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10 Warm Up and Cool Down Stretches for Climbers

Heidi Wirtz describes how to use stretches to warm up for and recover from a climbing session.


Heidi Wirtz meditating
Climbing’s Yoga for Climbers instructor Heidi Wirtz practices yoga before and after climbing.Ryan Dionne

A formula for a great climbing day: a good night’s rest, plenty of snacks and water, and supportive friends. But pro climber and yoga teacher Heidi Wirtz, the instructor for Climbing’s Yoga for Climbers online course, thinks we should also add stretching and asana. Here, she walks us through her routine, which includes dynamic movements to warm up and longer poses to recover.

The Warm-Up: Dynamic Stretches

These quick movements warm up the body in a “healthy way,” without straining your muscles by moving you into deeper stretches too early on. “It takes your body quickly through the range of movement that you’re going to be doing out on the rocks,” says Wirtz. She adds that dynamic stretches stimulate blood flow to muscles, tendons, and ligaments—a key to injury prevention. Before you start climbing, Wirtz recommends you run through a few of these exercises:

5 Dynamic Stretches for Climbers

dynamic stretch kick foot to hand

Standing up, with arms straight out in front your body, kick one foot to meet the opposite hand, and alternate.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

dynamic stretch swinging arms

Swing your arms back so your elbows move toward level with your shoulders, and then swing them out in front, back and forth.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

dynamic stretch cactus arms

From a standing position, cactus your arms: bring them straight out to the side, elbows level with the shoulders and bent to 90 degrees, with your hands up and facing forward. Now let your hands fall forward while keeping your elbows high, then rotate them back to their starting position.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

dynamic stretch kick heel to hand

While standing, kick your heel up toward your opposite hand in front of you, and alternate. Then, try this same motion behind you.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

dynamic finger stretch

Flick your fingers, as if drying them off.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

The Cool-Down: Long, Restorative Poses

Save these stretches for the end of a gym session or day out cragging. Restorative stretches, as the name implies, help muscles recover. They also improve flexibility. For climbers, Wirtz says some of the important areas to focus on are the chest, back, hips, hamstrings, and forearms. Here are some poses that focus on climbing muscles:

5 Cool-Down Stretches for Rock Climbers

forearm stretch on wall

Stretch your fingers and forearms on the climbing wall by pressing your palm against the wall while standing, with fingers down. Try it with fingers up, too.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

chest opener stretch

Lie on your back, with a rolled-up blanket, block, or climbing helmet under you in the middle of your back. Let your arms fall to your sides to open your chest muscles.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

forward fold stretch

From a seated position, extend one leg and then cross your other ankle over the extended leg’s knee; fold forward to stretch the hips.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

twist stretch

Lie on your back and let your knees fall to one side for a spinal twist, then rotate to the other side. To intensify, have one leg straight, bend the other with the foot flat on the ground, then pull the bent leg across the straightened leg. Aim to keep your other arm and shoulder on the ground.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

reclined hero pose

On your back, lie with your knees bent and your feet back toward your hips to stretch your quads—a Reclined Hero Pose. If this is too intense for you or if you feel pain in your knees, use a block or blanket under the back to decrease the intensity. Or, try doing the pose with one leg back at a time.

Photo: Ula Chrobak

A solid stretching routine helps climbers warm up, get flexible, stay focused on the wall, and recover, says Wirtz. It should be an integral part of every climbing day.

Ready to add yoga to your routine? Join Wirtz in her Yoga for Climbers online course, and learn how yoga can benefit you—both on and off the rock.

Special thanks to Caroline Moonie for demonstrating these stretches. View more of Caroline’s modeling work on her Instagram account: @carolinemoonie