As part of our Health & Wellness series @PG, we asked local climber and chiropractor Natasha Barnes to share her thoughts on spinal health and preventing climbing-related injuries.

In her first article, Climber Posture, Dr. Barnes gave us 2 ways to test for dysfunctional posture.

Article two, Climber Posture Part 2 – MOBILITY. , started us on the road to recovery with exercises to increase range of motion and reduce stiffness and restriction in our joints and connective tissue

Now in Part 3 we are given the final piece of the puzzle….STRENGTH.

Scroll down to get started!

** The information in these articles are submitted by various professionals in the industry who are not employed by or representatives of Planet Granite. If you have an injury or more questions regarding the topics addressed on our blog, please consult a qualified medical practitioner. Before beginning any fitness program, you should have a complete physical examination by your physician.**

Great!  Now that we’ve mobilization out of the way, how do we get our postural muscles working properly?


There are eighteen muscles alone that attach to the scapula. They have to work together at specific ranges of motion to control the scapula on the thoracic spine.

As the arm rises overhead, the scapula has to rotate upward one degree for every two degrees of humeral motion.

If the scapular muscles aren’t working properly, they won’t fire at the right time, resulting in scapular dyskinesia (aka your shoulder blade doesn’t move the way it’s supposed to).

This decrease in scapular control places the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) at a mechanical disadvantage, and bigger muscles start to compensate for the smaller weak ones.

Result? Shoulder pain.

The muscles most often over-recruited in climbing are the pectoralis major and minor, upper trapezius, and deltoids. The muscles that are under-recruited, the lower trapezius, serratus anterior, and rhomboids.

The following exercises are designed to enhance the balance between these muscles.


*For this exercise you will need a theraband or tubing.
Cheerleader trio 1
Cheerleader duo 2
1. Hold theraband with both hands in front of body, elbows completely extended.

2. Pull theraband apart (bilateral horizontal abduction).

3. Return to starting position, and then pull theraband in diagonal position with right arm up and left arm straight down to your side.

4. Alternate into diagonal with left arm up and right arm down to your side.

5. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-20


*For this exercise you will need a cable machine, gymnastic rings or a theraband.
1. Seated on a bench, using a theraband attached to something stable, pull handles into sternum while pinching scapulae together, toward the spine.

2. Pinch and hold scapulae then extend arms and allow scapulae to assume a fully protracted position and repeat. *It is very important to keep elbows tucked during entire exercise.

3. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-20.

*Note, this exercise can also be performed with gymnastic rings and can be progressed to a more and more horizontal position.


*For this exercise you will need a theraband or lat pull-down machine.
Lat-pull downs trio
1. Keeping bar in front of the body, pull down handle to chest level, flexing elbows, in order to exercise the latissimus dorsi.

2. Make sure to keep the shoulders down.

3. Repeat 3 sets of 10-20.

*Once you build up the strength and control for this you can progress to pull-ups with strict form.

*DISCLAIMER:  People often think that they just need to perform a few exercises for a couple of days and they’ll magically be fixed. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Making corrections takes time, patience, consistency, and perfect technique!

Long-term success, of course, comes when you are consistent with these initiatives and don’t allow yourself to fall into bad posture habits in your daily life.

Reinforce correct movement patterns and climbing technique. Get a coach, take a class, train proper movement, watch other climbers move!

And above all, continue learning about your body…  🙂


Natasha bio picture
Dr. Barnes graduated in 2012 from Palmer Chiropractic West and is currently practicing at Chiro-Medical Group in San Francisco. Her practice focuses on sports medicine and injury prevention. She takes an evidence-based, functional approach to patient care. She utilizes an active care model that is patient focused and outcome oriented, empowering patients to participate in their care.

Dr. Barnes has been a professional athlete since 2001 and still participates in national and international level rock climbing competitions year round. She is sponsored by PrAna, Five Ten, Revolution and Smith Optics. She is a former National Champion, a Teva Games gold medalist and has earned a spot on the US World Cup Bouldering and Sport Climbing Team multiple years. She knows what it is like training and performing at a high level and dealing with injury.

Follow Dr. Natasha Barnes on Twitter and visit her professional climbing blog here.