The Infamous Heel Hook

by JP Chan, DPT

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Bouldering is a whole body sport. There’s a great emphasis placed on what the upper extremities (hand, elbow, shoulder) do, but proper technique on the wall requires participation of the feet. Injuries can commonly result from the infamous heel hook: a technique that has the climber position their heel on the hold with the knee either fully straight or slight bent.

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A heel hook requires the climber to engage the posterior chain musculature of the leg, notably the hamstrings, in driving the trunk upwards. This places considerable demand on the hamstrings; if the hamstrings aren’t ready for this demand, it can lead to a strain or a tear.

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The best way to prevent these injuries is to strengthen, strengthen and strengthen the hamstrings! Start with the Hamstring Ball Curls as a warm-up and then proceed to the following exercises.

Warm-Up: Hamstring Ball Curls

These are a good way to feel your hamstrings fire as they flex the knee and bring the ball back towards your trunk.

Single Limb Bridge

This exercise allows you to target the hamstring in a movement similar to what you’ll be doing on the wall.

Single Limb Bridge on Step

Progress the single limb bridge exercise by including a step, placing the foot above the pelvis.

Single Limb Bridge on Step w/ Knee Straight

Finally, try this exercise with the knee straight!

Copenhagen Adductor Hold

The largest groin muscle, Adductor Magnus, works closely with the hamstrings. Performing this exercise builds the groin musculature, or the adductor group.

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If you have any difficulties or questions about the exercises, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our physical therapists for further clarification. Safe climbing!

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