Is climbing ruining your posture?

Climbing is great exercise for your arms and back, but is it also affecting your spine in a negative way?

Climbing uses a constant rowing motion, or a downward pulling motion. These types of motions utilize muscles in your back like: the latissimus, rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius. These muscles often play a role in good posture, they keep your shoulders back and your spine upright. So, how might climbing be making your posture worse?

Related: Are Your Shoulders Getting Weaker?

It is the simple resting posture on the wall. Climbers do this naturally to be more efficient in their muscle use. Do you tend to rest; how often and for how long on each climb? Most climbers will tell you to take rest brakes on the wall and let everything “hang loose” and relax the muscles in your back and even in your arms. This is done to use your body in the most efficient way and expend the least amount of energy. This is where the problem lies because normal resting posture puts your spine in a position called kyphosis.There is a natural kyphosis in your mid back but we are putting that to the extreme when we climb. Our normal population and especially the younger generations are already increasing this kyphosis with electronics use and regular sitting/standing posture. So, for us climbers, we need to prevent our physical activities from increase this kyphosis even further!

Why is this bad? A limitation in the thoracic spine, or mid back, can often lead to back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. When one segment in the body is limited it affects everything else above and below that segment.

Related: What is Dry Needling
Physical Therapy vs. Personal Training

What can you do to change this?

The answer is simple! You need to work on extension in the mid back as well as opening the front of your body. Then train the muscles in your chest to equalize your strength ratio from front to back.  Below are some examples of exercises and soft tissue releases that can help protect your back, neck, and shoulders to keep you reaching new heights!

  • Scorpion


  • Foam Roller in extension


  • Lacrosse ball pec release


  • Push-up / bench press


  • Front plank / side plank


If you have any questions about strength training and form when it comes to rock climbing please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. And don’t forget to book your free pain consultation at our South Portland, Gorham, and Portland clinics.


By Brian Wally, DPT

Back in Motion® Physical Therapy – South Portland, Maine

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