5 quick technique fixes
Overall it takes a very long time to build up good technique because of the complexities of the different techniques required for different angles, rock types and according to whether you are onsighting, redpointing or working moves at your limit on a boulder problem. In the end details and subtle differences really matter. However...
...there are a few quick fixes. Any of the following can be done as drills or part of your warm up and eventually become ‘how you do it’.
1. Hold on as lightly as possible
Ideally you will only ever put the exact and appropriate force required through a handhold and that takes a long time to work out. However, trying to hold on as lightly as possible is a sure fire way to see what you can get away with. On routes efficiency is everything and giving your fingers a break will really help the pressure on your forearms. Try to open hand and ‘drag’ handholds. If this feels nerve-wracking on lead do it on a top rope or on an easy boulder problem. You’ll find out just how little effort you need to really cling on and even more so when you can fine tune into the friction of the handholds which will offer more support than you think.
2. Ensure your big toe is making contact with the foothold
Climbing shoes, with their aggressive heels, are designed to push your foot forward through the shoe so that your big toe sits right at the tip. So of course to use your feet as well as possible you need to be wearing the right (size) shoes to allow this. Whether you are using your toes, inside edge or outside edge your big toe should always be engaged with the foothold. You will have the best control of your foot through the foothold this way. Try not to let the end of your toe drift off the edge of the foothold.
3. Clip from a straight arm
It’s commonly known that keeping a straight arm means you’ll be hanging off your skeleton and not engaging your muscles. It’s not always possible to clip off a straight arm, but if you have a good hand hold it should be. However, it’s not so straight forward... The rest of your body should be in a good position to help support your arms. Try to have a good base of support with your feet and ensure your hips and centre of gravity are positioned over that base of support and under the hand hold.
4. Make small footsteps
When you have a large range of foothold choices it’s often best to make smaller footsteps. While a high foot step and good foothold is tempting, it will mean that your hips have further to travel to get back in balance again over your feet and you’ll have to pull more with the arms. So search for the poor in between footholds... You’ll take more pressure off your arms that way.
5. Learn to do an ‘in control’ footswap
Many people do the ‘hop’ when they swap feet. It works and it’s quick, but it can be risky (what if you miss the foothold?!) and often means you’ll temporarily weight your arms more by doing this. There are a number of methods but here are two. Plan ahead by making room in advance on the foothold for the next foot to stand next to it. You can step through inside your leg to do this too. The other method is what I call the ‘table cloth’ which is in effect a controlled hop. Hover one toe above the other and gently slide out the lower foot. Your other toe should land where the other one was... in theory. This one takes practice.