The following is an excerpt from the online course 4 Weeks to Sending Fitness, taught by professional climber Madaleine Sorkin.
Climbers rely heavily on the small stabilizing muscles around the shoulders, but rarely do we train to strengthen them, especially after time off, when we often rush headlong back into training. But given how much our arms are raised above our heads when we climb, we need to pay closer attention to shoulder-injury prevention.
Here are several shoulder strengthening exercises to help you make powerful moves while minimizing your risk for injury.
I's, Y's, T's
This routine is about strengthening your upper, inner back. Choose a light weight (or use no weight at all) and transition from Is to Ys to Ts; you can do them either on a weight bench or a medicine ball, and with or without dumbbells.
Do 1–2 sets of 10–15 reps each, with your goal being an even burn on an "easy" difficulty. If it feels hard, then the weights are too heavy.
There are three variations to focus on: external, internal, and elevated rotations. They're all designed to keep your shoulders strong and happy.
Start with an easy band and slowly work up.* You're aiming for an even burn in your shoulders after the last set.
*If your band is too heavy, you're targeting the wrong muscles.
Do 1–2 sets of 10–15 reps each of the external rotation, internal rotation, and elevated shoulder rotation, with your goal being an even burn on an "easy" difficulty. If it feels hard, then use a less resistant band (or no band at all).
Stand sideways to the wall and grasp the band with your "outer" arm (the one away from the wall). Keep your elbow close to your body, and bring the band across your body, rotating the shoulder outward.
Stand sideways to the wall and grasp the band with your "inner" arm (the one closest to the wall). Keep your elbow close to your body, and bring the band across your stomach, rotating the shoulder inward.
Elevated Shoulder Rotation
Stand in place and raise both arms into a goalpost formation alongside your head. Bring the arms forward parallel to the floor, rotating at the shoulder joints, and then return them to goalposts.
With a band
Do one arm at a time, facing the wall and grasping the band in your hand. Do 5–7 reps on each arm, keeping the other arm by your side.