Beginner Climber Outdoor

Injury Prevention for Intermediate Climbers

Recovery is not a race. You don’t have to feel guilty if it takes longer than you thought it would.

Common Injuries

Know your body type and climb style.

Taller Climbers

  • Great at endurance slabs. Advantaged with those long reaches, these climbers have to grasp fewer holds. Long climbs are made much shorter when you need to use fewer handholds.
  • May struggle to develop power, aka “force” in below photos, because of those long levers.
    Prone to injuries involving joint instability, these folks generally need to work more on trunk strength to keep spine, shoulders, and knees happy.
  • Unless they grew up with a background in gymnastics, dance, or climbing, longer limbs can be less flexible. Shoulder and hip range of motion should be checked regularly.


Shorter Climbers

  • Balance and flexibility are strengths for this body type. They easily scrunch and perch for rests. Will also excel at making reaches with legs vs hands.
  • Tendency to very strong core strength.
  • May need to work on hang boards and finger strength. Shorter reaches mean more hand holds.

Muscular Climbers

  • Obviously, this climber can pull up most problems. Overhangs and powerful, short boulder problems look easy for these athletes. If they can grasp a hold, they can pull up on it. Endurance is not their friend.
  • There are actually a few downsides to hypertrophy. Firstly, they have a tendency to work on bulk, which can make muscles shorten if they aren’t careful to train through FULL range of motion with movements. This can leave them with less flexibility. Secondly, they are strong enough that they may not focus on technique, therefore plateauing on technical routes.
  • Prone to upper body injuries from lack of technical skill.

Thinner Climbers

  • Can crimp all damn day! It is not however, the “ideal” body for climbing. HINT: there isn’t one. Embrace what you have and work on health.  Of course, low body mass is an advantage when fighting gravity.  These folks may struggle with generating power for big moves and overhangs.


Think about ways of incorporating stretches into your workday. Each one only takes a minute.  It’s better for your mind and body to take these breaks at work, and it helps cut down the amount of time at the gym.

More range of motion available, means a longer muscle from which to recruit strength! Healthy motion means more strength, not just more functional, healthy tissue. Strength and flexibility DO NOT compete with each other!  To have one is not to sacrifice the other. We need both for optimal movement as athletes. Your strength work should not be limited to mid-range motion although this is where we are strong-EST. Go full length to fully recruit your muscles. I love incorporating eccentrics when starting to recruit longer lifts. This helps develop and repair tendon tissue more quickly.  It’s also a great way to may strength gains.

The beginners section covered hip and shoulder mobility. The advanced section will cover hands and feet.  This section is the most important for athletes. Protect the spine above all else to maintain happy extremities and mitigate pain.

Thoracic Spine Self-Assessment:

  1. Stand with your upper back against the wall. Make sure heels, hips, and the back (not top) of your head are pressed back.  It helps if someone watches you do this to make sure your head isn’t tipped back, and your eyes and nose face directly forward. Your lumbar and cervical spine should gently curve away from the wall. This is normal.
  2. Try to stand with the back of your shoulders touching the wall. Can you keep your shoulders down and back against the wall as you slowly reach forward?  Can you keep neutral spine as you make a “snow angel” against the wall?
  3.  From your hands and knees, sit on your feet and place your  fingers behind your neck to keep it from moving
  4. Then place one elbow between your knees. Keep your hips down to prevent lumbar from moving.
  5. Next, try to rotate the other elbow toward the ceiling.  You should be able to have elbows facing opposite directions at a 180 degree angle from the floor (perpendicular).

Modification:  If this is too difficult, and your range of motion doesn’t allow this start position,

  1. Start with hands and knees again, but this time, stay square with shoulders over hands and hips over knees.
  2. Now try reaching through with one hand and resting the outside of your shoulder on the floor.

Note where the stretch is coming from. Your target is your mid-back. Try to find the space between you shoulder blades and make the rotation come from there, while stabilizing your neck & lumbar spine (don’t let the rotation come from those spots.).

Cervical and lumbar spine are complex. Seek a rehab professional or Athletic Trainer (not personal trainer) to help you screen theses crucial areas.

Balance & Joint Stability

My dentist says floss only the teeth you want to keep. I say strengthen only the joints you want to keep. Balance is a great way to kick in those tiny joint stabilizing muscles. We should all be able to stand on one foot and brush our teeth with eyes closed. Sounds easy?  Great! Then you should always be able to put your climbing shoes on and take them off while standing on the pads at the gym.

Watch your foot as your stand on a BOSU or any unstable object . All of those tiny twitches are muscles firing to keep you upright and your joints safe. This is happening from your foot to knee to hip to spine. The more challenging a position is, the more we use our core to keep balanced. If you have an injury and are unable to lift heavy, no worries… Use balance as a way of making an exercise more difficult without overloading an at-risk-joint. It’s where most rehab programs start. 

Remember, we are talking injury prevention here.  If you do have an injury, ask a rehab profession where to start and if it’s safe for your body yet. 


According to James Krieger, MS & Sports Nutrition Specialist, High density “energy” foods=dopamine release.  7 peanut butter cups have the same volume as an apple. Can you guess the nutritional contents of each? Guess the caloric value? Our bodies will choose the high density calorie food versus the nutritional volume when we want/need quick blood sugar. The dopamine response is the part of your brain that is saying “OMG, I REALLY want peanut butter cups right now!”


What does 100 calories look like?

Just a note, even the way we measure a calorie has recently changed.  Just use this as a general guide to learn the fuel value of certain snacks & foods.

  • 1 piece or 1 c of most fruits
  • 2 medium kiwis
  • 1 med red pepper
  • Kale chips:2/3c raw kale baked + t olive oil at 400*
  • ½ med baked potato + t  fat free dressing, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 3oz or 4T fat free feta or blue cheese
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 2.5 T hummus
  • 1 very large hard boiled egg
  • 1/3 med avocado
  • White bean salad: 1/3 c white beans, squeeze of lemon juice, ¼ c diced tomatoes, 4 cucumber slices
  • 1/3 c wasabi peas
  • 1T avocado on a whole grain cracker, add salt & balsamic vinegar
  • ½ c nonfat cottage cheese + 1/2c fresh mango & pineapple
  • ½ c blueberries + ½ c fat free yogurt
  • Chickpea Salad: ¼ chickpeas, 1T scallions, squeeze of lemon, ¼ c diced tomatoes
  • 2 small figs, stuffed with reduced fat ricotta & cinnamon (bake it!)
  • As much celery as you can eat
  • 1 celery stalk has about 6-10 cals
  • 1 c lettuce & 2 T fat free yogurt or dressing
  • 1 hard-boiled egg + 1/2c snap peas
  • ½ c raisin bran
  • 1 c cooked oats
  • 1 c spinach + ½ c sliced strawberries + 1T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 rice cake with 1 T peanut butter
  • 1 c chopped kale + 1 t honey + 1 T balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • ½ c canned crabmeat
  • 1 c grape tomatoes  + 6 wheat crackers
  • 3 oz cooked or smoked fish
  • 1 non fat mozzarella cheese stick + ½ med apple
  • 3 t peanut butter
  • 2 c watermelon chunks
  • 1 tomato, diced with 1 T fat free feta & a squeeze of lemon
  • 3 dried apricots & 1 T fat free  blue cheese
  • ½ c salsa + 5 tortilla chips
  • 4 slices of smoked turkey with 2 t mustard
  • ½ c nonfat Greek yogurt + 1 t honey & cinnamon
  • 1 med baked tomato with 2 t parmesan cheese
  • 1 c raspberries + 2 T plain fat free yogurt
  • 1 med baked apple with cinnamon
  • ½ a frozen banana dipped in  ½ oz melted dark chocolate
  • ½ English muffin + 2 T cottage cheese + 3 cucumber slices
  • 1 small scoop of low fat frozen yogurt
  • ¼ c black beans + 1 T salsa+ 1 T non fat Greek yogurt
  • 9-10 black olives
  • ½ c cooked quinoa
  • 3 T granola
  • 2 slices of pineapple
  • 1 large carrot
  • 25 oil roasted peanuts
  • 2 oz cooked or smoked salmon
  • 1.5 c puffed rice
  • 3 ox canned tune (water packed0
  • 2/3 oz dark chocolate
  • .75 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 nectarine
  • 4 dates
  • 3 fresh figs
  • 4 lg cooked scallops
  • 6 oysters
  • 2 T pumpkin seeds
  • 2 small peaches
  • 1 c strawberries
  • 30 grapes
  • Dunk 1 slice of whole wheat toast into ½ c applesauce
  • 1 c radishes
  • 17 pecans
  • 2 oz lean roast beef
  • 8 small shrimp + 3T cocktail shrimp
  • 10 cashews
  • 1 c cherries
  • 20 grapes + 15 peanuts
  • 2 T sunflower seeds
  • 1 c zucchini


Looking to keep yourself accountable as you work on progressing in your climbing? Contact us at ATHENA where we specialize in injury prevention, massage therapy, strength training, climbing assessments, core training, and sports nutrition. And be sure to follow us on social media at Athena_massage. 

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