Fundamentals of Climbing: Warming Up

Fundamentals of Climbing: Warming Up

How to warm up properly before climbing activities

In order to prevent injury, boost effectiveness and improve performance, it is essential to warm up before any sport or physical activity. Climbing is no different, but often climbers do not warm up. The fundamental principles of warming up are more important than a set routine, as they can be varied and adapted to the circumstances or conditions.


-Cardiovascular exercise

Whatever makes the heart and lungs work harder, such as running, skipping rope, walking fast or cycling to the wall/crag is beneficial. The enhanced blood flow to the muscles and connective tissues increases elasticity and resistance to injury.


Moving all the joints throughout their complete range of movement will help to lubricate them with synovial fluid and help to relax the muscles. Work around your body methodically, open and close your hands, rotate your wrists, curl your arms and rotate your shoulders, then perform similar motions to your neck, trunk, hips, knees, ankles and toes.

-Static Stretches

There are lots of conflicting research on whether you should stretch before or after exercise and if stretching before will inhibit performance. The answer simply is, it depends. Light and careful stretching of all the main working muscles used during climbing, especially forearms, shoulders as well as any impaired muscle, can be useful before exercise, but intensive stretching must only occur after climbing or exercise. Bouncing and quick stretching are detrimental and can even be harmful, as would be stretching without doing a warm-up prior to climbing.

-Skill Related Activity and general climbing

Simple routes, problems or sport specific movements prepare the muscles to pull with more force later as well as get the body acclimated to the feeling of moving again on the climbing wall or rock. Climbing on a difficult boulder problem or route smoothly and with efficiency is nearly impossible when you have not warmed up appropriately - often this will lead to injuries.

-Warming up the Mind

To get into the right mindset for climbing, use the warming up period to psychologically prepare yourself for the climbing, this is important in all aspects of climbing from indoor general climbing or competition climbing to rock climbing. Beginner climbers are less in need of mental preparation on their first ascent as it can be likely to be limited in grade and known difficulty, however they are likely to have anxiety that can be avoided by understanding what they are going to encounter on the route.


If a thorough warm-up is not feasible or required, a quick iteration of the warm-up with the major components can be finished with next to no disruption to the day. This warm up still needs to have:

  • A pulse raiser

  • Mobilisation

  • Light Stretches (NOT intensive stretching, this comes in the cool-down)

  • Skill related activities such as easy routes/boulders

In the next journal we will explore how to avoid common injuries when rock climbing. If you enjoyed reading this journal entry and thought it was worth your time, then consider treating us to a coffee! We drink loads of coffee when we write up journals and sometimes the coffee jar gets empty!