How to Warm Up for Indoor Bouldering

Warmups are essential to your success as a boulderer. Or so you’ve been told at least. Podcasts, youtube videos, and blogs, all mention the importance of a good warmup.

Which let you here.

But what is a good warmup? And why the heck should you do it?

You may have been told that it reduces the risk of injury. But this is just one of the benefits of warming up. In addition, it readies you physically, technically, and mentally for your indoor bouldering session.

Most climbers do some form of a warmup, but rarely is it enough, nor does it target the right muscles, to be effective.

You are probably not warming up enough

Take it from me that even when you feel like you had a good warm-up, it likely still wasn’t adequate. There was a time – the majority of my first year of climbing – when I was convinced I was warming up properly. In reality, I was projecting climbs (read: grade chasing) while much of my body was still cold. This led to short sessions, painful arms almost as soon as I started climbing my max grade, and a high potential for injury.

I wasn’t doing enough.

I initially noticed the power of a good warmup during an indoor bouldering session where my main goal was to focus on technique. I had found myself at a bit of a plateau and noticed from footage of my limit boulders that I was muscling myself through the grades. I wasn’t prioritizing technique and instead relied on my upper body muscles to do the job. This worked until it didn’t.

Having realized my flaws, I decided to drill my technique on easy climbs. So I installed a long warmup that included stretches followed by some easy boulders on good holds and finally moving on to technical drills.

📚 Related : Complete Guide to Climbing Technique

About 3 hours later, I noticed I wasn’t tired, at all. In any other session, I would have left already. Feeling good about myself, I decided to reward myself with a couple of attempts on my current project.

It only took one try.

After warming up for 3 hours by doing technical drills on easy problems, my body was properly warmed up for maybe the first time in my climbing career. But not only that, I started my session focussing primarily on technique which led to me using technique on my project instead of trying to muscle through. And finally, I felt good about myself. I wasn’t frustrated or hard on myself. My mental was strong after that long warm-up.

Ever since then, I have been consistently including appropriate warm-up routines all of my sessions. As a result, I no longer engage in projecting with cold muscles, without executing technical drills, or in a state of weak mental readiness.

warming up in 3 stages

The following serves as the basis for my warm-up routine when climbing and bouldering. It ensures that my muscles are warmed up, my mental state is sharp, and it helps me enhance my technique during every session!

phase 1: stretches

Stretching is not just essential for increasing your flexibility, it should be done before (and especially after) a climbing session to aid in injury prevention.

Every warm-up should start with dynamic stretches. This is where you prepare your body for advanced moves such as Twisting, drop knees, and high feet.

The Climbing Doctor has a great video on dynamic stretches for during your warm-up.

Optional: warming up the fingers

Seasoned climbers, who are gearing up for demanding problems that require finger strength, should warm up their fingers on a hangboard beforehand.

Light hangboard exercises are key.

Phase 2: easy boulders

Doing circuits of easy boulders is ideal for warming up the body. Start with the easy grades at your indoor bouldering hall.

In addition, traverse walls found in commercial gyms provide an excellent opportunity to refine your movement skills. If your gym doesn’t have these, you can also make your own traverses by ignoring the set problems and using all the holds on the wall.

Slowly progress the grades but never perform any grades during your warm-up that you can’t finish without a pump.

Phase 3: technical drills

This final phase goes hand in hand with the previous phase. During this phase, you focus on refining any technique that you may be lacking. For instance, if you identify a deficiency in your ability to execute heel hooks, you should devote substantial practice time to heel hooking in your warm-up.

how much time to dedicate to warming up

To prevent injuries, climbers should allocate a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour for their warm-up routine. Although this might seem like a substantial amount of time, it is crucial to ensure adequate preparation and to minimize the risk of harm.

Viewing your warm-up as a necessary task is not ideal; rather, it should be considered an integral part of your climbing session. Moreover, warming up can serve a dual purpose by allowing you to hone your technical abilities while simultaneously preparing your body for climbing. Therefore, it is not time wasted, but rather time well spent.

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