The Keys to Effective, Efficient Climbing Movement

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Effective and efficient, that’s your goal. Effectiveness yields results without regard for the effort necessary; it’s simply defined as success. Efficiency is not concerned with success but rather the ease with which each particular movement can be performed. Both are necessary. Effectiveness without efficiency means wasted effort as you muscle your way through sequences; you can never climb to your potential without being efficient. Efficiency without effectiveness yields failure; for example, the easiest way to complete a sequence might put you in a poor position for the next set of moves.

I’ve found through observation, study, and trial and error, that there are six primary determinants of effective and efficient movement. Today we’ll go over the first three. I’ll publish the second three in a week or so.

1. Precise feet

Precise foot placement is the first order of business in climbing efficiency.

Number one is always precise foot placement. If you’re climbing near your limit on holds that you can barely use, you better not waste any time placing your feet. You simply must get your foot quickly and precisely to the exact spot it’s needed without adjustment or delay. Any extra time spent bumping your foot around a hold means you’re extending the time that you’re exerting tremendous effort using those poor hand holds.

The silent foot exercise is the best way to improve foot placement precision. You attempt to climb without making any noise with your feet. It’s easier said than done and requires concentrated effort over an extended period of time. Begin on an easy climb and go slow, as you get better increase both your speed and the difficulty of the climbing until you can move at your normal pace on difficult terrain and still place your feet precisely.

2. Turning

Number two on my list is turning. There is no substitute for the leverage that turning side-to-side in appropriate circumstances provides. Turning helps you use the big, powerful muscles of your core and upper back rather than the much weaker biceps to reach the next hold.

Learn to turn using the line and flag exercise in which you backstep your opposite foot directly under the stationary hand, turn so that the backstepped hip turns into the wall, flag your other leg out, and reach with the other hand to a new hold. For example, if you want to reach with your right hand, backstep your right foot directly under your left hand, turn and face to the left, stand up on the right foot and reach. Begin with very easy climbing and progress to more difficult terrain as your turning improves.

3. Balance

To become efficient first understand balance.

Improving the quality of your balance almost certainly improves efficiency; the more stable you feel, the less effort is generally required to maintain your position on the wall. Balance is defined as the relationship of your center of gravity (CoG) to base of support (base). Your CoG is the point in your body on which you can balance in any configuration, in other words you’d balance on a pencil point laying on your side or back, standing up, or on your head as long as the CoG was directly over the pencil point. To simplify our discussion here think of your belly button as your CoG. Your base is the shape described by drawing a line around your points of contact.

When both hands and both feet are on holds, your base is a polygon, and if your CoG falls within that box the position will feel stable. As the box shrinks, for example by reaching for a new hold with one hand effectively reducing the polygon to a triangle, the balance becomes less stable. If only one hand and one foot are on holds, the base is a straight line drawn between the two points of contact greatly limiting side-to-side movement.

To improve your balance for any given move, experiment with broadening your base and shifting your CoG to within the base.

Next time I’ll cover the remaining three elements of effective and efficient climbing. Good climbing!

One Response to “The Keys to Effective, Efficient Climbing Movement”

  1. [...] silent feet exercise is something I picked up on during one of my first reads through The Self Coached Climber. It stood [...]

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