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Dense forearms when climbing. What helps?

Carlos | September 25, 2016

Home »Strong body» Dense forearms when climbing. What helps?

Dense forearms sometimes happen faster than we'd like. Especially on unusually long routes or when you usually boulder more than climb routes. Here I share with you why thick forearms develop and what you can do to last longer.

There are situations that are really annoying when climbing. I think of these spontaneously:

  1. The climbing shoes are so painful that you have to tear them off your feet at the deflector.
  2. Your skin is through and it costs you willpower with every grip.
  3. Your forearms are so tight that your hand will open even with the largest handle.

Point 3 is even worse for your head if it happens to you while clipping and the last quickdraw is three meters further. Phew !! Has this happened to you before?

Even if nothing happens in an uncontrolled fall, there are better moments while climbing, right?

The head wants, but the arms and hands can no longer. For me such moments with a gap between "want" and "can" are mentally difficult. Because I have to reckon with the fact that my body reacts completely differently and in an uncontrolled manner.

When do dense forearms even develop?

Don't worry, we're not going too deep into theory. Just a little and digestible. 🙂

Why? Two points.

# 1: Once you understand how dense forearms are made, you'll know what to do.

No. 2: Most of all, you will understand the context why it helps you. This will get you so much more than just blindly reading some tips and then forgetting about them.

Okay, back to the development of thick forearms.

Dense forearms occur when the forearms contract sharply. So strong that the muscles in the arm no longer allow blood to be exchanged. This means that no blood with more oxygen comes to the muscles.

The result: the lactic acid concentration becomes too high. Then the muscle tightens. The route feels harder. The mental cinema begins.

Here is an important point:

You can't always avoid thick forearms. But you can actively counteract this and delay thick forearms.

How can you delay thick forearms?

The key to taking active countermeasures is to improve blood circulation. In this way you avoid that "used" blood with a higher concentration of lactic acid remains in your arms.

You can do this with the following methods:

  • Make it a habit to move your arms between routes and bouldering issues. Shake it out, loosen it, make circles. I know it almost sounds too easy! But it works.
  • Drink plenty of water on the wall. In this way you ensure that your blood is less thick and flows better through the body.
    Consequence: The oxygen exchange is simplified.
  • Do not climb to maximum exhaustion. Leave space for a few easy routes at the end. This is important so that you don't end the climbing day completely cramped.
  • After climbing, do a few yoga poses.
    Effective for the arms: the warrior I, because in the pose you stretch your arms upwards. Try a variant: make fists.

Last week I wrote about rest days when climbing. Active rest days have a major impact on how quickly and how effectively your muscles recover between climbing days.

How much you postpone thick forearms may affect your overall recovery rate more than you think.

It's a bit like weight. If you weigh over 100 kg, it is much more difficult to get back to your normal weight of 70 kg than if you weigh 85 kg.


Find your way to avoid getting completely knocked out while you climb. Don't let it get to the point where your forearms are completely tight!

If you do something about it in time, you can continue climbing much more relaxed. And so you will also recover faster on the rest days.

Do you have any other tips? What helps you to reduce dense forearms as much as possible when climbing?

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