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Yoga for Climbers Part 3: Fascial Training with Erin Ayla

Improve your shoulder strength and flexibility through dynamic and static stretching of your fascial tissue

Hey guys! Erin Ayla back and wrapping up a three-part Yoga for Climbers series focused on the shoulder joint. In Part 1 we covered proper hanging and weighting alignment. In Part 2 I showed you how to strengthen your shoulders by learning proper handstand progression. Keep a fresh perspective for Part 3!

Dynamic and Static Yoga Stretches

In the connected video we’ll cover dynamic and static yoga stretches that holistically target upper body health and stability. Either follow along and do the stretches with me, or jot down notes to do them on your own time.

I hand-selected these yoga stretches because they target the specific muscles that work hard as you climb. Each stretch is important. If one feels harder or stiffer than others, that may mean that specific part of your body needs more attention! Make sure as you do these stretches you are ensuring the stretch feels healthy and not painful. Sensation is good until pain arises; if you feel pain, ease off!

I do not recommend stretching statically before you climb. Numerous studies have shown that static stretching decreases muscular output. I am not a medical professional and I am not prescribing anything in particular. However, I believe the best way to warm up for climbing is to dynamically mimic climbing movement while your feet are on the ground. I also recommend spending a considerable period of time (at least 30 minutes) climbing well below your onsight grade before you start trying hard. I perform these stretches on my rehab and oppositional strengthening days.

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Fascial Training

I have begun to study and implement a new form of movement training into my practice: fascial training. Below I’ll explain what fascia is and why repetitive bouncing is a healthy form of training to implement into our dedicated sessions. (Note: if you are interested in learning more about fascia, I have added a few links at the bottom of this page that are great sources of information)

Fascia is a connective tissue that binds together all tissues in your body: your tendons, ligaments, organs, muscles, bones, etc. Think of fascia as a spiderweb that interweaves everything inside of you. In the video below, we focus on dynamic, repetitive movements to target your larger and more holistic fascial networks (as opposed to singular muscles). Dynamic stretching targets fascia because of its elastic quality. When we move to the edge of flexibility (through dynamic movement) and feel tension that runs down a full line in our bodies (i.e. feeling a stretch from your pec muscles, into the shoulder, down the bicep, into the forearm, and all the way into your fingertips) we are actually feeling the fascia’s elasticity. If we use this elasticity wisely, we can train our bodies to use less muscular force and more rebounding force.

Stretching the fascia of the rotator cuff with Eagle Arms in a Low Lunge pose.
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Recent studies have shown that training your fascia can have some pretty cool benefits: accelerated healing, tissue damage prevention, enhanced proprioception, increased flexibility; the list goes on. One fact I find especially fascinating and relevant to athletes is that fascia holds a surprising amount of nervous tissue. Studies state that there are up to ten times more sensory nerve receptors in fascia than in our muscles. Athletes who train and understand their fascial networks enhance their proprioceptive awareness. However, the benefits of better proprioception for climbers is another blog topic entirely. (Check out Eric Horst’s Training for Climbing podcast episode on proprioception to begin to understand why this will advance your climbing)

Now get up, get moving, and open up your shoulders on your days off. Your upper body will thank you for it!


Additional Resources

Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web

The Top 5 Way Fascia Matters to Athletes

Cover photo courtesy Ian Cotter-Brown

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