Climbing is unique in the strength and strain it demands from your fingers, forearms, and elbows. The exercises included here are designed with an emphasis on injury prevention and flexibility. Use these exercises to warm up before training, or as needed. Remember to breathe slowly and rhythmically in and out through your nose for each of these exercises.
Namaste / Prayer Hands
Why: Simple stretch for tight or pumped flexors, wrists, and fingers. Great to use at the beginning or end of a climbing session to alleviate tension and increase forearm and wrist flexibility.
What: Bring your hands together at chest height in the traditional prayer position, palm to palm. Raise your elbows level with your wrists, and press your palms together.
How: Keep the stretch to just a couple of seconds if you’re preparing to climb. Hold for 10 seconds or more if you’re done climbing for the day.
Finger Isolation Stretch
Why: Stretching the fingers in isolation allows for the tendons and joints to move through their unique mobility.
What: Similar to just pulling each individual finger back, but instead of extending the fingers, flex them. Begin by curling your right pointer finger in towards the palm (flexion). Then use your left thumb and pointer finger to gently “pinch” the right finger in and back, with the left thumb at the base knuckle of your right pointer finger. Repeat for each digit.
How: Hold the stretch for each finger for 10 to 30 seconds. Great for after a climbing/hangboarding session or on a rest day. Before a session, be sure to keep the stretches between 5 to 10 seconds.
Why: You can use this as a warm-up for finger training and for injury prevention. By moving through a full range of motion, your tendons will be better prepared for weighted hangs and tiny crimps.
What: Raise your hand overhead with your fingers pressed together. Slide the tips of your fingers down towards your palm without curling the fingers into a fist. Once your fingers reach your wrist, slowly slide them back up the palm until you reach the open position.
How: Repeat at least 10 times. Great for before or after climbing.
Why: After just a couple of rounds, you’ll see that these are waking up the same finger flexors and extensors that you use when climbing. This exercise will bring “the pump” to your forearms.
What: Raise your hands up high overhead. Make your hands into tight fists, and then flick all 10 fingers open energetically.
How: Repeat this squeeze and flick motion somewhat rapidly for 10-40 seconds or until your forearms feel pumped. Great way to warm up or stay warm between routes.
High Plank / Weight-Loaded Wrist Circles
Why: When used properly, your shoulders, elbows, and wrists work together in a high-plank position. The addition of moving in circles helps strengthen and increase mobility in the hands and upper body.
What: Begin in a plank on your hands (static hold) with full engagement. Slightly bend the elbows, stack your shoulders over your wrists, and grip the ground with your fingers. From here, move your body in circles over your wrists.
How: Move in circles for 5 to 10 breaths. Then repeat the circles in the other direction. Use as part of stability training or a warm-up.
Feature image: Anna Margolina, at the 2018 Adidas Rockstars Russian qualifying event, wraps a volume. Big features can be tweaky on your wrists, which is why a proper warm up for those joints is essential. By Leo Zhukov