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Mountaineering Training | Why Stretch?

Flexibility and stretching is often overlooked in mountaineering training and climbing. Keeping your muscles loose and relaxed is more efficient: relaxed muscles help you perform better, recover more quickly, and make climbing for multiple days easier. Dedicated stretching may also help you avoid overuse injuries from the volume necessitated by mountaineering training and climbing.

Lower Body
The movement in mountaineering and training can be particularly linear, especially on long approaches to climbs where we hike for several hours with little lateral movements. Stretch the main quadricep, hamstring, and calf muscles, but try to also stretch the smaller muscles, especially in the hips, to keep the joints relaxed from that repetitive motion. Be aware of your footwork during your training and when you are climbing in order to climb efficiently and not strain those small stabilizer muscles.

Upper Body
Although a properly fitted pack shouldn’t carry too heavily on the shoulders, your upper body will likely still feel the burden. Aim to keep the shoulders, back, and core muscles loose and limber. Keep in mind that tightness in the upper body often can be the result of poor climbing technique as climbers stoop or hunch their shoulders to focus attention on foot placements while climbing. In addition to compressing the chest and inhibiting full breaths, this can put unnecessary strain and on the shoulders and back. Focusing on an upright, balanced, and efficient climbing technique can help avoid tension in the upper body.

The Home Stretch”, outlined by John Colver of Adventx, outlines a good series of stretches for mountaineering to add to your standard training routine. If you have a particular area of concern, work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to help you find the best stretches to relax those areas.

Remember that developing a good stretching routine doesn’t begin and end before the climb. It is easy to let go of those routines once in the mountains, right when your body needs it the most! During your training find the stretches that work to relax your muscles and keep doing them during the climb. By loosening your muscles you will recover more quickly, sleep more comfortably, and climb better the following day!

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