Overuse injuries are a common problem in climbers. We all want to get stronger, climb every day, reach our goals, and continue progressing through the grades. However, the problem is for most of us our psyche and desire to climb outpaces our ability to recover from the stresses climbing places on our body. Add in high-intensity training exercises and you can see we have a clear recipe for overuse injuries.

To highlight the importance of rest and recovery for climbers of all ability levels, here’s an article by chiropractor and sports injury rehabilitation specialist Natasha Barnes. In it, she examines the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle and how an understanding of these concepts is central to any successful training program.

“Most of the athletes I see in my practice are climbers with finger, shoulder and elbow injuries. These injuries seem to be pervasive in the climbing community at large. Over the last few years I have begun to notice a curious underlying commonality in many of these cases, regardless of the type of injury. I’m not talking about mobility issues, posture, rotator cuff  “stability” or even poor technique. I’m talking about something a little more insidious. Something that a lot of people don’t even consider…failure to manage training stress.”

“Even if you don’t formally “train” for climbing this concept still applies to you.” – Natasha Barnes

Stress/Recovery/Adaptation Cycle and Climbing

Ultimately, the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle explains how training makes us stronger over time. The gist is training/climbing applies stress to our bodies and this stress breaks us down. Then, through rest, we recover, and our bodies adapt to the stress. This adaption is when we get stronger.

All the elements in this cycle are critical. Without the stress of training, nothing forces our bodies to adapt. However, remember training breaks us down. Without proper recovery, our bodies never have a chance to adapt and our performance will simply degrade over time. There’s no avoiding one of the elements of this cycle if you want to improve.

Click through below to read about the stress/recovery/adaption cycle in more detail. Natasha does a great job of explaining how this cycle works in a very digestible way. No matter what your climbing or training experience level, understanding this cycle is critical to improving our climbing performance and designing training programs. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this article!

Full Articles: Natasha Barnes – Stress/Recovery/Adaptation Cycles and Climbing (link no longer in service)


climbing training programs

(photo courtesy of Simon Moore and natashabarnesrehab.com)

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