Climb with stretched arms. Your legs are stronger than your arms so they're way more efficient to generate power with.
To get your body in a position where upwards movement can be built from your legs, use your core to create body tension and rotate into the desired position.
To stay balanced on the wall, you usually want to aim for 2 opposite points of contact. E.g. right hand + left foot.
When climbing a route try to move from one stable position to the next.
This video is probably the best example. Notice how she re-adjusts her feet after moving to a new hold to establish a stable position.
This article does a great job at explaining what happens if you don't do this, which is called barn-door'ing.
To make reaching far away holds with stretched arms possible, we turn our hip into the wall as we move. Which side depends on which hand you're reaching with. Right hand = right hip, left hand = left hip.
A common mistake is to pull yourself into the twistlock position, hold it and then reach upwards to the hold. You actually want to move into the twistlock and reach up in one fluid motion, without stopping in between.
Precise footwork is important and often neglected. Here's some basic pointers.
- Look at your feet when moving.
- Either use your tip, so you can pivot on it, or the inside edge on slabs.
- Try to aim for slow, controlled movement instead of rapid bursts.
- Don't bounce your foot to test the hold. Place your foot with care, re-adjust if necessary and stick.
- On volumes, place the entire foot down to get as much contact surface with the volume as possible, as opposed to using your tip.
To prevent swinging to the side and to keep your center of gravity above the hold you're standing on, you can stretch the leg that isn't supporting you outwards and press it against the wall.
Don't forget to actively press with the foot you're flagging.
Once you get the hang of flagging, you can also do back flag or inside flag to make up for not having 2 opposite points of contact.
Which side you flag to, and with which leg, depends entirely on your body position and the position of the available footholds.
This is an essential skill. Being able to determine the moves and their sequence are key to climbing a route.
It starts with reading hold directions and leads up to visualizing the entire sequence to a problem in your head. Doing the whole route takes practice; doing just the hands is a good starting point
Don't stop once you figure out the first couple of holds. The end is usually the hardest because by then you're already exhausted so definitely take the extra time to map everything out, all the way to the top.
Measure yourself in holes by standing next to the wall. Now you have an idea of your reach when trying to visualize yourself climbing a route.
Most holds have an obvious way you should be holding them, which tells you a lot about how your body should be positioned once you reach that part of the problem.
Keep hands on the holds as long as possible. Move arms sideways. If you land the move, release back to stretched arms in a slow, controlled way.
Start with basic cardio to get your heart rate up. Either bike/run to the gym or do pushups/jumping jacks to get warm once you get there.
Next, loosen up by doing a combination of the following exercices:
- arm circles
- horizontal cross-over swings
- torso spins
- leg swings (frontal + sideways)
- sideway lunges
Once you feel adequately warmed up, start with a first set of easy routes. Climb 3-5 green (very easy) routes both up and down.
You can practice your diagonal positioning by taking a 2 second "rest" on each hold, with only 2 points of contact. E.g: start with your left hand and right foot on a hold. Maintain for 2 seconds. Move to a right hand, left foot position and find your balance. Maintain for 2 seconds. Etc...
This is also a great time to focus on footwork. A solid exercise for this is silent climbing. Do 5 push-ups for each time you bump into the wall/hold and make a sound.
All of the following exercises should be done on practice climbs. These are usually 2 levels under your max level but can be even lower. Start easy and go up a level if they're too easy.
- 4x4 Climb a route 4 times in a row with 30s rest in between. Take 2 minutes rest after the set, then do it again on 3 other routes. If too easy, go up a level rather than skipping resting.
- Limb elimination Climb a route 4 times in a row with 30s rest in between. Eliminate a different limb every time.
- Eliminator Climb a route, eliminate a hold after each set until you can't finish it anymore.
- Hover Climb a route. Before grabbing the next handhold, hover over it for 3 seconds.
- Shoulder touch Every time you grab a new handhold, pull in your shoulder on that side and touch the hold with it.
- Traversing Climb sideways on any colour. Focus on technique (silent feet, stretched arms, body position, flagging, ...) If you want a challenge, see the next exercise.
- Point & go Have one person traverse and the other one build the route as they climb. Use a brush/stick for easy pointing. Can point to either hand or footholds.
These exercices can be done either at the end of a climbing session or on days when you can't get to the gym.
Each list is 1 set. You can do both, mix or just pick one. Aim for 3 to 5 sets depending on level. 1 minute rest between each exercice.
- 1m Superman
- 1m Leg stretches, with elbow support
- 30s ~ 1m Plank (regular and each side, so 3x total)
- 6 ~ 12 pull-ups
- 6 ~ 12 push-ups
- 6 ~ 12 dips
- 6 ~ 12 rows
All numbers can be increased. Variations can be used to increase difficulty (narrow pull-ups, diamond/ninja push-ups, rings for rows, etc..), but quality > quantity.
Stretching is mandatory. It prevents injuries, increases flexibility and prevents the muscles from shortening. A climber should stretch after every session.
The ones that I personally like:
- Sit on your knees and lean forward with your arms stretched out.
- Sit cross-legged with a straight back and push your knees down.
- Press your palms together and push your arms down.
A wise man once said:
Never climb 2 days in a row during your first year of climbing
When you start to climb you need to give your tendons and muscles enough time to adjust to the stress climbing puts on them. If you do cheat on this rule, listen to your body.
I personally follow something like this:
A rest day can be either full on rest or doing some light cardio (walk/bike), light exercises and/or stretching.
Use a pumice stone or 100-150 grit sandpaper to sand down the calluses that form on your hands to prevent flappers.
Wash off chalk right after a session and apply a lotion.
Keep nails at a decent, short length.
Tape isn't necessary for beginners.