Rock Climbing Technique

Performance and Tips

13 valuable rock climbing tips for developing technique and improving climbing performance. The following tips are seen as the most essential techniques with biggest payoff in rock climbing performance:

Performance Climbing Tip #1

Warm Up and Stretch. Stretching improves circulation and flexibility which translates to improved climbing technique. Prior to climbing, take a half hour to get your muscles and joints limbered, and your heart rate elevated a little. This simple step of stretching and warming up makes the difference between several grades of difficulty, and will help prevent injury. Climbers using good climbing technique will work many muscle groups, and position their limbs in extreme positions which are not used during daily life. Stretching and warming up helps the joints, ligaments, muscles move and last a little longer.

Performance Climbing Tip #2

Preview and Read the Route. This is a skill to develop just like any physical technical climbing move. Advanced climbers are skilled at reading climbing routes, this is one of the most important of the mental skills for improving climbing technique. Before you climb, visualize the sequences through the entire route--or as much as you can see from the ground. Anticipate weight, balance, reach, and each move through the route. Here is the key: find the crux and decide the position you need to be in to complete it. Work backwards down the route. Make mental notes where your left and right hands and feet are positioned. When you climb, start the sequence going into the crux so your hands and feet and body is positioned correctly when you reach the crux. This takes some practice. After you complete the route, look at it again and re-analyze it. Develop a habit of previewing routes before climbing. The more you do it the better you will become.

Performance Climbing Tip #3

Strength of Grip. The key to the right grip is simple: Relax. Over-gripping will wear out your forearms and when that happens, you are done. The grip is not often thought of as an attribute of good rock climbing technique, and few climbers give a second thought. However it’s well known that the grip is first muscle group to go. See forearm exercise for tips on improving your grip. It affects all types of climbers doing bouldering, top rope, lead, sport, competition, etc… The tendency, especially at critical crux points, is to unconsciously squeeze the hold a little tighter. The greater the tension, the more the smoothness and fluidity in your climbing movement will suffer which in turn degrades your climbing performance. Your back and shoulders must remain loose and relaxed. Get into the habit of mentally checking your grip in tough situations. This will help you slow down, re-check the basics, and calm yourself so you can think through the solution to the problem ahead. All that is really required with your grip is contact with the hold for balance or, in an overhanging situation, to hold your body in place with the least amount of energy. Remain conscious of your grip and the strength you use to hold yourself in place to make your movement more fluid and improve your endurance, balance and climbing performance.

Performance Climbing Tip #4

Improve Your Balance. The starting point for developing a good rock climbing technique begins with your sense of balance, and how you control your balance on the wall. Your feet may be close together, or spread-eagle, or in an even stance. Your center of balance is always centered on your body mass. Your center of gravity should be centered in a forward-backward as well as a left-right direction. A good sense of balance is the key to moving smoothly and making difficult climbing moves appear effortless. The center of mass is approximately the middle of your body, around your belly. By being conscious of your center of gravity when you make a climbing move, you can anticipate the direction of force on a hand or foot hold as you make a move, and after you have made the move. A simple exercise to help improve your center of gravity and climbing technique are to find a 60 degree or greater slab and traverse it a using only your feet. If necessary use your hands for balance, but do not grip the wall. Traverse back and forth. This simple exercise will help you develop a sense of balance and give you muscle memory for good rock climbing technique.

Performance Climbing Tip #5

Keep Your Body Close to the Wall. You should also keep your center of gravity balanced in a forward-backward direction. In other words, toward the wall or away from the wall. As a rule, keep your body close to the wall. Understandably, sometimes leaning back away from the wall is necessary to see the route. There is no set distance because of the variety of types of moves and hand holds in climbing. In most cases, the more accurate you need to be with your balance the closer to the wall your body and face should be.

A good indicator to be aware of is the direction your knees point. In general, in a good climbing technique the knees do not point directly in towards the wall, and your body posture is rarely erect. The more erect, and the more your knees point into the wall the further your center of gravity will be out away from the wall. Some climbers tend to climb a little more erect to take advantage of their height. Experiment with different stances and distances so you can adjust and adapt to the conditions.

hover to animate static climbing

Performance Climbing Tip #6

Static Climbing Technique. Static movement is making a move where body position is controlled by muscle movement, rather than by momentum. How you shift your body weight upwards, downwards, left or right as a general rule will help you gain control. Move your body when all four points, both feet and both hands, are planted. Good technique in climbing movement is of it in two parts:1) move limbs, 2) shift body weight; repeat this sequence. In static climbing this two step process is more pronounced, but it applies to dynamic climbing too. As you improve, you will be able to combine the steps into fluid motion. Avoid shifting weight and moving a limb at the same time. Use your arms for balance and your legs to hold your body weight. If your feet make a lot of noise when you climb this indicates you need to improve your static climbing technique. This may be the easiest and best climbing technique tip for there is: Move your hands keeping your body motionless. Listen to the sound your feet make when climbing. Make quiet smooth movements staying directly over your center of balance. Find your foothold visually don’t stab or slide with your feet until you find a hold, then make a deliberate and precise foot placement. Developing good foot placement is essential for improving your climbing technique and balance. Dynamic climbing uses the same principles of balance and movement, but incorporates the “dead point”.

hover to animate dead point

Performance Climbing Tip #7

The Dead Point, Dynamic Climbing Technique. The dead point technique is useful in many climbing situations, helps you develop a smooth graceful characteristic. Use momentum to reach a move that is further than can be reached using a static movement. The movement should be smooth and fluid. In the repertoire of climbing moves, the easiest to learn is the dead point, yet it is one of the most useful for improving dynamic climbing ability. The dead point is done by sensing the top of a parabolic arch while you quickly move weight upward dynamically. The dead point is the point your body changes directions vertically. At the dead point, your hand should be at the top of the arch and at the hold. At this point your upward direction has stopped and you to get a grip on the hold before your weight begins to settle. The best way to learn the dead point is to set up a series of moves on the bouldering wall. They should not be out of reach…these are not dynos. Make the series of holds within reach but which also require extending your body position. Practice over and over, making your body motion stop just at the point where you grab the hold. For dynamic climbing develop your upper body muscles, such as shoulders, arms and forearms, see chin ups.

Performance Climbing Tip #8

Speed of Climbing. Some climbers are slow and deliberate and have a static technique. Some climbing fast using a dynamic climbing technique. Both types of climbing can be considered good rock climbing technique. In general, climbing moves that are dynamic and require a lot of upper body, grip and arm strength should be done quickly. Get through the moves quickly to save your upper body, and use the momentum to help place your body mass at the dead point. Moves which are primarily static, with balance centered on body mass, small hand and foot holds should be done slowly, deliberately and carefully using your legs to support your weight, and arms to hold you in place. Again, this is generally the case, but there are many variations to this basic technique. It is more important to adapt your style to make best use of your abilities.

Performance Climbing Tip #9

Develop Smooth Movement. The control and fluidness of how you move is one of the primary indicators of good well developed rock climbing technique. Develop smoothness to your climbing by simply making a conscious effort to control unneeded movement. Wiggling and resituating creates “opportunity” to fall, slip off the hold or lose balance. To correct this, simply become conscious of your movements and hold still. Think about the movement that is needed to advance, and do only that. Hold your body still, relaxed and deliberate. There are two types of climbing movement: Static and dynamic.

Performance Climbing Tip #10

Develop the Right Muscles. There is very little value in bulking up muscle groups that are not needed in climbing, or not needed for the type of climbing you do. For example, bouldering requires strength moves, but face climbing requires endurance. Sport climbing and indoor climbing combine strength and endurance. The muscles you need to develop varies widely on the type of rock climbing you do, will determine the muscles to emphasize during training. See rock climbing exercise for developing specific muscles for improving your rock climbing technique.

Performance Climbing Tip #11

Find Rest Spots. Regardless of the speed of climbing, climbers who look for and take rests will do better than those who do not. Learning to spot and take advantage of rest spots is a very important technique in rock climbing. Too many climbers think they can muscle up a wall. Most competition routes do not separate climbers based power or tricks. They are steady level of difficulty with a crux one degree grade higher than the route is rated. The reason climbers peel off high routes within their ability level is they do not managed their rest properly. The key to developing the climbing technique of resting is finding them in the preview or opportunities as they ascend the route. Pick rest spots from the ground. These may be an overhang you can get your knee under, or an edge to lean against. You can also use smaller and shift weight slowly rather than dynamically using the dead point. Learn to spot sequences which are not technically rest, but are less strenuous than a more direct approach. During the preview try to find a place to rest every 3 meters, or the height of a panel on an indoor climbing wall. The 3 meter or one panel guide is also rest technique for bouldering and traversing.

Performance Climbing Tip #12

Taking a Good Fall. No matter how good you are, you will fall. If you don’t you are not pushing yourself to your limit. Falling is part of climbing and it is a skill to learn just like any other aspect of good climbing technique. There is a basic fear of falling in humans, which is part of the underlying thrill of climbing. This fear may be debilitating to people new to climbing but as you get more experience with falling the more comfortable you will become. This is a mental control skill to develop. There are some basic techniques you can use to help you get over this fear and help you take a fall safely. Take a deliberate fall in a safe spot. Tell your belayer you are going to take a practice fall. Have him “take” and “lock off”, then push off in a controlled way, away from the wall, and let the rope come tight. Then say to yourself, “that wasn’t so bad”, get back on the wall. Now you have confidence to push yourself to try difficult moves even if it means falling. That is an important aspect of developing and improving your rock climbing technique: You need to be able to push yourself to your maximum ability…which means you will fall. Most falls should be a surprise. Yes, you will feel most of them coming, but the actual moment you pop off the wall should be a surprise. So, as you climb make sure you are ready for the fall at any time by following these techniques:

Performance Climbing Tip #13

Watch and Learn. The best way to learn and improve rock climbing technique is observe the technique used by good climbers, and practice to develop these techniques yourself. Make mental notes as you observe climbers. Practice the moves you see while reinforcing the basic fundamentals of good rock climbing technique described here. Often a new climbing technique may feel awkward and more difficult. But take to heart the basics of good rock climbing technique, and practice them. Soon as you develop muscle memory for your new technique you will find you are pushing your abilities up to a new level.

Summary of Rock Climbing Technique, Performance and Climbing Tips

Understand the basic principals of good rock climbing technique. To improve your own climbing performance learn and practice good climbing technique. These 13 rock climbing tips will help you accelerate your climbing performance.

  1. Always Warm Up and Stretch before you start climbing. Tight muscles and ligaments don’t perform as well.
  2. Get in the habit of previewing and learning to read the route before you climb it. Developing this skill will help you get in the right position to make moves at the crux.
  3. Use only the degree of strength on you grip as necessary to steady your balance. Your grip is often the first to go, save forearm strength as much as possible.
  4. A finely developed sense of balance will help you make difficult static and dynamic moves.
  5. By keeping your body close to the wall you keep your center of balance over your center of mass and relieve pressure on your grip.
  6. Use your legs to hold your weight, not your arms. Your legs are much stronger and will carry you further.
  7. Use arms for balance and shifting weight, not holding weight. When doing moves and sequences that require a great deal of upper body strength, move quickly through the sequence.
  8. Developing the technique of dynamic movement is done by using momentum to peak at the dead point, which is the point at which you grip the hold.
  9. Combining both static and dynamic elements of climbing technique will determine your speed of climbing. Climbers who have mastered this seem to move smoothly and effortlessly.
  10. The right rock climbing techniques combined with building the right muscles give a climber a huge advantage.
  11. Muscles will perform longer with short rests. Develop a skill at finding rest opportunities while climbing to greatly extend your endurance.
  12. Push yourself and your ability with difficult routes. This means you will fall. Taking a fall correctly is one of the most important techniques to learn how to do safely, and will give you confidence to push yourself to your limit.
  13. Finally, watch and learn from other good climbers. Practice good rock climbing technique every time you climb and your climbing performance will measurably improve.
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