If you’ve climbed for any time, you have probably seen him. Lean, mean and sculpted. Think David Hasselhoff stepping through the surf. You work extra hard just to not photo bomb his selfies for fear of making him look even better.
He throws his hair back, chalks up in what seems like slow motion, and struts up to the wall, commenting on the mountain that he climbed during spring break last year. Ten minutes later, shaking his arms and making more excuses than a politician caught in a lie, he’s toast.
What went wrong? Our friend obviously had the strength and conditioning needed to climb for hours.
He forgot to use those gorgeous abs that took so many hours to perfect.
Core is central to climbing. But just having it (and by the way, core is much more than just a six pack), will do you no good unless you use it.
Your core is actually multiple groups of muscles. They provide the ability to move in three dimensions and include most everything between your arms and legs: including upper and lower back, pelvic, abdominal, chest and many hidden muscles deep inside the body. In order to move efficiently on the rock, we must learn to incorporate them into that movement.
One way to understand what we are looking for when we climb is to imagine a line from your finger tips to your toes, with all of the muscles working together to hold your body close to the wall, similar to the way you would hold your back straight during a push-up. In doing so, you are connecting your arms and legs together in a solid stance that decreases the forces acting on your body (you might want to see my previous blog post on center of gravity).
The most obvious effect of letting your core ‘go’ when climbing is the experience of your butt slacking away from the wall. Suddenly, all of your weight is now on your hands and feet, which are desperately trying to increase grip to keep from falling.
Try this next time you come out to Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex to climb. Get on a slightly overhanging route and tighten up your back and abs as you feel the tension. Now relax them and feel the sudden increase in strength needed. Next, climb slowly, focussing on keeping those muscles engaged. At first it will take some effort, but with time and effort, it will become more ingrained and natural.
In a future blog, I will discuss exercises that help us strengthen these muscles (although I can’t promise you will develops the Hass’s bod lol). For now, just work on engaging your core. And feel free to photo bomb my selfies. You can only help this old man’s image ;). Until next time.
Climb hard and Follow Your Bliss,