I Wanna Be A Climber

How to Warm Up for Climbing and Bouldering

Why Warm Up? The Importance of a Climbing Warm-Up:

Warming up for rock climbing or bouldering prepares your body and mind for the physical demands of climbing, reduces the risk of injury, enhances flexibility, and improves overall performance. Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits:

  • Injury Prevention: Warming up properly helps reduce the risk of injuries during climbing. Engaging in physical activity without a warm-up can stress cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making them more susceptible to strains, sprains, and tears. A warm-up routine gradually increases blood flow to the muscles, making them more pliable and less prone to injury!
  • Increased Flexibility: Climbing requires a wide range of motion. If you’re a shorter climber like me, you’ll find flexibility is your friend on the wall. Warming up increases your body’s temperature, increasing muscle elasticity and joint flexibility. This allows you to move more freely and efficiently while climbing, reducing the risk of muscle strains, and improving your overall performance.
  • Improved Performance: A proper warm-up primes your body for sending. When you warm up, your heart rate and breathing gradually increase, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This prepares your muscles for the demands of climbing, improving their efficiency and power output. Additionally, a warm-up helps to activate the neural pathways between your brain and muscles, enhancing coordination and reaction times.
  • Mental Preparation: Climbing requires focus, concentration, and mental resilience. A warm-up period allows you to mentally prepare for the climb ahead. It lets you visualize your route, assess your goals, and get the right mindset. This mental preparation can boost your confidence and help you approach the climb with a clear and focused mind.

Want to improve your climbing? Warm up effectively!

I recommend you incorporate the following 5 elements into your climbing or bouldering warm up routine:

  1. Dynamic Stretches: This is the biggest tip I received about warming up for any activity. Perform dynamic stretches that mimic the movements you’ll be doing while climbing. This can include arm circles, leg swings, shoulder rotations, and trunk twists. Static stretching is an excellent cool-down after your climbing session, but dynamic stretching is a better warm-up for your muscles! 
  2. Cardiovascular Exercise: Get that heart rate up! Do light cardiovascular activities such as jogging, jump roping, or cycling to gradually raise your heart rate and increase blood flow throughout your body.
  3. Joint Mobilization: Stiff joints are a good way to get injured while climbing; you’ll want to warm these up too. Move your joints through their full range of motion to improve their mobility. This can involve wrist circles, ankle rolls, and shoulder rotations.
  4. Gradual Progression: You don’t immediately climb at your limit during a climbing session. Start with easier boulders or routes and gradually increase the difficulty as you warm up. This allows your body to adjust to the demands of climbing progressively.
  5. Mental Focus: Before each route you try, take a few moments to visualize your climb. Mapping out how you’ll climb something mentally prepares you for the challenges ahead. This can help improve your concentration and performance on the wall.

how to warm up for rock climbing, rock climbing warm up

How to Warm Up Fingers for Climbing – Techniques and Tips:

Warming up your fingers before climbing is crucial for maintaining finger strength and preventing injuries. A finger injury can set you back weeks and even months. No climber wants that! Here are some effective techniques and tips to warm up your fingers:

Finger Flexes and Extensions:

  • Extend your hand with your palm facing away, bending your wrist at a 90-degree angle with your forearm.
    Slowly curl your fingers into a fist, flexing them as much as possible.
    Gradually release your fingers back to the extended position.
    Repeat this exercise several times to warm up the finger flexor muscles and improve finger strength.

Finger Pulses:

  • Hold your hand in a neutral position with your fingers slightly extended.
    Rapidly and repeatedly flex and extend your fingers, creating a pulsing motion.
  • This exercise helps increase finger dexterity, warms up the finger tendons, and prepares them to pull your body up the wall.

Finger Stretches:

  • Perform gentle stretches to elongate the finger muscles and tendons. One effective stretch is to:
    Place your hand flat on a surface with your fingers spread wide apart.
    Gently press down on each finger, applying a light stretch.
    Hold the stretch for a few seconds before releasing.
    Repeat this with each finger, focusing on maintaining a gentle and controlled stretch.


  • Find a suitable hangboard, (you can use the bouldering wall for this, too) with various sizes of holds.
    Begin by hanging on larger holds for a few seconds.
    Gradually progress to smaller holds as your fingers warm up.
  • I start with my feet on the ground and progressively increase the duration as my fingers become more warmed up. I lift my feet off the ground once I feel any tightness disappear, furthering the warm up.

Warming Up Forearms for Climbing: Exercises and Stretches

Warming up your forearms before climbing helps enhance endurance, prevents injuries such as strains, and prepares your muscles for climbing. You’ve probably gotten ‘flash-pumped’ before, where you start climbing, and suddenly your forearms are so tight you feel like your climbing session is over just when it began. This quick buildup of lactic acid is expected in your muscles when you don’t properly warm up. To avoid this, check out these effective exercises and stretches to warm up your forearms:

Wrist Circles:

Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing down.
Slowly rotate your wrists in circular motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Perform several rotations in each direction to loosen up the muscles and joints in your forearms and wrists.

Wrist Flexion and Extension:

Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing down.
Slowly flex your wrists, bringing your fingertips toward your forearms.
Hold briefly, then extend your wrists, bringing your fingertips back.
Repeat this flexion and extension movement to warm up the muscles in your forearms and improve wrist mobility.

Forearm Stretch with Hand Extension:

Extend one arm in front of you, palm facing down.
Use your other hand to gently pull back the fingers of your outstretched hand, creating a stretch in your forearm.
Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then release.
Repeat the stretch with the other hand. This exercise targets the muscles and tendons in your forearms and helps increase flexibility.

Pronation and Supination Exercises:

Hold a lightweight dumbbell or use a resistance band.
Keeping your arm stationary, rotate your wrist inward (pronation) and outward (supination).
Perform several repetitions in each direction to warm up the muscles and tendons responsible for forearm rotation.

Reverse Wrist Curls:

Hold a light dumbbell or use a resistance band.
Rest your forearm on a flat surface, palm facing down.
Flex your wrist upward, lifting the weight or stretching the band.
Slowly lower the weight or release the band’s tension to return to the starting position.

This exercise targets the muscles on the top side of your forearms and helps improve forearm strength and endurance.

tattooed arm and chalk on fingers, learning how to rock climb

Best Climbing Warm-Up Routines for Different Climbing Styles:

There is a lot of overlap between the warm-up routines for the different climbing styles. To simplify things, I’ll first explain what you should do with ALL climbing styles, then I’ll include specific notes to do for each one.

Overall Warm-Up Routine:

Start with light cardio exercises such as jogging or cycling for 5-10 minutes to increase your heart rate and warm up your entire body.
Perform dynamic stretches for your major muscle groups, including legs, arms, and shoulders.
Gradually move to easy climbs on large holds, focusing on fluid movement and warming up your muscles.
Incorporate specific warm-up exercises for finger and forearm strength, like the ones I listed above.
Finish with a few minutes of easy climbing to reinforce movement patterns and increase muscle blood flow.

Include In a Sport Climbing Warm-Up Routine:

Progress to moderate climbs that mimic the style and difficulty level of your intended routes.

Include In a Trad Climbing Warm-Up Routine:

Pay special attention to stretching your shoulders and wrists, as trad climbing often requires reachy moves and placing gear.

Warm up on easy routes incorporating cracks and jamming techniques commonly encountered in trad climbing.

Include In a Bouldering Warm-Up Routine:

Focus on dynamic stretches that target the lower body, including hips, hamstrings, and ankles, as these areas are often engaged in bouldering.

Include dynamic movements like campus board exercises or explosive jumps to activate the fast-twitch muscles and prepare for powerful boulder moves.

how to warm up for rock climbing and bouldering, bouldering warm up, climbing warm up

Continuous Improvement: Adapting Your Warm-Up as You Progress:


It’s important to adapt and modify your warm-up routine as you get stronger to support your progress and prevent injuries. Here are some guidelines for adapting warm-up routines as you advance in climbing:

Increase Intensity: As you become more proficient in climbing, you can gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up. This can involve adding more challenging exercises, increasing the difficulty of the climbs or boulders you warm up on, and incorporating more intense finger and forearm exercises.

Specificity: Tailor your warm-up routine to the type of climbing you’re focusing on. If you are primarily sport climbing, emphasize warm-up exercises and climbs that simulate the style and movements encountered in sport routes. If you are training for bouldering, include specific warm-up exercises that target explosive power and finger strength.

Address Weaknesses: As you progress, you may identify specific weaknesses in your climbing. This one is hard because who likes to address their weaknesses? Pro climbers do! Adapt your warm-up routine to include exercises that target these weaknesses. For example, incorporate shoulder and wrist mobility exercises into your warm-up if you struggle with reaching high holds. If finger strength is an area of improvement, allocate more time for hangboard exercises.

Active Recovery: As you advance, your warm-up routine can also include elements of active recovery to promote muscle recovery and prevent overuse injuries. This may involve incorporating foam rolling, mobility exercises, or light stretching between warm-up climbs or exercises. By prioritizing recovery within your warm-up routine, you can maintain optimal performance and minimize the risk of muscle imbalances or strains.

Regular Evaluation: Continuously evaluate and assess the effectiveness of your warm-up routine. Pay attention to how your body responds during climbing sessions and adjust as needed. Be open to trying new warm-up exercises, stretches, or techniques that may better suit your evolving needs as a climber.


Scroll to Top