We all know that climbing technique is important. But what can you do to improve your climbing technique? Here you will find the 16 best drills to improve your climbing technique quickly.
16 Drills for better Technique
1. Silent Feet
Do you want to work on perfecting your footwork? Then learn to place your feet without making a sound.
If you’ve ever watched a world-class climber, you know what I’m talking about. One foot after the other is placed precisely and barely audible. Their movements are elegant and true experts seem to sneak up the wall almost effortlessly.
Use your toes
Learn from the best and improve your climbing technique by stepping onto footholds quietly. Beginners tend to use the sole of their feet, while good climbers climb quietly and only use the tips of their toes.
In addition to improving your climbing and bouldering technique, you train your body tension, which is needed if you want to place your legs precisely on tiny footholds.
In addition to improving your climbing technique, climbing with silent feet also trains body tension and concentration.
2. Traversing on Small Footholds
It doesn’t matter which holds you use with your hands – This climbing technique drill is about precise and flexible footwork.
You will learn to place your weight correctly, even on small holds, and to climb in a way that allows your feet to remain ready to move in all directions.
In addition, you will train precision so that your toes land exactly where they need to be in order to be able to stand on super tiny footholds. You can practice this at ground level.
3. Crossover – Climbing Technique Drill
During the traverse, cross your legs alternatingly – once in the back and once in the front. In doing so, you train your sense of movement, and your body automates the movement sequence required for the crossover.
This climbing technique drill will force movement of your hips – make sure always to keep your center of gravity (hips) close to the wall throughout the exercise.
As a result, you will become more surefooted, and your climbing style and movements will become smoother and more fluid.
4. Back Step – Climbing Technique
Back Stepping is a climbing technique that is used quite frequently and in a wide variety of situations.
Frontal vs. Back Step:
For those who do not know exactly what the back step is, I recommend watching this excellent instructional video which describes the climbing technique in detail.
Practice this technique on a simple route or while bouldering
Try to incorporate back stepping into each move you make, even if it’s a move you normally climb frontal. You can also practice the back step close to the ground on single moves or during a traverse.
A good climbing harness is:
We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.
5. Traversing With “Straight Arms“
Climbing with extended arms is probably one of the most important climbing techniques for efficient climbing. The best drill to practice this technique: I recommend traversing with outstretched arms.
Bent vs Straight Arms.
For this exercise, your legs are always in a bent squat position (to prevent overextension). Traverse close to the ground – with bent legs and extended (long) arms.
To internalize this climbing technique, keep reminding yourself of “fully extending your arms” even while climbing.
Long arms = long climbs.
6. Climbing With Just One Arm
This bouldering drill is self-explanatory and can be performed both when top-roping and traversing close to the ground. Only one arm is used, which promotes a stable position and a good sense of balance.
In addition to balance and good footwork, this exercise trains dynamics, timing and hand-eye coordination.
Dynamics: Climbing dynamically is often (not always) superior to climbing statically, as it saves energy, and some sections can be better managed “dynamically”.
Timing: Climbing with just one arm will also give you a better sense of finding the dead point of gravity, which is the millisecond that follows the upward movement – the moment when you’re seemingly weightless. This exact moment is easy to miss – with this drill, you can practice and improve your timing.
This climbing technique exercise teaches you the necessary basics for dynamic climbing.
7. Thumbs Up – Bouldering Exercise
In this drill, you climb without using your thumbs. Without thumbs, climbing becomes more difficult since pulling yourself close to the wall is a lot harder.
As a result, you’re “forced” to improve your footwork. You will learn to move your body’s center of gravity close to the wall by using your toes.
8. Slow Motion
“Normal” climbing or traversing, but very slow movements –in slow motion so to speak.
Try to move very slowly but still smoothly and evenly. This exercise trains precision, body tension, and control. It forces you to focus on the movement and nothing else but the movement.
Time to learn
An excellent climbing & bouldering technique drill because it forces you to climb mindfully. At the beginning of our climbing career, there is a lot to learn; everything is new, there are so many things to consider – there is hardly any time for mindful climbing.
And this will never change if we don’t consciously work on it... because, in climbing, there’s always something new to learn or an even more difficult route to climb.
The climbing drill “slow-motion” counteracts this feeling of urgency and gives you the time to deal with the subtleties of your movements. Feel what happens when you shift your weight and how your body is constantly adjusting to the changing position.
Finger Strength Training
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Reach for the next hold but freeze right before you touch it. Stay in this position for 3 seconds before finally grabbing the hold and initiating the next move. Then repeat the same thing, pausing for 3 seconds before touching the next hold.
This exercise improves your sense of movement, but above all, your grip and lock-off strength. It forces you to position your body so that you can hold it in that position not only until you reach the next hold but for an additional 3 seconds with only one hand on the wall.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds – you will have to come up with creative solutions to support your weight. Your repertoire of movements will grow, and you will improve your climbing technique.
Make use of smearing as often as possible. Many boulder problems or slab climbs require that you know how to smear safely. Practice smearing and perfect your climbing technique for climbing like a pro on slabs and large structures.
You can practice this technique on a traverse or any suitable route. Skip some footholds and use smearing instead. Practicing smearing will definitely pay off – especially for slabby rock climbs as well as indoor bouldering.
11. Soft Grip
“As much as necessary, as little as possible”.
Don’t waste your energy unnecessarily – learn to grip “soft and efficient”.
Relax your mind and climb a relatively easy route – it’s best to choose a route you already familiar with. Now try to grip each hold with minimum effort.
Grip as softly and with as little force as possible. With this exercise, you can test the limits and feel how much strength is needed to hold on. It also works great in combination with “Silent Feet”.
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12. Dynamic and Fast Climbing
Dynamic and brisk, but not rushed.
This bouldering drill will be especially beneficial if you (like me) spend a little too much time in your head while climbing. See if you can put all your thoughts on pause at the start of the route (you can always think about it later 😉).
Dynamic climbing means initiating your next move with momentum.
Step onto the foothold, stay low, initiate the move with a slight lunge, and push yourself up using your legs.
Forget about control and static climbing for a moment – focus on climbing the route dynamically, courageously, and with a certain willingness to take risks.
13. Climb down
“Climbing down” means to climb a route or boulder problem down from top to bottom.
This is an underrated exercise for improving climbing technique. Unlike the usual upward climbing movements (concentric), downclimbing makes you perform eccentric movements and trains your footwork and agility.
My tip: Include this exercise in your warm-up routine and always do some downclimbing in the gym. This exercise is suitable for both climbing and bouldering.
Concentric: overcoming = muscles shorten = speed of movement is increased
Eccentric: muscles stretch/extend = speed of movement is absorbed
14. Push to the Limit
You can also practice the ability to go to the limit deliberately. The first few times, it will take a lot of effort to push to your personal limit.
Train your will and defeat the voice that says no. If you practice pushing yourself to the limit, you will improve quickly.
No one is free of fear, but to push to the limit, you must be able to keep your fear in check. In bouldering, the psychological component is not as important as in sport climbing. If we want to push our limits, it’s always fear that stands in our way – in sport climbing, it’s often the fear of falling.
Overcoming your fear of falling
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have it, and I hardly know anyone who has overcome it (myself included). What I have learned, however, is how to drastically minimize this fear by maximizing my willingness to push myself to the limit. Of course, some structured “Falling Practice” will help a great deal.
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15. Variation 1 – Climbing Areas and Rock Types
The surest way of improving your climbing technique or becoming a better climber in general – is variation.
There are lots of different climbing disciplines, and each one allows you to learn and improve.
Climbing & bouldering on different types of rock and in various climbing areas.
Not all climbing is the same. Granite has different requirements than limestone or sandstone. While one requires a lot of body tension, others require extreme finger strength.
Your predominant grip type, the rock structure, and the associated climbing technique will vary, depending on the climbing area and rock type. Small ledges will give you different challenges than flat slabs.
Expand your movement repertoire
Each new climbing area expands your horizons, presents you with previously unknown challenges, and enriches your movement repertoire. Your ability to perform different kinds of movement and your overall climbing technique will inevitably improve. Explore as many different areas as possible.
16. Variation 2 – Climbing Disciplines
Try as many different forms of climbing as possible.
If bouldering is your favorite discipline, it will do your climbing technique some good to go sport climbing or try a multi-pitch climb and vice versa.
Likewise, the unique situation of deepwater soloing (where water serves as a crashpad) will make you behave somewhat differently than the usual environment of the bouldering or climbing gym.
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