22 September 2010
Some themes that commonly emerge when coaching movement technique with climbers. Thanks to Rick Marland for the pics from Big Rock at the weekend.
The nature of climbing walls - look at the layout of the holds on modern climbing walls. In the main, setters tend to space the holds fairly evenly leading to the sort of position I’m in here, with limbs all at different levels. This makes quite pleasant continuous movement. But keep in mind that a lot of rock types have more patterned arrangements of holds; holds together in breaks with long reaches between and sometimes on good handholds but miniscule dinks for feet or vice versa. If you are training for this, watch out that your regular diet of climbing contains at least some movement like this.
Note also the three finger ‘pocket’ grip on the left hand. Climbers in their early twenties or younger don’t use it much, relying on the crimp much more. They haven’t had the pulley injuries yet - but they will! When we go to the campus board they can’t even hang on it openhanded. Older climbers use openhanded much more through necessity - too many pulley injuries. The serendipitous discovery is that once you get over the initial weakness, openhanded is a much stronger and less tiring grip on more than 50% of holds.
I’m pointing at the left foot in this picture. It needs to be pressed hard against the wall to complete the preparation to move the right hand. Although it doesn’t have a foothold to go to, it’s doing one of the most important jobs of all the limbs here. By pressing directly into (not downwards) the wall, it holds the upper body upright, preventing it falling outwards as the right hand reaches.
Beginners miss this, experienced climbers do it intuitively but rarely with enough force or often enough and often the foot is systematically placed in the wrong spot. In my classes I show how the flagging foot should be placed various different types of move.
About to pull in hard with the left foot to get in position for the hand move. Climbers are generally too passive with the lower body. It’s natural to focus your aggression on the tiny handholds, because pulling really hard with our fingers is not a natural activity. It grabs our attention. Pulling hard with the feet in rock climbing is a learned skill. You have to force yourself to do at first.
Comparing rockshoes. The move in the second picture was impossible for some because they couldn’t get any weight on the foot on a small foothold. The reason was purely that the shoes were poorly fitting or worn out so the sole had no stiffness left. It’s easy in your normal climbing to convince yourself that this isn’t happening or it’s importance is small. But when we all try the same move and all the chaps who are not as strong can to the move easily it is an illuminating experience and climbers start talking about choosing a good pair of new shoes.