High stepping and hip turnout are physical skills that limit many climbers, particularly on thin vertical face climbs. Improving your capabilities in these areas requires a two-pronged approach of: 1. daily stretching of the hips and lower back, and 2. strengthening the muscles that facilitate these positions (which is best achieved by regularly practicing high stepping and hip turnout on moderate routes at the gym or crag). Following are two stretches, that you can perform daily, to help you improve flexibility and range of motion in your high-step and hip-turnout movements.
This stretch, known as the Froggie or Butterfly, is excellent for improving hip turnout. You can perform this stretch sitting (top photo) and lying down (bottom). Flexibility gains from this stretch will allow you to move your center of gravity in closer to the wall—more over your feet—on near-vertical climbs.
1. Sit upright with your legs flexed and your knees out to the sides so that you can bring the soles of your feet together.
2. Grasp your ankles and rest your elbows on the insides of your thighs.
3. Press down with your elbows to apply light pressure on your thighs until you feel mild tension in your groin and inner thigh. Hold this stretch for ten to twenty seconds, then release it for a few seconds.
4. Apply pressure for a secondary stretch of twenty to thirty seconds.
5. Next, lie down flat on your back while keeping your feet together.
6. Relax and allow gravity to pull your knees toward the floor for another thirty seconds to a minute or two.
1. Stand along the front of a table or high chair (or stool) with your feet shoulder width apart and turned out to the sides.
2. Lift one leg—as in high-stepping—and place the sole of that foot atop the table or chair with the foot pointing out to the side, as if it were edging on a foothold.
3. Slowly rock over your high foot until you feel a stretch in your buttocks, groin, and lower back. Hold this for ten seconds, then shift your weight back to center to relax the stretch for a few seconds.
4. Slowly shift your weight back toward the high leg to stretch for another twenty to thirty seconds.
5. Repeat with the other leg.
6. Safety note: Do not use a table or chair higher than your hip level. A table of normal height—between 28 and 32 inches high—works best for most individuals. Cease stretching if you feel any unusual pain in your groin, lower back, hips, or knees.
Copyright 2009 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.