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Training for Climbing Part 3: Yoga for Climbing

You would think that with all the training I’ve started recently, it would be enough. However, I think I’ve found the final piece I’d like to add to my routine. For my third and last training article (for now), I’m covering yoga.

Yoga practice is beneficial for many reasons. One example is using it for warm-ups as I do in my “Warming Up” article. Another is you can involve climbing-specific yoga poses in exercising too.

A reason why yoga is useful for climbing is that it helps strengthen:

The focus of my previous article Training for Climbing Part 2 was to improve my core. Because yoga builds upon that, it makes sense to include it in my regimen. Plus, the better the core is, hopefully, the less prone it is to injury.

Rotator Cuff

Rotator cuff muscles diagram

Let’s start talking about a crucial part of a climber’s body: the rotator cuff. Since climbers put a lot of weight and force into both the shoulders and arms, this is a spot to pay attention to. The rotator cuff keeps your humerus bone (upper arm bone) stable in the shallow cup. It contains four muscles: infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, and the supraspinatus.

Two movements to be aware of from your rotator cuff are the external and internal rotations.

External and Internal Rotation

The infraspinatus and teres minor are both in charge of external rotation. Think of rotating your arms outward and away from you. External rotation moves the humerus so that the shoulder muscles are engaged closer to your back. Internal rotation moves them out and away from each other. External rotation is safer on the shoulder joints than internal, and help prevents wear and tear.

Climbers want their shoulders to execute external rotation more often because it allows better access to their upper back muscles. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, this is safer to engage while climbing.

Which Yoga Movements Help?

So, now we know what muscles to target. But, which yoga poses work with them? These are some positions and movements I’ve found to help the shoulders. If you know of more I can add, let me know on the social media posts for this article.

Downward–Facing Dog

Downward dog pose

This pose makes you feel like you’re just sticking your butt in the air. However, Downward-facing Dog rotates your shoulders externally while you’re putting weight on your hands. The position starts in plank with legs slightly wider.

Arch the back upward, moving your feet towards yourself a little. Do rotate the shoulders outward while leaning back to stretch them. I do this for about 30 seconds before stopping or move to another position.

Eagle Arms

Awkward eagle arm pose

I admit; my arms look weird when I do this pose. But, the eagle pose stretches the upper muscles and rotator cuff. To do this, hold your arms out in front of you, bend and cross one over the other. Your palms should face you. Lock your thumbs together then turn your hands outward. Stretch then switch arms.

That’s the arm position. If you’re ambitious, keep your arms this way and then lower yourself into a lunge. I sometimes do this. There is a full-body position for the eagle pose if you’re interested in learning more about it. It’s a great way to help work on your balance (if you want) because it requires you to stand on one leg.

Dolphin Pose

Dolphin is another pose where it feels like you’re just sticking your butt up in the air. Dolphin starts in a Downward dog pose, but you place your elbows down parallel to the floor. Keeping your core tight, hold or gently bounce your chest toward your thighs. When you bounce, rotate the cuff outward. I would shorten the stance on this one to make it easier.

Reverse Plank/Reverse Table-top

Reverse table-top pose.

Planks aren’t my favorite exercise. But it’s not only is it good for rotator muscles but also the forearms too. A reverse plank is a movement you need to be warmed-up for because it’s harder if you’re stiff. Sit on the ground or mat with knees bent. Your arms are behind you with your fingers pointing at you.

Widen your fingers and push your hips into a plank position. Bounce the hips up and down a few times if you want. Technically, if you’re doing this pose with the knees bent, it’s known as reverse table-top.

One variation of this pose is having your arms right underneath you with your hands pointed at your heels. If you want a full reverse plank, do the movement with your legs and spine straight. I can’t do this yet. I’m doing reverse table-top for now, then work my way to that.

Off to Train

My hope is with all the training I’m doing, I’ll see improvement in my climbing. I know this will take time and be a while before I start seeing results. I also need to keep myself healthy and not get hurt while training. Because doing so would seriously suck. So, wish me luck and until next time, happy bouldering!