Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


What's the best way to train for a sports climbing competition? Right now, I lift weights and just practice my climbing speed. But maybe I should be doing something more specific.


Sport climbing refers to climbing up or down artificial walls and natural rock faces. There are preplaced outcroppings on the walls called anchors. The climber uses them to get a handhold or foothold during the climb. The climber is secured by a rope above. If he or she falls, the rope stops them. You may have seen some of these walls at parks, schools, or in gyms. Sport climbing is one of the new activities known to result in shoulder injuries from overuse. This form of exercise is very demanding on the shoulder muscles. Training is important to improve climbing performance and to prevent injuries. But studies are very limited in this area. We really don't have evidence-based research to suggest training guidelines yet. There is one study from Hong Kong comparing shoulder muscle strength and function between climbers and nonclimbers. They specifically tested the shoulder flexors and extensors and found that both groups of muscles were stronger in the climbing group. But the extensors were twice as strong as the flexors. It's not clear if this ratio is needed for smooth, coordinated climbing. Or if climbers should train to match this type of strength ratio. Climbers must be able to recover from sudden falls without injury. It is especially important to avoid injury of the shoulder muscles that are needed for climbing movements. The authors of the Hong Kong report suggest that further study is needed to understand the scale of muscular imbalance on shoulder function during sports climbing before a successful and specific training protocol can be developed. Emmy K. L. Wong, PT, MSc, and Gabriel Y. F. NG, PT, PhD. Isokinetic Work Profile of Shoulder Flexors and Extensors in Sports Climbers and Nonclimbers. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. September 2008.Vol.38. No. 9. Pp.572-577.

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