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Helping Climbers from the Ground Up

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Helping Climbers from the Ground Up

By Ross Bodine, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT

As with any repetitive activity, climbing takes its toll on a body – hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders especially. Improper movement patterns contribute to that toll in big ways. Underdeveloped or underutilized scapular stabilizers (trapezius and serratus anterior) and shoulder stabilizers (rotator cuff) cause the lats to overwork as they try to power you up the rock by any means necessary.

Physical Therapy’s typical tests give me clues about how things will go when you’re on a wall, but they won’t give me the whole picture. This is especially true if poor body position causes unnecessary upper extremity loading. Video analysis is a step up, and prevalent these days, but it’s still tough to capture the proper angle on a troublesome move or help you make changes in real time. Obviously, the best way to diagnose movement problems is by actually watching you climb. Duh. So…. ALTA is proud to announce our latest new toy – an adjustable and symmetrical climbing wall right in the clinic!

With the Grasshopper Board we can easily find those pesky movement asymmetries and help you get past them. Many climbers are amazed at how difficult the same move can be going in the opposite direction (I personally struggle with keeping my right foot on the wall). The board is also adjustable from a 10 to a 60-degree overhang. I can easily change the degree of difficulty, and see where things start to unravel.

As an added bonus: Grasshopper was also recently announced as the official adjustable training board of the US National Climbing Team. Check out Climbing Magazine’s article on how the Grasshopper Board serves as the ultimate training tool.

The most common, and easily correctable mechanical deficit occurs when the elbow moves too far from the wall, or raises too high during a Gaston. This simple aberrant motion disengages the core, and puts a lot of stress on the shoulder stabilizers. You can see that in this picture. The right shoulder is close to the wall which pushes the left shoulder away – actually shortening her reach. The right elbow is drifting away from the wall, and her hips drift right – all putting extra stress on the right shoulder. If she were to pull her right elbow down and almost rest it on the wall, she would be able to rock up and over her left foot. It’s all about moving your body on the wall, not pulling yourself up the wall.

Doing this: pulling the elbow straight down from the hold, and pulling the bottom corner of your scapula up toward your elbow – you should feel your chest lift up, essentially pushing yourself into a mini front-lever. You’ll feel your core engage, and your feet push down into the holds.

This is just one of many issues that can keep you from reaching new heights. I am all about keeping you healthy and climbing for years. To get an expert eye on you while you try out our new wall, make an appointment with me.
We at ALTA are quite excited to explore the many other possibilities this wall has to offer the recovering climber. Come see us. We have a few ideas.
Ross with a future climber – his daughter!

About The Author: Ross Bodine, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, is our resident expert in rock climbing and climbing injuries. He brings to the forefront a deep understanding of the unique movement requirements of climbing. He draws from a wide base of knowledge he gained during his physical therapy fellowship focusing on orthopedics, manual techniques, and the movement system, as well as his own experiences as a climber for 12+ years.

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