Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Misplaced Muscle

By Kreg Dobzinksi

Everyone has problems and you more than most. Actually, that last part is (probably) untrue, but sometimes it is easy to feel that way when you are trying to climb and it would be more accurate to call your actions "falling" or "getting hurt". Well, it is time to do something about it. For optimal climbing fitness it is crucial counteract the constant repetitive stresses that overdevelop certain areas. Muscular imbalance is one of the leading causes of sports related injury, which is odd considering that most corrective workouts (like this one) are relatively simple and quick to do while producing lasting benefit. The area of the body that we will focus on this month is the shoulders because it is where nearly all of your climbing movements originate. Although it's uncommon that your shoulders ever become noticeably pumped, imbalances in the shoulder can lead to injury in the hands, wrist, and fingers. Additionally, your stronger shoulders will shift some of the strain off those key areas, so you can climb more efficiently.

The Workout:

Please, do not attempt any of these exercises if you are not warmed-up. None of these exercises are truly stressful yet they are most likely going to work areas your body is not used to. An initial 15-20 minutes of light cardio or climbing should be enough to get the blood flowing. This can even be done as a cool down after an easier day of climbing. Also, some of these are described using specific types of fitness equipment, but most are able to be modified for use without.

1. Pull-up Retractions (10 reps) - Hang from a bar as if you’re about to do a wide-grip pull-up. Keeping your arms straight, focus on your scapula and pull from the middle of your back. Your shoulders should raise a few inches. Lower slowly with control.

2. Plange Pushups (15 reps) - Adding a shoulder protractions to a normal pushup. Keep your pelvis tucked and your back flat throughout the motion. At the top of each push-up, protract from the middle of your upper back, which feels like you’re making a hump in your back. You should be trying to push your shoulders and chest as far away from the floor as possible.

3. Y-T-W Prone Raises (4 reps each direction) - This is probably my favorite all around shoulder exercise. Lie chest down on a stability ball (or bench) with your body at a 45 degree angle. Hold (very) light weight with arms straight out in front of you dropped to the floor. Grip weight with thumbs up. Now raise the weight, keeping your arms straight as high as they can go. Lower and repeat four times in that fashion. Then spread your arms so they form more of a T and repeat. Next, keep your arms in that 'Y' shape, but as you raise your arms up pull your elbows into your ribs and rotate your thumbs so they point away from your body. All of these movements should originate from the lower part of your scapula.

4. External Rotations (15 each side) - Lie on floor on your side. The arm not on the ground should be grasping a very light weight in front of your stomach with the elbow is locked into the rib-cage. It is imperitve to maintain alignment in a straight line from your head to feet. Now, with your elbow still tucked to your side begin to rotate the weight off of the floor until it is pointing at the sky. Lower slowly and repeat.

5. Retractions (15 each side) - Kneel on a bench so that one arm the knee is resting on the platform with one leg on the ground and the other arms hanging free, grasping a weight. Back should be flat, pelvis tucked. This is the starting position for a one-arm lat pull. Now, like you did with the pull-up retraction, keep the arm straight and only retract (or shrug) your shoulder, which only moves the weight a handful of inches. Lower under control and repeat. Don't let that elbow bend.

6. Protractions (15 each side) - Lie on the bench and hold the weight above you, like the finishing position of a one-armed bench press. Now punch the sky using only your shoulder, moving the weight only a few inches. Lower and repeat.

7. Wall Angles (5-8 reps) Sit with your back flat against a wall, including the lower back, so you may need to use some force with your feet to keep it pushed flat. Arms out to your side, slightly bent, pushed flat against the wall. Your head should be against the wall with your chin tucked. Now raise your arms as though you’re making a snow angel (Floridians: lying on your back in the snow and performing a jumping jack motion). Try to raise them over your head but do not let your back arch to allow them to move further because then you wouldn't be truly working. At the sticking point hold for 5 to 10 seconds trying to stay relaxed and also focusing on keep your arms flat on the wall. Reverse and repeat.

This all probably won't take more then 15 minutes in my experience and personally I feel more energized and just "solid" afterwards. Full disclosure, most of this workout was pilfered from Deadpoint Magazine so if you need a visual of any of these exercises, most should be available on their website. Be on the lookout for next month's installment when it is time to work on those hips.
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