Pilates for Climbing

The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite CA Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Pilates. Its not just for dancers and movie stars — it’s for climbers. For 60 years Pilates has proven itself as a superior method of cross training for athletes. As a climber, have you ever wished you were taller to make a big reach, or more flexible for a high step? Not only does Pilates make tall moves, high steps, and rock-overs easier, it improves your core strength and balance. In addition, Pilates helps keep your shoulders and elbows healthy and strong.

To effectively implement Pilates into your training for climbing, please check out my book: Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete , Fulcrum 2007.

Here are three reasons why you should do Pilates:

  1. To improve your flexibility
  2. To balance your muscles
  3. To avoid common Injuries

Heather Reynolds Sagar, author of Climbing your Best, says:

“I currently teach a stretch class that features a number of Pilates moves, specifically for climbers at my gym. Ultimately, my feeling is that the concepts illustrated with Pilates movements are very comparable to climbing movements where you are learning to work with resistance at extension through your core, shoulders and legs. In addition, breathing is a key factor in both disciplines, and absolutely necessary for success.”

Muscles imbalance and lack of flexibility are the primary culprits responsible for climber injuries to the shoulders and elbows. The harder you climb, the greater the stress on your body and the more at risk you become for injury. By dedicating 15 minutes a day, three times a week to the following exercises you’ll be on your way to climbing harder and avoiding injury.

  1. The Roll Up: 5x
    Purpose: Stretches the hamstrings & lats, while strengthening the core.Lie on your back w/your feet flexed and arms over head. Draw your stomach flat. Bring your arms upward, lift your head to look at your feet and curl up one vertebra while reaching for your toes.

    The Roll Up The Roll Up
  2. Single Leg Stretch: 10x
    Purpose: To increase abdominal strength and to stretch the low back.Curling up to the shoulder blades, extend one leg long and pull the other to your chest. Place outside hand on ankle and inside hand below knee cap. Alternate stretching and hugging each leg to your chest. Keep your legs parallel and draw your navel to the spine.

    Single Leg Stretch Single Leg Stretch
  3. Double Leg Stretch: 5x
    Purpose: To increase abdominal strength.Curling up to the shoulder blades, hug both knees to your chest. Drawing your abdominals tight, reach your arms and legs out and make the shape of a hammock. Sweep your arms around and hug your knees to your chest. Inhale to extend, exhale to hug.

    Double Leg Stretch Double Leg Stretch
  4. The Scissors: 20x
    Purpose: To stretch the hamstrings and increase core strength.Extend one leg long and lift the other with your hands behind your calf. Curl up to the base of your shoulder blades and draw your stomach flat. Alternate scissoring your legs. Exhale to pull, inhale to switch.

    The Scissors The Scissors
  5. The Crisscross: 20x
    Purpose: Improves twisting for cross thru moves and core strength.Placing hands behind head curl up to the base of your shoulders and draw your stomach flat. Cross elbow to opposite knee and reach opposite leg long. Twist your rib cage and look to the side. Exhale to twist, inhale pass through center.

    The Crisscross The Crisscross
  6. The Swan to Child’s Pose: 5x
    Purpose: To open the chest and draw the shoulders back and down.Place your palms flat on floor with elbows near your ribs. Inhale and press up drawing your shoulder blades down and lift your sternum. Engage your gluteus muscles to support your low back. End set with Child’s Pose stretch.

    The Swan The Swan
  7. LEG PULL UPS: 5x each side.
    Purpose: Strengthen the shoulders and core muscles, and open the chest.Extend one leg up while keeping the sternum lifted and shoulder blades down. Keep your hips square. Repeat on the other leg.

    Leg Pull Up Leg Pull Up
  8. Swimming: 50x
    Purpose: To strengthen the back, gluteus muscles and hamstrings.Lie on your stomach and reach opposite arm and leg in a paddling motion. Keep your hips still while lifting your sternum and drawing your shoulder blades down your back. Inhale for five counts, exhale for five counts until your reach 50.

    Swimming Swimming
  9. The Saw: 5x each side
    Purpose: Increase hamstring and torso flexibility.Legs shoulder width and feet flexed. Arms out to sides in blades. Twist rib cage and bend forward sawing pinkie finger past pinkie toe. Keep opposite sit bone down. Inhale center, exhale to saw.

    The Saw The Saw
  10. The Seal: 5x
    Purpose: To stretch the back and hips.Grapevine the hands between the legs and grab the ankles. Round the spine and clap feet together 3x. Roll back onto shoulders, balance and clap feet together again 3x. Roll up and repeat. Inhale back, exhale up.

    The Seal The Seal

Tip: A camping mat works well for a Pilates mat.

Lauri frequently teaches Pilates for climbers at Denver’s premiere rock gym: Rock’n & Jam’n. For more information, please visit www.rocknandjamn.com or call 303-254-6299

For more great training tips for climbing, visit: TrainingForClimbing.com.

My method develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong posture, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.