Are you an avid climber?
It’s no surprise since climbing has become more and more popular in the recreational sports field. Studies from 2016 show that of the 27 new climbing gyms in the US, 56% were opened by first-time climbing gym operators.
You may be wondering how you can improve your climbing. Enhancing your climbing is all about improving your footwork. Correct footwork is essential to your climbing posture and also benefits your endurance and skill level.
The more you practice your footwork, the more confidence you will have in your feet. It will allow you to move with balance and precision.
No matter what climbing ability level you are at, continually working to improve footwork is something all climbers should do. The more efficiently you can use your feet, the more efficiently you will climb.
Read on to learn how to improve your climbing footwork with these tips and techniques.
Feet First, Hands Second
It is quite common for the beginning climber to look up, rather than down. After all, it is a natural instinct to want to look at where you are going.
However, looking only for the next handhold without paying attention to your feet will often result in an inefficient position. Inefficient positions will make the moves harder and also drain your stamina faster.
An excellent climbing footwork tip is always to make sure your feet are in the ideal position first. Once your feet are stable, move your hands to the next handhold. As you learn more about your body and how it moves, you will naturally move your feet to a correct position before moving each hand.
Look at Your Feet
Make sure that you are looking at your foot anytime you are moving it to another foothold. Only when you are stabilized against a rock face with three or four points of contact should you scan for your next hold.
When you find the next optimal foothold, keep your eyes on your foot while you move it. You should be watching your foot from the time it leaves the previous foothold until it is securely weighted on the next one.
Good climbers watch their feet, knowing that secure foot placement is the key to climbing. When you are not watching your feet leads to inefficient movements, lack of confidence, and over-gripping with the hands.
Proper Hip Technique
A general rule of thumb for good climbing is: whichever hand you’re reaching with, you should position that hip against the wall. A proper hip technique will also affect your footwork.
If you do not have the proper hip technique, you will get far less extension. It will also put more stress on your feet, and they may turn in awkward angles. For better extension and natural movement, you should always turn the hip on the same side of the hand you are using to the wall.
If you are climbing correctly, there should be no sounds from your feet and climbing shoes as you ascend. If there are sounds, it is because you are not executing good climbing footwork.
If you are not watching your feet as they move from foothold to foothold, it will cause your shoes to scrape against the rocks. Many beginner climbers will rely on the sound of a foot against the rock to know if they have successfully placed their foot on a foothold.
However, this creates insecure foot placements. Don’t fall into the trap of only concentrating on handholds. Random and inefficient foot placement will drain your endurance and will not likely lead to climbing success.
Place Feet Softly
Along with climbing quietly, placing fee softly on the rock surface is also a mark of good climbing footwork. Foot placements should be delicate and purposeful.
Placing your feet softly and quietly means that you are paying attention. Quiet and soft feet are also common markers of focused and efficient climbers.
If you are constantly stomping or slacking your feet on the rock, you will necessarily expend lots of energy and most likely end up falling off.
Make Small Steps
Another mistake that many beginner climbers make is taking large steps. Large steps are sometimes crucial for upward movement, but those steps require a lot of strength and balance.
Whenever you take a large step, you not only have to push hard with your leg, but you also have to pull with upper body strength. For most climbers, this is an inefficient way of moving upwards and expends valuable force.
For most situations, it is better to take two or three small steps rather than one giant step. Even if the footholds are small or are at a sloping angle, taking small steps will ensure that you are secure against the rock surface.
Maintain Relaxed Arms
Relaxed arms have an enormous impact on climbing footwork as well. If you do not maintain relaxed arms, it will inevitably lead to over-gripping and over-straining.
While it may feel more powerful and stable to have flexed arms, it leads to quick exhaustion and fatigue. In these situations, you may overcompensate with your feet and legs. This, in turn, will affect your climbing footwork, and probably lead to an unsuccessful climb.
Observe Other Climbers
If you train at a gym, you probably have many opportunities to watch advanced climbers on the same courses you climb as well. Make sure to watch how they move and use their feet. Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi reveal that observational learning is one of the best ways to receive knowledge.
Observing other climbers will give you great insight on how advanced climbers use their feet and which footholds they use and why. From these climbers, you can learn a lot about why proper climbing footwork will benefit your climbing.
Ready to Work on Your Climbing Footwork?
Improving climbing footwork should be a priority for every climber. Training often and staying consistent with footwork drills will also ensure that you’re improving at a faster rate.
Always pay attention to the way your body feels while climbing, and pay especially close attention to your footwork. Establishing good climbing footwork will stabilize and build a solid foundation for the rest of your body.
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