Climbing’s all well and good, especially for a beginner like me whose main problem previously was lack of sticktoitiveness. I’ve maintained a 1 day on / 2 days off schedule for 4 months now, except for that week in Paris. Different sports were practiced while there: wine drinking, croque madame hunting, and mussels eating. See for yourself.

However, bouldering comes with some downsides.

Climber Posture

One such downside is that dreaded hunched posture, apparently shared among populations of rock climbers, nerds and bell-tower dwellers:

The lady from Moja Gear looks particularly concerned.

It turns out that “climber posture” is actually a known phenomenon. Says Dr. Natasha Barnes,

Climber posture is when our pecs are tight and our mid-back muscles (the ones between and below our shoulder blades) are too weak to hold our shoulders back, so they round forward instead. This muscular imbalance causes the joints in the thoracic spine (mid-back) to lock up in a rigid arch in response.

Sound familiar? If you sit for a living (that is, do any kind of computer-related desk job), your posture is likely similar.

Do You Have Climber Posture?

One test is actually quite simple – stand facing away from a wall, about a foot away, and slowly back up. Note what touches first: is it just your heels and your butt? Your shoulders too? Is the back of your head? When I first did this, I was surprised to find that the back of my head didn’t touch; I really thought I was standing up straight.

Hey, look, we’re already getting somewhere! If you now bring all the bits into alignment (heels, butt, shoulders, back of head with neutral chin), that’s what actually standing up straight feels like. Try to remember that sensation, and make it a habit. Body awareness for the win!

Another test, as per Dr. Barnes, is the wall angel – seen here performed correctly on the left, wrongly on the right:

Try it yourself – your head, wrists, mid- and upper back should be touching the wall, and your lower back should not arch excessively.

Fixing Climber Posture

Now that we’ve determined that a fair amount of rock climbers as well as keyboard rockstars have poor posture, let’s see if we can’t counterbalance some of it.

Exercises

The good news is that anytime people start strength training, they usually go nuts for push exercises and ignore pull completely. Our problem is the opposite: because climbing focuses so much on pull motions for the upper body, we have to include push in our programming lest we want to become Quasimodo. Throw in some planks, push-ups, bench and overhead shoulder presses on your climbing off-days, and see how that feels.

Here’s also great video of some shorter, less-strenuous, more-specific exercises to counter that rounding.

Stretching

Now, no amount of push or other exercises is going to help if the muscles in your chest are tight. Here are a couple of techniques to help you loosen up:

Full Routine for Better Posture

Over the next week, I will come up with and share a full routine for better posture that I can reliably do on off-climbing days. I’m hoping to make it something manageable, so that it can be done in an office without inviting side-eye. Stay tuned for that!

Bonus: My First On-Video V3+!

Remember that green I fell off of in the last video? I totally got it! In reality, I actually got it last time I went, but only recorded today. Enjoy!

If that doesn’t say “shockingly graceful dismount”, I don’t know what does.

Here’s my next green project – notice how I spin myself entirely off the wall even though I got a pretty good hold with my left:

Thoughts?

How is your posture, folks? Any tips or pointers? Send’em over to sabbatical@mashakrol.com or leave me a comment below. Would love to hear from you!

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