Are you a beginner climber wondering how to improve your climbing technique?
If you’re new to the climbing world, it can be challenging to know where to start. You’ve got a brand-new harness and climbing shoes, and you’re ready to put them to use at your local climbing gym. But how can you focus your training to maximize results?
Keep reading for some beginner-friendly tips for improving your technique.
What Is a Climbing Technique?
Contrary to what new climbers might think, the sport isn’t about just muscling your way up the wall. Instead, the best climbers use specific techniques to climb as efficiently as possible. They aim to complete each move with a perfect economy; in other words, with as little energy expenditure as possible.
Experienced climbers with excellent technique make climbing look easy and effortless. They may remind you of children playing on the monkey bars as they flow from one movement to the next. Every time their hands or legs change positions, it’s smooth and deliberate.
Experienced climbers are in control of their bodies and pay close attention to always have:
- Extended arms
- Hips open and as close to the wall as possible
- Feet on the wall
- Their weight underneath them
How to Improve Technique in Rock Climbing
Though skilled climbers make the sport look easy, it takes a lot of practice to make climbing look so beautiful. Here are some tips to help take your climbing to the next level, whether you’re a beginner or a more intermediate climber.
The first and best way to improve your technique is simple: head down to your local gym and climb!
As is true of many sports, the more you climb, the better you’ll get. And when you’re resting between climbs, watch others, especially those who are better than you. Pay attention to how they move their bodies, and try to emulate them.
Additionally, you’ll probably notice that climbers are a friendly bunch. They love to share beta–or information about how to perform the route. Be open to hearing their advice, and you may be surprised how willing others are to help you.
Use Your Legs
Many beginner climbers neglect their legs. Either they think that the sport is all about upper body strength or they fail to consider how their legs can help–or sometimes both.
Sure, upper body strength is essential in climbing, but forgetting your legs is a surefire way to get burned out on a route. For one, your arms will tire quickly. And if you’re completely stretched out trying to grab the next hold, it’s almost impossible to move anywhere.
To avoid zapping your energy too quickly, make a conscious effort to use your legs to push you up the wall. Try to only pull with your arms once your lower body has initiated movement up the wall.
Try also to focus on moving your legs more than your arms. An excellent way to do this is the 3:1 ratio, where you move your feet three times before moving your hands. The 3:1 ratio can help train that perfect economy, as your body should stay closer to the wall and your weight will stay below you.
Here are a few useful leg workouts:
Next time you go to the climbing gym, observe what the really good climbers are doing with their feet. Specifically, pay attention to whether you can hear their feet. You shouldn’t be able to, as a hallmark of excellent climbing technique is quiet feet. Conversely, stomping all over the wall and making lots of noise is a sign of poor economy and inexperience.
To improve your footwork, concentrate on making as little noise as possible as you climb. Doing so forces you to slow down and become more deliberate with your movements. When you focus on your feet, it’s also less likely that they’ll pop off the wall, or cut off. Cutting off saps your energy and (at least when you’re a beginner) should be avoided.
Plenty of climbers take shallow, rapid breaths when they get tired or anxious, but keeping your breath steady is critical.
Why? Because it allows you to keep your blood oxygenated, which is critical for energy production and recovery. Steady breath also calms the mind when you’re preparing for a challenging move, and if you want to find a good flow, it’s a must.
It’s easy to overlook your breathing when things get tough on the wall, but taking slow, deep breaths will keep you climbing longer and better.
When you’re just starting out, you might find yourself grabbing each hold as your life depended on it. However, there is such a thing as over-gripping or putting more force on a hold than is necessary. You might over-grip because you’re scared, nervous, or unsure of the sequence, or you might lack trust in your foot placement.
Whatever the reason, over-gripping can bring about the dreaded forearm pump much sooner than you’d like. Instead, try to grip every hold as softly as possible and with the minimum effort required to stay on the wall.
Finally, the last tip for how to improve indoor climbing gym technique is to challenge yourself. It’s easy to look at the harder routes in the gym and think you’ll never be able to climb them. However, with regular climbing, you’ll be surprised by how quickly you progress. Keep this progress up by regularly trying routes that challenge you.
How do you know if a route is challenging? Well, if you top it in a try or two, it’s probably too easy. Try something that requires more tries. Also, hop on routes that you don’t typically gravitate towards. (If you’re like a lot of climbers, that probably means you should get on some slab routes.)
These are just a few ways beginners can improve on their own. If you find that you need more guidance, plenty of gyms offer technique classes, which can be quite beneficial. And whether you climb solo or with others, remember that patience and practice are key in becoming a better climber.