shoulders and the sports that love them

You need shoulders to climb. Surprise. You need strong shoulders. I mean strong in the sense they will not easily injure. For the shoulder joint specifically, that means balance. Get disproportionately strong in a narrow range and you’re begging for problems. And unfortunately, there’s no dedicated group of impassioned professionals committing their careers to the study of chronic bouldering injuries. So learn from the lessons taught to athletes in other sports. For example, swimmers. If you’re not a 108574_m03swimmer, observe – they have big backs and big shoulders. That should remind you of someone. I swam in high school and continue to train in the pool now, in hopes this will benefit my general fitness in such a way my climbing may be improved. There’s a problem: while runners train a set of body parts mostly neglected by the type of movement we experience climbing, swimmers work the same. So my running and cycling friends alternate healing to a degree – while their arms are sore from yesterday’s bouldering session, they’ll hammer on their legs for a bit. Swimmers do not enjoy this same cycle. But there’s a benefit: boulderers don’t want, and swimmers don’t have, big legs. In my opinion, it works out to about equal. Personally, the scale tips toward swimming as my extracurricular activity simply because I enjoy it. I’m digressing – watch out for your shoulders. As someone who climbs and swims, I pay close attention to the condition of mine. And when it comes to advice, I look at what the swim coaches have to say. This brings me to the point of this post – I found a really good article from USA Swimming: Shoulder Injury Prevention


  1. You have a good point: no matter how thrashed my arms and hands, I can always go on a run—even a very hard run—and not notice any impact on my overrall climbing. However, I definitely don’t buy (not that you’re saying this) the belief that running doesn’t benefit climbing. It may not have a direct muscular impact on cranking, but it does help general fitness and cardiovascular burl. Which doesn’t hurt.

  2. These excercises are legit. I’ve did all of them 5 times last week and my shoulder is already feeling noticably stronger. You (and the US swim team) may be saving me $5000 of surgery and misery.

Leave a comment