Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 9 (EASY-HARD)


Primary Technical Issues: D) Body positioning.

This is the last technical issue that I’ll discuss in this 10-part technique series. Like many of the topics, I could write a book on this, but I’m sticking to the basic concept here. A common error that climbers tend to make from the start is not turning the body, or staying square to the wall as if they’re climbing a ladder rather than using the holds in the most effective and efficient manner (which includes hand positioning and foot placement choices, of course). While there are times when a square body position is indeed the best technical choice for a given climbing move, if you move this way the majority of the time, chances are that your technique is underdeveloped in this department.

Essentially, you want to not be attached to staying square to the wall, but rather, to learn how to maneuver your body around and up the wall with as little power/strength depletion as possible. This often involves turning the body from side to side and keeping the arms straight or relatively straight (as straight as possible) throughout a climb. Practice this when you’re warming up, on jugs, especially on overhanging terrain. Swivel on your footholds, turn your shoulders and hips into the wall to extend your reach instead of pulling straight down while you’re square to the wall. Practicing this type of movement also can teach you about having one foot off of the wall for balance, as well as the effectiveness of flagging (a more advanced technique).

Technically efficient body positioning relies quite heavily upon the other techniques discussed in the previous entries in this series – precision footwork (including quiet feet, watching the feet connect with footholds, being comfortable with the entire spectrum of potential footholds, and also, learning how to intuitively select the ideal foothold that will result in the most efficient movement or resting position – which isn’t always the biggest one available); bending the arms as little as possible and seeking straight-armed positions in rests (your body positioning should help you accomplish this straight-armed position as often as you can); and grip (knowing how to use the holds effectively to drain the hands, arms and body as little as possible, which includes relaxing on the holds, orienting the hand in the most effective way to move off the hold, releasing the force on the lower hand once the leading hand is established, and not regripping).

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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