Shape Your Shoulders for a Stronger Climb

Dr. Ian Shaw
Dr. Ian Shaw

Dr. Ian Shaw is an avid climber and former performance therapist for both Hong Kong and Chinese National Sports Climbing Teams and the Chinese Olympic Committee.
He is a registered chiropractor and Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach (CSCS), as well as founder of Hong Kong Sports Chiropractic in Hong Kong Central District.

“In my experience working with professional climbers, the single most commonly injured body part was the shoulder.” – Dr. Ian Shaw

During training, experienced climbers typically do a great job performing accessory work for their fingers, hands, wrist, and elbows. However, there is a tendency to neglect their shoulders, which can lead to the injuries such as dislocations, subacromial impingement (or tendonitis), rotator cuff tears, bursitis and labral tears.

Why Climbers Should Develop Their Shoulders

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, enabling almost 360 degree rotation of the arms. This mobility allows climbers to:

  • reach up over and behind the head
  • rotate arms and wrists to gaston
  • mantle the body up to higher positions.

However, the shoulder tends to fatigue earlier than smaller body parts, which gives rise to a higher susceptibility to injury and a greater necessity to strengthen. Injuries often occur when the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint are not strong or resilient enough to allow the climber to move to their intended position or direction.

‘Prehab’ – preparation and correction of the body’s imbalances and physical limitations for sport-specific activities, with the goal of limiting chance of injury.

Diligent climbers should look to ‘prehab’ the shoulder, building a resilience to the rotator cuff that will provide the necessary support and stability to keep your arm in its socket while making high grabs, tough rotations and mantling, and to keep common shoulder injuries at bay.

15-minute Shoulder Prehab Workout

Got a few minutes? Try these exercises which target the muscles of the shoulder’s rotator cuff.

  1. Shoulder Internal Rotation Walkout
  2. Row – External Rotation – Press
  3. Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
Shoulder Internal Rotation Walkout
Row External Rotation Press
Bottom-up Kettlebell Carry

Check out Ian’s page here for more details of these (and other useful) shoulder exercises. For more exercises for climbers, you can also check out the top climbing injuries and prevention exercises.

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