Climbing is an attractive mode of exercise for its diversity of options (routes vary and so can the challenge) and whole body movement. Climbing isn't just about upper body strength or using the large muscle groups; it takes leg strength to maintain stamina and muscles you'd rarely use otherwise. Injuries in climbing can come from a weak trunk and imbalances in your body (e.g., favoring your dominant right side, when you really should be using your left can place added strain that results in injury).
A 45- to 90-minute Pilates session each week can add power to your climbing through its whole body movement with focus on balance. Pilates is about building strength and flexibility through precise and controlled movement done over limited repetitions.
The Roll-up is a great exercise to dissect and show the benefits to a climber. This exercise begins by lying flat on your back, arms by your sides, with feet pointed toward the opposite wall, legs squeezing together, pelvis in neutral (learning the basis of this cue alone can help a climber gauge dangerous positions for the spine), and the back of the rib cage pressing into the mat as you inhale and exhale.
When you inhale your arms float back by your ears and as you exhale your arms rise toward the ceiling as you curl your spine off the mat reaching toward your toes. This movement is not about using your shoulders and momentum to throw yourself off the mat and forward. It is about engaging your stomach muscles to slowly peal each vertebrae off the mat with control as you round your back reaching toward your toes.
Reaching forward toward your toes, curving the spine-not tipping the pelvis forward, you'll feel the stretch in your back. Inhale and begin rolling the spine back to the mat, vertebrae by vertebrae, exhaling to role the rest of the way down and returning to the starting position.
This is a simple exercise that is not easy (for an extra challenge try keeping your arms by your ears the entire time as you roll up). When performing the exercise there can be a tendency to favor one side of the body-typically the stronger or less flexible side- to propel the movement or compensate for the lack of flexibility. This type of imbalance is not what you want on a 5.12. The Roll-up also identifies stiffness in the muscles along the back of the body. Stretching these muscles regularly facilitates flexibility that can be critical for high-leg lifts or generating controlled power for a dynamic move.
Pilates is significant for the insight it brings the climber. Anyone who climbs knows how much of it is mental. A greater understanding of your body and its natural tendencies can be just the edge needed to problem solve on a route and overcome effectively and with style.