An unfortunate reality of climbing is that it places a lot of stress on our shoulders.  While there’s always the risk of an acute injury, climbers also commonly suffer shoulder pain caused by overuse and muscle imbalances.  Maintaining balanced climbing shoulders is the best way to protect your shoulders from the wear and tear of hard climbing and training.

To help you do this effectively, here’s an article from Dr. Jared Vagy’s blog, The Climbing Doctor, by shoulder and elbow physiotherapist Tanya Anne Mackenzie PhD.  In her article, Mackenzie first shows you how to determine if you have a muscle imbalance and then gives you three exercises that will help you correct it.

“Balanced muscles around the shoulder are essential for climbing efficiency as well as to avoid uneven tension around the joint. Imbalance in muscles around joints leads to increased strain and stress in the soft tissues and can ultimately lead to tissue failure. The anterior (front) shoulder muscles and the anterior (front) chest muscles power pull ups and many climbing moves requiring reaching and pulling. The anterior muscles are predominantly the pectoralis, anterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and biceps muscles. These muscles can become dominant and overpower their oppositional muscle groups (those at the back of the shoulder and shoulder blade). Muscle imbalance around the shoulder can be avoided by training the posterior muscles of the back of the shoulder and shoulder blade.” – Tanya Anne Mackenzie PhD

Exercises for Balanced Climbing Shoulders

While there are lots of different shoulder stability exercises that will help keep your shoulders injury free, here are several exercises that will directly target the often underdeveloped posterior muscles of the rotator cuff.  Strengthening these muscles balances out the stronger anterior shoulder and chest muscles leading to a healthier and more stable shoulder joint.  The exercises Mackenzie recommends are:

  • The Cuff Clock Exercise
  • Spider Man Wall Walk Exercise
  • Cuff on the Wall Exercise

For all three of these exercises, all you need is a resistance band.  When doing them prioritize proper form and don’t worry too much about how many sets and reps you are doing.  The muscles you are strengthening are very small and typically underworked in climbers.  A little bit of target training will go along way towards correcting any muscle imbalances.

Click through below to learn more about how to keep balanced climbing shoulders.  While these exercises may not directly help you climb the next grade, they will certainly help you stay injury free and that’s half the battle!

More from Dr. Jared Vagy

If you like what you read hear and are looking for more injury prevention tips, be sure to check out the Injury Prevention Guide he wrote for us.  It is highly informative and full of useful tips and exercises that will help remain healthy and climbing.

Full Article: Balanced Climbing Shoulders

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(photo courtesy of theclimbingdoctor.com)

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