Scapular 5x5 - Training for Rock Climbing

Photo by Juan Rodriguez, AntiGravity Equipment, Portland

Photo by Juan Rodriguez, AntiGravity Equipment, Portland

Hello Portland rock climbers! I'm back this week with another training tip to help you get the most out of your climbing performance. Our last few segments had been on the many benefits of kettlebell training as part of your workout routine. My friend Cameron demonstrated 3 different exercises and then showed us how to put them together into a fun dynamic routine. You can check out that post here if you missed it in the previous weeks.

Today we're back with my friend Hui En. She's a local climber and physical therapist in the Portland metro area who's been climbing for a number of years. We had a few posts featuring Hui En earlier this year in which we talked about different ideas for maintaining healthy shoulders. Hui En showed two exercises- the scapular pushup and the external rotation. In this post, she teaches us another fun and challenging routine known as the scapular 5x5.

The focus of this exercise is to target the middle and lower trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles are one of the major back muscles responsible for much of the movement of your shoulder blades. The trapezius helps your shoulder blade move and rotate so it is very important that we keep this muscle strong and healthy so it can offer proper stability. Instability in the scapula can lead to injuries as other parts of your body over-compensate which can lead to problems in your movement over time.

It doesn't take take a degree in anatomy to know how important your shoulders are for rock climbing. Especially during training, we put some serious demands on our shoulders; it's worthwhile to treat them with care through targeted exercises like the scapular 5x5. Treating our shoulders with care through injury preventative exercises can ensure that they will take care of us through our activities for years to come.

Photo by Juan Rodriguez, AntiGravity Equipment, Portland

Photo by Juan Rodriguez, AntiGravity Equipment, Portland

Disclaimer: Exercises discussed are for healthy climbers. Contact a health professional if you are unsure about your ability to perform this exercise. ”
— AntiGravity Equipment

For the scapular 5x5 all you need is a resistance band, something to anchor it to like a kettlebell or a door, and a little bit of space. In the following video, Hui En walks me through all 5 different positions to complete the 5x5 routine. Some key points to remember are to keep a straight posture with a tight core. Keep your shoulder blades engaged by pulling them down and together and avoid engaging your upper trapezius and neck muscles to aid you through the different positions. It's all about the mid and lower back!

  • Keep your arms slightly in front of you
  • Back straight, core engaged
  • Order of positions is Y, U, T, W, I (one rep)
  • 5 reps, 1-2 sets
  • 3 times per week

We hope you enjoyed our latest training tutorial. If you live in the Portland area, stop by AntiGravity Equipment and check out all our latest climbing equipment and training techniques. We'd love to hear what your goals are and see if we can help you in any way.

Hui En Gilpin is a physical therapist certified in ASTYM, Functional Movement Screening and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She can be contacted via email at and is available for cash pay services. She also regularly hangs out at AntiGravity Equipment with me and climbs at Stoneworks. Music for this episode was produced by local climber Joey Ramz of Cold Lampin.