Today we are going to stick with the shoulder maintenance theme we’ve got going this week.  As we talked about yesterday, climbing movement puts a ton of stress and wear and tear on the shoulder joint.  Doing exercises like the one’s Dr. Vagy outlined yesterday are a great way to strengthen your shoulders and try and keep them healthy.  However, for climbers, shoulder issues often run deeper and are caused by incorrect shoulder positioning when climbing and hanging.

To help explain shoulder positioning, here’s an article from Black Diamond by physical therapist Esther Smith about her work with professional climber Babsi Zangerl during her BD Bootcamp training cycle.  In her article, Esther covers how when working with Babsi she was able to help alleviate the shoulder pain Babsi was feeling at the beginning of the training cycle by helping to correct her shoulder positioning and teaching her some basic shoulder maintenance techniques.

“It’s a myth of climbing beta that we’ve all heard: hanging on your bones instead of engaging muscles conserves energy while resting on a climb. The fallacy of this myth is that the human body is not manufactured to function like a bag of rocks. Hanging loose puts undue stress, wear, and tear on the soft tissues that function to connect the bones in our shoulders, leading to a host of insidious injuries. The wild thing is that climbers are hanging loose even when energy conservation isn’t a concern, such as on the hangboard or pull-up bar.” – Esther Smith

Babsi Zangerl’s Shoulder Maintenance:

In working with Babsi specifically, Esther focused mainly on correcting Babsi “loose” hanging positioning.  To do so, Esther helped Babsi adopt a more engaged hanging and resting position.   Optimizing her shoulder positioning in this way helped Babsi put less stress on her non-contractile tissues and allowed her musculature to bear more of the burden of the climbing/training stresses.

Ultimately, by changing her shoulder positioning, Babsi was able to enter an intense training cycle experiencing shoulder pain and complete it no longer experiencing any discomfort.

Correcting Shoulder Positioning:

To help you correct your own shoulder positioning, Esther takes you through a series of drills that will help you understand what optimal shoulder positioning looks and feels like.  She covers optimal shoulder positioning for:

  • Everyday activities
  • When hanging (on a hangboard or pull-up bar)
  • When resting while on a route.

Each of these positions are explained with clear step-by-step instructions and photos illustrating correct and incorrect shoulder positioning.

Whether you are experiencing shoulder pain or not, do yourself a favor and click through below to give this article a read.  This is the kind of information that can really make the difference between keeping your shoulders healthy and developing serious shoulder problems.

Full Article: Hang Just Right- Shoulder Maintenance for Climbers

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(photo by Jon Glassberg of

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