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Climbing / School / Stretches Lower Body
Stretches Lower Body
Generally when climbing, unlike the upper body the lower body isn’t worked so hard physically therefore it isn’t necessary to stretch the lower body with aiding recovery and warming down in mind. However in climbing, the lower body is required to make a huge range of weird movements and hold different positions, therefore it is important that flexibility is worked within this area to achieve a wide range of movement.
Here are some exercises that I use on a daily basis to improve my flexibility.
1. Calf Muscles
The calves are probably one of the most used leg muscles in climbing, especially in slab climbing since a lot of your body weight is transferred through this muscle. To help prevent stiffness and muscle cramps when on long and difficult slab climbs it is important to stay subtle in this area.
For this muscle I place the front 3rd of one foot on a step or curb and the other foot fully on top of the curb. I then lean back gently transferring weight onto the foot which is only partially on the curb causing my heel to go down and my toes to stay still. Move your weight down until a stretch is felt in the calf area, and then hold this position.
The Hamstrings flexibility is tested a lot when you are doing high steps or rock-overs. To improve flexibility in this area there are two simple exercises. First of all with legs generally at shoulder width apart although they can and should be placed at several different widths.
With a small bend in the knees gently lean forward attempting to touch the floor without bending the knees any more and being careful not to put any added pressure on your back, keep leaning until a stretch is felt in the hamstring area on both legs, hold this position.
Alternatively it is possible to cross your legs first before starting this stretch, doing this will tend to stretch the outside of the hamstrings a bit more and is a worthwhile exercise in its own right
Whilst standing up straight preferably holding onto something, keep the upper part of your leg straight and bend your knee so that your foot is touching or near to your backside. Take hold of your foot, but don’t pull, instead push your knee backwards until a stretch is felt in the quad area, hold this position.
4. Groin (inner Hamstrings)
Whilst sitting on the floor upright, place the soles of your feet together and bring your feet in as close into your body as possible, at this point unless you are very flexible your knees will be off the ground. Place your hands on your ankles and with your elbows push down your knees until a stretch is felt within the groin area. It is important that you remain sitting upright rather than slouching backwards.
5. Inside leg
For this exercise I like to sit on the floor and open my legs as far apart as possible, then place a hand on each foot and keeping your legs spread out lean forward until a stretch is felt on the inside of your leg.
If possible this can be done with a stretching partner and will achieve better results. Get your partner to place their feet on the inside of your legs, around the ankle area and then take hold of your hands. Your partner should gently push your legs apart with their legs and pull onto you arms to keep you sitting upright, this will cause stretching to be felt on the inside leg. It is important that you communicate well with your partner on this exercise to avoid over stretching.
This for me is one of the most important exercises when working on flexibility since it’s almost an exact replica of movements you will do during climbing. It will also strengthen the muscles which are required to lift your legs in to the certain positions.
I usually do these exercises on a bouldering wall but it is possible to improvise and do them in your home or work place.
I take two good handholds at around chest height then stand my whole body as close to the wall as possible, being sure to keep my hips and bum close to the wall. I then lift one of my legs up and attempt to gently place my foot onto a selected foothold off to one side. I will use a whole variety of footholds for this exercise, some very high and some low but always as far away as I can reach.
The idea is to try to replicate a climbing movement. It is also important that you keep you hips into the wall and don’t lean out and that you place your foot slowly in a controlled manner on the chosen holds. It is no use wildly kicking your foot around the wall.
Try to do at least three or four different foot placements for each leg and repeat each placement at least twice.
This in my opinion is a very good exercise for anyone wanting to improve climbing specific flexibility.