Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Shoulder Stability Assessment for Rock Climbers

December 13, 2021

Shoulder strength and stability is crucial in rock climbing for both performance and injury prevention. There are many different ways to assess shoulder strength, stability and function. The findings of these assessments can give us insights into right to left imbalances and can tell us which muscle groups we need to target in a rehabilitation or injury prevention program. However, many of these assessment techniques require expensive equipment and can be difficult or impossible to administer on yourself.


One test that you can easily perform by yourself is the Upper Extremity Closed Kinetic Chain Stability Test. This test has excellent validity and reliability and can be done with just a tape measure and some climbing chalk. Read the description below and check out the video that shows you how to perform this test.


Set up:

1.     Start in a plank position with your feet spaced exactly 12 inches apart.

2.     Align one index finger (right or left) with a line or marker on the ground.

3.     Reach out to the side as far as you can and make a mark on the ground with a piece of chalk, then return to the starting position.

4.     Do not move your feet during the test and your reaching arm is not allowed to make contact with the ground with the exception of when you’re making your mark on the floor.

5.     Repeat on the opposite side, then compare your measurements right vs left.


According to the developers of this test, greater than a 4 cm difference or greater than 10% difference between your two sides indicates risk of the development of future shoulder injury. Keep in mind that the arm you are testing is the arm that is weight bearing. Example: if you’re reaching with your right arm, you are testing the stability of your left arm.


If you found a significant difference between right and left, or if you want to improve your shoulder stability, here is a video with some shoulder stability exercises you can try at home to prevent shoulder injuries. As always, if your climbing is being limited by shoulder pain you can schedule a free consultation with one of the climbing experts at Mend who can give you a thorough examination and diagnosis.