Rock climbing – how to get started

Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
30 January 2017

I’ve been climbing for six years – both rock climbing and indoor wall climbing; it’s a very exciting and sociable hobby. As well as keeping me active, I’ve met lots of like-minded people, made many friends, and even met my husband! I love the outdoors and it has led me to some interesting places around the UK and abroad, doing some fascinating climbs.

Emma Mitchell, physiotherapist at Bupa UK, out rock climbing

Getting started

You can find out where your nearest climbing club is through the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) website. Don’t be afraid to meet them, someone will very likely take you under their wing and show you the ropes. That’s how I got started.

You can also find your nearest indoor climbing wall through the BMC. There are more and more centres opening up around the country, so there’s bound to be one or more near to you.

Emma Mitchell, physiotherapist at Bupa UK, out rock climbing 

Learn the basics

If you’re new to climbing, it’s a good idea to book in with an instructor. He or she will teach you basic techniques and rope work (for example, how to belay – holding the rope for a partner). If heights concern you, you could try bouldering – this is climbing without a rope on low walls. It’s always fun to climb with someone else, so you’re sure to meet new friends.

Emma Mitchell, physiotherapist at Bupa UK, out rock climbing 

My top practical tips

Pre-climbing warm up

To warm up, I’ve designed a dynamic stretching routine. Dynamic stretching activates the muscles you’ll be using while increasing your heart rate and the flow of blood to your muscles. This prepares your body for climbing.

1. Lunges
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
    Lunge forward making sure you land with the heel and that your front knee stays over your foot and is in line with your toes.   
  • Move straight down as far as you have control. Push through the heel and return to standing position.
  • Repeat approximately 10 times for each leg.

Pre climbing cool down by Bupa UK - lunges
2. Calf raises
  • Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart so you feel balanced. Raise yourself so you are on tip-toes.
  • Lower yourself back down and repeat approximately 20 times.

Pre climbing cool down by Bupa UK - calf raises
3. Tandem arm circles
  • Stand in tandem stance (one foot in front of the other) and raise your arms straight out in front of you with the palms facing each other and thumbs up.
  • Keep one arm in place while you make a circle with the other arm, turning your torso as well.
  • Follow your thumb with your eyes and head as your arm moves.
  • Repeat with your other arm, then switch foot position and repeat 10 times each side.

Pre climbing cool down by Bupa UK - tandem arm circles
4. Standing torso/hamstring stretch
  • Stand with feet slightly apart and arms at your sides. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and slowly roll your body down towards the floor, leading with your head and neck.
  • Bend your knees slightly to increase the stretch. Slowly, roll back up in to an upright standing position.
  • Repeat this six to eight times.

Pre climbing cool down by Bupa UK - hamstring stretch

Post-climbing cool down

And to cool down, I recommend this static stretching routine to release tight muscles after a hard climbing session. Hold the static stretches for 30 seconds, and repeat four to six times.

1. Neck side bend
  • Stand up straight and tall.
  • Without turning your head, slowly tilt your head sideways to bring your ear down towards your shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times each side.

Post climbing cool down by Bupa UK - neck side bend
2. Chest stretch
  • Stand sideways to a wall and place your palm on the wall so your outstretched arm is horizontally at a 90° angle to your body.
  • Keeping your palm on the wall, twist your torso away from the hand on the wall until you feel a stretch in your pectoral muscle.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times each side.

Post climbing cool down by Bupa UK - chest stretch
3. Wrist stretch
  • Use one hand to spread apart and straighten the fingers of the other hand and then pull your wrist back gently as far as you can.
  • Relax your hands.
  • Apply the pressure through the tips of the fingers and be sure to include the thumb. Do not apply pressure to the palm of the hand.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times each side.

Post climbing cool down by Bupa UK - wrist stretch
4. Hip and thigh stretch
  • Stand with your feet approximately three feet apart.
  • Shift your weight to the right side and allow your right knee to bend.
  • Keep the opposite knee straight to feel a stretch on the inside of your left thigh.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times each side.

Post climbing cool down by Bupa UK - hip and thigh stretch
Emma Mitchell
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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