Improve your climbing technique – fast and simple:
25 Tips on Climbing Technique
1. Footwork – Climbing Technique 101
Using the right footwork is the foundation of your climbing technique.
Precisely step on the footholds with the tips of your toes. Don’t step on the hold with your entire foot.
This is the only way to keep your body close to the wall by utilizing your body tension (which hopefully is extremely well trained) and the tips of your toes.
Standing on the foothold with your toes instead of your entire foot makes you substantially more agile and allows you to turn your foot in any direction.
2. Use the Strength of Your Legs
A common mistake among climbers is that they reach for one hold after the other and pull themselves up the wall using only their arms.
Meanwhile, their legs only serve a decorative function and stem hardly any of the body’s weight – this is a huge waste of energy.
You’ll be doomed without the proper use of your legs when you reach a higher level of difficulty.
Your arms may be very strong, but your legs will always be stronger, no matter how skinny they are.
Use the strength of your legs, place your feet on the hold and press yourself up with your legs.
No foothold? No problem.
Often, when there are no holds (blank faces, boulders), smearing is the only option.
Confidence, technique, and body tension characterize someone who knows how to make use of smearing.
To create grip and friction, it’s key to maximize the contact of the rubber with the wall.
Place your entire forefoot on the wall, flex your core and trust your shos.
Soft shoes with a flexible midsole and with little to no rigidity are most suitable for smearing.
4. Keep Your Centre of Gravity/Hip Close to the Wall
The further your center of gravity is from the wall, the less weight is placed on your feet.
This means your fingers are forced to do all the work to keep you close to the wall. Make sure to keep your hip as close to the wall as possible.
This is a universal tip – no matter what you’re doing or where you are. With a little practice and hip mobility, you’ll soon be climbing more efficiently and economically.
Backstepping and the frog technique are two additional techniques that aim to keep your body’s center of gravity close to the wall.
5. Back Step
Especially on holds that can only be held on to laterally, you won‘t have much luck with the normal, head-on technique.
This is where back stepping comes in handy. As you’ve probably guessed, you stabilize your body by turning to one side.
There are some moves where this climbing technique works wonders, so it’s worth practicing until it becomes automatic. The “Back Step” is used fairly often. Why? Because it’s so damn effective!
- The 30 Best exercises
- 3 Training Plans
6. Frog Technique
This technique requires some mobility but it’ll save you a lot of energy.
It involves placing your foot up high and then moving your body across and over the “high” leg (it looks like a frog’s leg).
This is a “Dynamic Move”.
Since almost your entire body weight is resting on the leg, your fingers have some time to recover.
This technique is used when the next foothold is fairly high up, and back stepping isn’t possible.
7. Don’t Overextend – Climbing technique
You’ll find yourself in an overextended position when your focus lies solely on the next hold and you forget about proper footwork.
“Footholds first, handholds second” – these words will keep you from getting yourself into an unfavorable position.
If you do find yourself in an overextended position, a feat of strength is often the only way to reverse your unfortunate position.
8. Extended Arms
See for yourself and try hanging from a door frame. Do it with bent arms and then compare that to doing it with “long” extended arms.
Climbing with bent arms will activate your finger flexors and the flexor muscles of your entire arm, which is entirely unnecessary in most cases.
However, climbing with extended arms will merely activate your finger flexors, which saves a lot of energy (not just on long routes).
The difference is quite noticeable, so it won’t be hard to understand this climbing technique tip and incorporate it into your climbs. Utilize it as often as you can, whether you’re in a resting position, clipping a quickdraw or during your climb.
Extended arms = efficient climbing.
9. Keep an Eye on the Foothold
Precise footwork and foot placement indicate a good climbing technique.
However, your feet can only be deliberately placed on small holds, if you keep your focus on them until you’ve put your foot down precisely.
Focus on the foothold and don‘t look away until you’ve placed your foot. Particularly beginners often make the mistake of shifting their focus before having placed their feet correctly.
Take the time you need to place your feet on the holds with precision. If your toes are placed correctly, even small footholds will give you enough grip. Body tension and a solid core will help you move your feet to wherever you need them.
- 20 Best Exercises
- Adjunct Compensatory training
- Stay healthy
- Get stronger
10. Heel Hook and Toe Hook
Some climbs can’t be mastered without the use of the heel hook or toe hook. Particularly when bouldering or climbing overhangs, ledges, and ridges, the heel hook will save a lot of energy.
Thanks to the heel hook, you can use footholds that would be too high or out of reach when using the normal (head-on) climbing technique. By hooking the heel, you employ the muscles in your leg flexors to pull yourself upwards.
When buying climbing shoes, you should pay close attention to having a snug fit around your heel. Anyone who does a lot of bouldering should watch out for the extra layer of rubber on the toe pad.
11. Switching Feet – Bouldering Technique
When climbing or bouldering, it’s required fairly frequently to switch feet to keep moving. You can overdo the switching of feet, but it’s a definite advantage to master this climbing technique.
Important things to focus on when switching feet:
- Speed: Recognize when switching feet makes sense and don’t unnecessarily lose any time.
- Balance: Practice this technique until you’ve internalized it and can stay balanced when executing it.
- Good technique is easy on the rubber: Focus on precision, so the rubber of your treasured shoes doesn’t wear off.
12. Avoid Placing Your Feet up Too High
Similar to overextending, placing your feet up too high will put you in an adverse position. Placing your feet up too high obstructs the foot you’re climbing with since you’ll be unable to utilize your feet to press yourself up.
Avoid this mistake by staying nimble on your feet and use an additional foothold to reach the top.
If you don’t have a choice and need to place your foot up very high, try to keep your hip as close to the wall as possible, then push your hip over the “high” leg (see frog technique).
We Tested Rock Climbing Shoes.
Take a look at the 9 Best climbing shoes.
13. Flagging – Climbing Technique
Do you frequently find yourself having to deal with the so called “barn door”? This is where flagging comes in handy. By crossing your opposite leg behind your supporting leg you can prevent swaying away from the rock (barn door).
To ensure balance, you lean the other way with your torso. Flagging prevents the dreaded “barn door.”
To achieve the desired balance, it usually suffices to let the disengaged leg hang freely. With this climbing technique, the hip needs to remain close to the wall.
14. Watch the Strength of Your Grip
Do you really need 100% of your strength to keep a grip on a particular hold? Pay attention to how many percent are actually necessary to hold on.
You’ll be surprised at how often you hold on way too tight and are wasting your energy.
The solution – learning the proper falling technique
Quite often, it’s our psyche that is standing in our way. That’s because it’s not the lack of stamina but rather the fear of falling that is robbing us of the strength in our fingers.
In stressful situations, we tend to grip holds tightly, feeling like we’re about to fall to our certain death, which is obviously not the case on well protected sport climbing routes.
To eliminate the fear of falling, it’s critical to face our fear and reduce it bit by bit. Please read all about it here: 9 Step Falling Practice!
15. Stay Low
Roughly speaking, any move is separated into 2 parts.
- Preparing the move (putting our feet on the desired footholds)
- Executing the move (pressing upwards from our feet and gripping the next hold)
“Staying low” refers to a technique that takes place at the moment right in between these two parts. When we’re preparing the move we’re placing our feet on the footholds.
In doing so it’s important to keep your center of gravity low and to stay in position. Standing up using your legs doesn’t happen until step two.
A better technique leads to a more fluent transition.
A bad technique would be standing up too early, which results in climbing using only the arms and leads to a hasty and uneconomical climbing style.
16. Side Pulls and Underclings
Making side pulls and underclings work requires shifting your body’s center of gravity. As soon as you come across a side-pull, you can start thinking about how to shift into a position where you’ll be actually able to “pull” on the hold.
Generally speaking, your torso will have to lean away from the hold while your legs push in the opposite direction.
If you come across an undercling it’s crucial to gain height. Underclings only work well when they’re no higher than chest height.
17. Knee Bar – Boulder Technique
To do a kneebar you slot your lower leg between two holds or parts of the rock.
I know that sounds terrible – luckily, it doesn’t hurt (at least for the most part) and is an ingenious technique to do a “no hand rest”.
To do it, the knee and the ankle are wedged in between two structures in a way that allows them to carry the entire body weight and gives both hands a rest.
Particularly when bouldering a kneebar or can be found frequently. But even in some climbing areas like the Kalymnos or in Norway this climbing technique can be used. Keep an eye out for opportunities to do a kneebar!
18. Bridge (Counter Pressure)
In dihedrals and corners, this climbing technique called bridging will come naturally. To do it you stem either one or both of your legs into the opposing wall.
In many cases, no footholds are required – since the counter pressure and smearing suffice to keep you on the wall. While at the same time allowing you to preserve your energy.
Bridges work in corners, on large footholds, protrusions, tufas, and other structures in the wall.
A good climbing harness is:
We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.
Similar to bridges, you also make use of counter-pressure for this climbing technique. Instead of just using your legs, you also stem your arms into the opposing wall.
You can use actual holds or palm smearing for this climbing technique. You don’t need any strength in your fingers – however, a considerable amount of body tension is required.
20. Layback – Climbing Technique
Laybacks are once again all about counterpressure. Your body’s center of gravity is tilted back while your legs are pushed against the wall, balanced by the pull of your arms (side pull or crack).
This allows you to stay on the wall, even without footholds: body tension, confidence, and a good sense of balance help tremendously.
21. Full Crimp + Thumb
This is a technique that works very well for tiny edges. BUT is not necessarily easy on the joints in your fingers and your ring ligaments, so it is only recommended to a limited extent.
To do a Full Crimp you curl your fingers slightly and then wrap your thumb over them.
Compared to extended fingers, curled fingers can exert much more strength.
Finger Strength Training
- 3 Protocols for Maximum Finger Strength.
- 1 Protocol for Power Endurance.
Similar to switching feet, there are situations where you might have to place both hands on the same hold.
Whenever there’s only one hold and you’re forced to place both hands on it you should make sure to leave enough space.
If you can’t fit both hands on the hold (which can happen sometimes) it’ll be on your fingers to solve the problem. Release one finger at a time and replace them with the fingers of the other hand.
Crossovers enable fluid climbing and are frequently used for so-called traverses (climbing laterally). Just like the name implies, one hand crosses in front of or behind the other hand.
Crossing with your legs will also come in handy and will even save you an extra step change.
24. Bicycle – Climbing Technique
the “Bicycle-Technique” is used mostly for climbing in overhangs. To do it you use your feet like pliers.
Provided that the foothold is large enough, it allows you to pinch it with your feet, which prevents your lower body from swaying.
A handy climbing technique when you consider that any swaying of your legs costs a lot of additional energy.
25. Don’t Waste Any Time
In many cases, it makes sense not to lose any time on challenging passages and climb them as fast as possible. Hence, this tip is less about climbing techniques and more about climbing tactics. Part of the tactic are the following considerations:
- Make the most out of resting points: Where can I rest for a long time?
- Adjust your climbing speed: Get through tough passages quickly.
- Clipping quickdraws: Find positions to clip and unclip your quickdraws without wasting too much energy?
Top 5 Climbing Helmets
- We extensively tested 12 climbing helmets.
- A detailed review of the 5 BEST climbing helmets and their respective strengths and weaknesses.