3 Basic Stretches for Bouldering

Stretching is an important foundation for bouldering or any other physical activity. Bouldering requires the limbs and joints to be bent and stretched constantly as you work through the route.

It takes only a few minutes to stretch and with consistency, the results of stretching can become apparent quickly.

These are three stretches that will help improve and recover your muscles for bouldering.

Why Stretching for Bouldering is Important

Climbers want to be able to have mobility and strength to be successful. Along with fine technique to navigate a climbing route, muscle power is crucial as well. This places a lot of stress on the various arm and leg muscles used.

Stretching can increase your range of motion in your arms and legs. It conditions the muscles and tendons to withstand force and stress applied. Post-exercise stretching can even aid in workout recovery.

Seated Shoulder Stretch

This variation of the shoulder stretch helps to open the shoulders.

How to do it

Sit cross-legged in a comfortable position. Join your hands together behind your back with your palms up. Your intertwining hands should be next to your tailbone. With your back fully straight, bend forward so your chest is on top of your legs. At the same time, lift your arms upward.

Stretched Muscles:

  • Trapezius (Neck)
  • Deltoids (Shoulders)
  • Triceps (Back Upper Arm)

Why is it important for bouldering?

Stiff shoulder joints will do you no good in bouldering. You want your shoulders to be able to handle a full range of motion to help improve your technique and success in climbing.

This stretch works to increase the mobility of the shoulders which is important when reaching for holds in any direction. It also helps prevents the shoulders from becoming stiff and sore afterward.

Downward Facing Dog

This is a classic yoga stretch that can overall strengthen and stretch your shoulders, back, and legs.

How to do it

Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Spread your fingers apart and balance your weight evenly through your hands. Lift your knees off the floor and slowly straighten your legs. Do not lock your knees. Lift your elbows from the floor and slowly straighten them. Relax your shoulder blades. Your body should look like an upside-down V. If you can, lower your heels to the ground. While holding this stretch, you can alternate bending and straightening one leg at a time.

Stretched Muscles:

  • Deltoids (Shoulder)
  • Latissimus Dorsi (Back)
  • Hamstrings (Upper Back Leg)
  • Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
  • Gastrocnemius (Calf)
  • Quadriceps (Upper Front Leg)

Why is it important for bouldering?

Leg muscles are often overlooked in bouldering, with the majority of people assuming that climbing only requires arm strength.

Stretching key muscles like the hamstrings and the calves will greatly improve endurance on more difficult climbs. It can also prevent stiffness and injury to the shoulders and back.

Triangle Pose

This is another well-known yoga stretch that opens the hips and side body.

How to do it

From a standing position, move one foot forward about 4 feet and point it straight in front of you. Rotate the other foot to point horizontally outward. Lift your arms up to a T, with one arm in front and the other arm behind, and keep your palms facing down. Reach the front arm forward and then down to your foot. The arm behind should be straight and reaching up to the sky. Turn your neck to face upward. This should twist your torso and stretch the side of your body. Do this stretch for the other side.

Stretched Muscles:

  • Triceps (Upper Back Arm)
  • Obliques (Side Abdominals)
  • Gluteus Medius (Butt)
  • Sartorius (Hips)

Why is it important for bouldering?

For many beginner climbers, it is tempting to climb with all your limbs close to your body, as if you were on a ladder. This leads to cramps, muscle soreness and exhaustion before you finish the route.

Loosening up and practicing this stretch can help you learn to open your body more when you climb.
It allows you to reach further to grab more difficult holds, as well as shifting your bodyweight to take the stress off of your limbs.

Summary

Bouldering can place a lot more stress on your body then you think. It’s a sport that utilizes not only the arms, but the whole body.

Stretching consistently before and after workouts can help increase the flexibility of all the muscles you need for climbing.

Whether you are a beginner or expert at bouldering, stretching is crucial to minimizing soreness and injury, as well as giving you the extra bit of reach and strength in a climb.

How to Squat for Roller Derby

Roller derby is a sport that demands a lot from the legs. Ask any roller derby player which exercise is key to improving your game and they’re likely to say, “Squats.”

This exercise is great, not only because it makes your glutes look fantastic, but because it works to strengthen most of the muscles in your lower body.

Squats are an easy exercise that can be done with or without weights and varied to increase intensity and target specific leg muscles.

We’ll talk about the basic squat and two variations fit for roller derby.

How to do the Basic Squat:

Stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest facing forward and lower your hips while bending your knees in the same movement you would sit in a chair. You should have your thighs parallel or lower to the ground.

Quick Tips:

  • You should not be bending forward in a bowing motion–keep a neutral back and face forward.
  • Clasp your hands together in front of your chest to help keep your chest up during the squat.
  • Sit back on your squat so your bent knees don’t go past your toes.

Feel free to add a barbell or dumbbells to make the basic squat more of a challenge.

Recommended rep ranges: 2 or 3 sets of 15

Squat Variations for Roller Derby

The two squat variations that would be beneficial to roller derby are one-legged skater squats and squat jumps.

Skater Squats

As the name suggests, this variation of the squat focuses on the strength and balance of the legs during a skater’s stride.

How to do a Skater Squat:

Balance on one leg and bend the knee of the other leg about 90 degrees behind you. Focus your bodyweight on the heel of the straight leg. While leaning forward a bit, lower your hips and bend the balance leg. You can bend as low as you are able to and return to the start position. A thick pad or BOSU Balance Trainer can be used to lower your bent leg onto during the squat.

Recommended rep ranges: 2 sets of 10 on each leg

Useful Video for Skater Squats:

Squat Jumps

This is a basic squat that includes a jump to improve muscle endurance after several repetitions.

How to do a Squat Jump:

Begin with the basic squat. Once you are in the lowered position with your knees bent, tighten your core
muscle and use your legs to push off into a jump. Maintain good squat form when you land and lower your body back into the start position.

Recommended rep ranges: 3 sets of 10

Useful Video for Squat Jumps:

The Benefits of Squats for Roller Derby

Your skating form will improve, allowing you to skate faster. The roller derby lingo “get into derby stance” refers to lowering the body’s center of gravity to balance and maximize speed when skating. It’s basically doing a squat. The lower your “derby stance” or squat, the better you will do overall.

You will build core strength at the same time. When you lower yourself into any kind of squat, you engage your cores muscles as well. Having a strong core is crucial to balance recovery in roller derby. It allows you to absorb hits and maintain your position without falling over.

It will give you confidence when performing quick moves. Most roller derby moves are based on stability and power. Squats can help build up that explosive power you need to shoulder check someone in a game. Spinning around opponents is easy and natural when you are confident you won’t fall because your squats keep you low and stable.

Summary

The main parts of our body that we use to maintain balance and stability are our core and legs. Squats target both of these areas. In roller derby, the last thing you want to do as a player is fall over.

That’s why building up the strength, balance, and power through squats will greatly improve your overall technique and form when playing roller derby.

Smolov Jr for Bench Press

One of the main goals for any guy training in the gym is typically improving their bench press. It’s an exercise most people can do and uses most of your upper body.

Many people see their bench press one of the main standards for overall strength in the gym. They’re not wrong. Bench Press is one of three ‘big lifts’ in powerlifting and the only one that focuses purely on your upper body strength.

There are many methods for improving your bench press but by far one of the most effective is the Smolov Jr bench press program.

What is Smolov Jr?

The name Smolov comes from Sergey Smolov, who is known as the ‘Russian Master of Sports’. He designed the original Smolov Squat Routine which is a popular 13 week exercise program among powerlifters. It focuses purely on building your squat.

Smolov Jr is not for your squat. It is a reduced version of Smolov’s routine adapted to support and improve your bench press. Unlike the original program, Smolov Jr is much shorter than the original routine and runs for just 3 weeks – not 13.

It is very effective and used by many powerlifters, using it to peak their lifts just before a competition. Some have even claimed it to put upwards of 35 lbs (15 kilograms) on their bench press over this 3 week routine during their first run.

How does the routine break down?

It’s nothing fancy, it’s just bench press, and a hell of a lot of it. With Smolov Jr, you really need to organize yourself as you’ll be benching heavy 4 times a week.

To really sink in how intense this routine is: you’ll sometimes be benching heavy two days in a row.

For this routine you will need:

  • To know your 1 Rep Max – what your heaviest lift is on bench press with good form.
  • Lots of willpower.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Week
1st Day – 6 x 6
2nd Day – 7 x 5
3rd Day – 8 x 4
4th Day – 10 x 3
1
70% of 1RM
75% of 1RM
80% of 1RM
85% of 1RM
2
70% + 5 to 10lbs
75% + 5 to 10lbs
80% + 5 to 10lbs
85% + 5 to 10lbs
3
70% + 10 to 20lbs
75% + 10 to 20lbs
80% + 10 to 20lbs
85% + 10 to 20lbs

Really simple to understand, a lot harder to execute. It is absolutely brutal. Typically you want to run this every other day. Day 1 usually comes the day after a Day 4.

It is not recommended that you do any other form of training when it comes to your chest while running Smolov Jr. All your energy in that department will be needed for benching.

The Benefits of Running Smolov Jr

You’ll get stronger. But that’s obvious, there’s multiple other benefits from hitting Smolov Jr.

You’ll get better form benching, very quickly. Especially if you’re training for a competition and keeping an eye on your form. Your gym sessions will revolve around your bench, it becomes the main focus of your workouts and in doing so, you correct yourself a lot more. You’ll learn a lot and your form will vastly improve.

Doing most of the reps with an arched back, ass on the bench, and bar pausing on your chest will significantly boost your overall performance.

Another way this program helps you is with your confidence under the bench. Many people get nervous when they’re about to attempt a heavy weight under the bench, however you’ll become so used to it, it’ll become less intimidating.

This is great for breaking through mental barriers, especially if you have a habit of developing plateaus.

It can really bring your passion back into lifting. If you feel your gym sessions have become stale, running Smolov Jr. is a great way to spice things up. You’ll see a lot of progress in a short period of time, and in doing so, you’ll look forward to each session and watching it all develop.

Smolov Jr can be a real confidence booster.

Things to Remember

You’re not going to hit every rep with perfect form. You are going to be benching heavy a lot, and your body will need to adapt to that.

As long as most of the reps are good and you’re continuously throwing up heavy weight you will see improvements.

You will fail. It’s highly likely that you may have a session where you find yourself trapped under the bar. Always take a spotter with you when performing Smolov Jr. If you’ve never run a program like this, chances are you’re going to suffer a few times in the gym. Make sure you have some one there to help lift the bar off you when things get too rough.

Either that or some kind of safety rack set up under the bar when benching. As always, if you feel like you’re getting too weak and you’re going to injure yourself – stop.

Starting your session with Smolov Jr is not a bad idea. Starting your sessions with Smolov Jr is a good way for you to keep on top of exercising your other muscle groups. Get Smolov out of the way early, and then you can continue your routine as usual without the chest work.

People who have used Smolov Jr:

Here’s a compilation of people who have used Smolov Jr, and their thoughts on it. There’s plenty of other ones out there, but these are good places to start:

As you can see, a lot of people are having solid results – albeit with some hardships.

Quick Summary: Smolov Jr for Bench – Should You Do It?

If you’re looking to improve your bench press quickly, this is the routine for you. It is not for the weak willed. Smolov Jr takes everything you have, but the results are worth it.

Pace yourself, take it a set a time, use a spotter and if you feel like you’re about to have an injury stop immediately.

Best of luck, and happy lifting!

 

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