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There is a misconception amongst beginners that in climbing one has to develop strength solely in his/her arms and fingers. This couldn't be further from the truth.
As a beginner climber I remember that I was obsessed with finding the biggest hand holds when in fact I managed to climb even with smaller holds. It basically comes down to technique, footwork, energy conservation and emotion control.
Without further ado let's see what are the aspects you should work on if you've just started your climbing career.
Footwork - Since you won't attack hard routes at first - you will probably climb easy routes in the gym or slabby rock faces outdoor - try to concentrate on using your feet to the highest extent.
To have an idea about how much you need to use footwork in your climbing try a little exercise: climb on a ladder without holding the rods, that is only by stepping and pushing down - use your hands just to keep your balance (you can lean on the ladder but you aren't allowed to grab or pull the rods). If you can do that then you're one step closer to improving your climbing capabilities.
When climbing on a slab you won't have too much choice and you'll inherently use your feet more than your hands, taking advantage of the friction between the rock and your climbing shoes' sole - a technique that is called smearing (read more here).
The thing with footwork is that you have to be aware of it while you're doing it. You should also know that it works best if you step on the footholds properly - you literally have to apply your climbing shoe on the hold, load the hold (transfer some weight on your foot) and push on it as to raise your body higher (from flexed knee to stretched leg).
General fitness of your body is highly essential for climbing and in this case you should be able to do one leg squats. This can be attained trough alternative exercise like uphill running, uphill cycling or simply by doing squats until you can do them with just one leg.
Foot and opposite hand - This is the most common technique you will use in modern sport climbing and since it imitates the ladder climbing it should feel natural. What you have to do is to be constantly looking to get your body ready for the next move by grabbing a hold and using the opposite foot for pairing. Example: If you have your left hand on a jug slightly above your hand, you must look for a good hold on which to step with your right foot - if you want to ascend more in one single move you must raise your foot as high as possible. Pull with your hand and push with your leg - your move is completed when you are standing on your foot (leg fully stretched) and your hand is somewhere at your shoulder level (or below). The free leg is supposed to be dragged on the rock as to maintain your balance while the free arm is reaching for the next hold. You will encounter situations when the only way to pass the crux is to use - say - the right hand and the right foot. You must avoid the opening door effect and either move dynamically to the next hold or offset the hinge effect by placing your left leg laterally below your right foot (which is placed higher).
- Use your feet more than your hands
- Apply the rule of hand and opposite leg for an efficient ascent
- When hanging, rest with your arms stretched
Enjoy outdoors through climbing!
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