrist into deeper positions/stretches

  4. finger taps - have your palm on a flat surface like a table and lift each one of your fingers one at a time off of it

  5. thumb extensions - palm facing down pull your thumb backwards towards your wrist

Sweet doing these will increase flexibility of the joints you need and if you do them you will be more wrist/finger flexible for climbing. But thats not the end of the process!!

Now you will have to increase your strength!! Start by going to your new found flexibility points you created with your mobility training. Your wrist and fingers can extend further now so get into that position and start loading up!

My favourite piece of equipment to use for this has to be bands. Using resistance bands means you can adjust the direction the load comes from whether that be from behind, in front side-side or even in a rotation!!

This comes in handy as the wrist can move pretty freely in multiple positions so getting your wrist/fingers strong in those positions is going to help ensure when they are under tension in compromising positions you can get out of it without risking injury. Some exercises you can start doing to increase strength include:

  1. banded wrist curls - pull the your wrist with the band into its full extended position in differing directions. From here you want to squeeze the band and curl it up until your hand goes from extension to flat or even flexed. You can change the point the bands tension is hitting from by moving it from your palm to the end of your fingers so you can build strength all the way through

  2. banded wrist extension - similar to wrist curls however in the opposite direction. You can do the same thing with the band however in the opposite movement pattern

  3. banded wrist eversion/inversion - side to side movement with your wrist. Use the band to pull your wrist and fingers in each direction whilst forcing your hand to travel the other.

  4. ball squeeze - squeezing a ball of different sizes from within your palm or the end of a few or even all your fingers is going to be beneficial in building that grip strength you need too!!

Doing this strength work coupled with the mobility is going to help prevent any injuries you may cause in rock climbing.

How Can You Improve Performance in rock climbing?

First thing is first! Similar to any sport practice makes perfect. If you do it enough times you will get pretty decent at climbing. However you want to surpass decent and become a full fledged athlete what should you start doing differently?

I would go ahead and start doing the mobility and strength work I listed above however that should be stage 1 for you and be done within a few weeks! Your goal is to have super flexible super strong wrists and fingers so you can put your fingers into any hole, groove or rock base and have the strength to launch yourself up to the next positioning. Building upon your mobility base from stage 1 and increasing strength will make sure you are ahead of the norm. Not only with your flexibility and strength level but ability to perform with confidence.

Improving performance also is going to come down to what brings you down currently in the sport? Are your wrists strong but still finding limitability from another area in your body? Do you know what it is and whats stopping you from getting that last groove, last grip or last rock base?

Find your weaknesses and turn them into strengths, find your limits and surpass them. The further you push past these the better you will become. Then start practicing. You will prevent injury risk and also increase your performance. Never be out beat by your mates on the wall again!


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