Six Yoga Stretches for Climbers

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Kaylee putting her yoga strength and flexibility to work

We first met Kaylee Frano at MetroRock’s Granite Girls Climbing School, where she led a post-climbing stretching session. After just 20 minutes of her yoga-inspired stretches she had us all completely relaxed and wanting to learn more. As an avid yogi for over 7 years and a climber for almost 3, Kaylee quickly realized the benefits that stretching had on her climbing. Currently, as a youth team coach at MetroRock, she incorporates yoga stretches into team practice. Today she brings us six stretches that are great for every climber: 

Over the past 7 years of practicing yoga I’ve realized that stretching is one of the most positive things you can do for your body. One of the greatest benefits of stretching is that it increases your range of motion, which means your limbs and joints can move further before an injury might occur. Post-exercise stretching can also help in workout recovery, decrease muscle soreness, and ensure that your muscles and tendons are in good working order. The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle the rigors of climbing, and the less likely they are to become injured.

Stretching before a climbing session can certainly be beneficial, but I think the most crucial time to stretch is post-exercise. After a climb it is best to perform static stretches, where you hold positions for more than 30 seconds. This length of time allows you to get deeper into the stretch and allows your muscles to relax in a stretched position. Before a climb is it best to perform dynamic stretches, where you are continually moving and allowing your breath to aid you in each position. With any type of stretching, it’s important to remember to listen to your body, it will tell you when you are at your max before you hurt yourself. There are always modifications for every stretch, so only go to the level that your body allows, which might be different on different days. Below are the 6 best static stretches to work into your post-climbing routine:

1. Hamstring StretchJanuSirsasana_248

Sitting down, right leg out, left leg bent in towards right thigh, reach for flexed toes of right foot. Switch sides and repeat.

Benefits: Opens hip flexors for better stemming and high feet. Also prevents stiffness in hamstrings after using for powerful heel hooks.

2. Butterfly

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Feet together in front of you opened like a book, knees splayed out like a butterfly. Keep your back straight and try bringing heart to your toes. To stretch the outside of your hips bring your feet further out in front of you, and to stretch the inside of your hips bring your feet closer in to you. If you want to take the stretch deeper, take your elbows to your lower thighs and apply light pressure to bring your knees closer to the ground.

Benefits: Opens up hips, which is great for getting those feet high while climbing.

3. Sitting Shoulder Stretch26shldr_blade_squeeze2

Cross your legs sitting down and intertwine your fingers behind your back, twisting them inside out. Straighten your back, fold forward and bring your heart to your legs. As you do this, raise your hands up over your shoulders.

Benefits: Stretches and opens shoulders, which will increase shoulder mobility and prevent stiffness.

4. Downward Facing Dog

down-dog-jen

Plank position, wrists over shoulders, shoot your butt back and up in the air. Walk your feet in place, allowing one leg to bend, and the other straighten.  The goals is to eventually bring your heels to the ground.

Benefits: Prevents stiffness in hamstrings and calves, often caused by heel hook and toe-ing in on foot chips.

5. Triangle Pose

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Left foot forward pointing straight out, and right foot pointing horizontally outward. Heel of left foot should intersect with back arch. Straighten left leg and bring arms out to a T (front to back). Reach left hand out and when you can’t reach any more bring it as far down to your shin or foot as you can. Reach right hand up to the sky, twist torso to get a stretch in your side as well as feeling the stretch in your hip. Switch sides.

Benefits: Stretches hips and opens the side body, which will help you get those hard to reach holds.

6. Deep Shoulder Stretch

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Start in plank, lower yourself down to your belly, left arm extended out into a T. Keep your palm facing down and your arm at 90 degrees to your body. Right arm is by your right shoulder. Slowly roll the right side of your body off of the floor. If you can, bend your knees and lift them so that they point upwards while keeping your feet on the floor. Get deeper into the stretch by taking your right arm and swinging it out in a circular motion, reaching out to your left extended arm. Switch sides.

Benefits: Opens and stretches shoulders, which will help prevent stiffness after putting them to work while climbing.

Remember to always move slowly into and out of each stretch, and listen to your body carefully.

Climb (and stretch) on!
-Kaylee

Photo Credits: yogajournal.com (Martin Sconduto and Rory Earnshaw), westvalley.edutheyogasanctuary.bizshape.com

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4 thoughts on “Six Yoga Stretches for Climbers

  1. Sid says:

    Great article! I’m confused about the directions for the last pose though… Could you elaborate?

    • Mary says:

      Hey Sid!
      I’ll try to break down the pose a bit more.
      Start laying on the ground face down and extend your left arm out to the side, making a 90 degree angle with your body. Bring your right hand under your right shoulder and press it on the ground, palm down. Use your right hand and arm to push down and roll your body open to the right, essentially rolling over your left shoulder. If you can, keep opening your body so that your feet plant on the ground and your bent knees point toward the ceiling (like in the photo). If you can take it further bring your right hand around behind you and clasp your left hand.
      Hope that helps and thanks for the question!
      -Mary

  2. Crisina says:

    Well done on the article! I love yoga ALMOST as much as I love climbing because I’ve also experienced the many benefits that yoga has had on my climbing. You hit many important points above and I’d also like to add one more note as it is a mistake I see done way too often. During any forward bends, like the one you show in pose #1, it’s important to lead with the chest and fight the urge of rounding the back and getting the forehead as close to the legs as possible because it strains the neck. Yea, it may feel more gratifying to get our head closer to our legs, but let’s not fool ourselves. You’ll get a much deeper stretch if you bend from your hips and lead with your chest.

    Thanks again for the great post! I’m super digging these poses. I’ll have to add them into my regular practice 🙂

    p.s. is it just me or is pose #6 super hard! I’ve spoken with other climbers and many seem to struggle with this pose. Perhaps it’s our broader shoulders?

    • Mary says:

      Hey Cristina!

      Thanks for the reminder on forward folds, you’re absolutely right.

      I agree on #6. Climbers (like me!) can have really tight shoulders, making this pose difficult. I can’t clasp my hands behind me like the photo shows, instead I just roll onto my left shoulder and keep my right hand on the ground or if I’m feeling flexible I reach my right hand up to the ceiling. You’ll still get a great stretch in your shoulder this way.

      Thanks again for the input!

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