Climbing can be a dance, a technical ballet if you will. Using 4 points of contact are your steps. Each climb possesses a configuration of holds for hands and feet, your mission is to “crack the code” and unlock the perfect sequence of moves for your technical dance.
Let’s consider the two basic types of climbers at a gym. Most climbers come in and boulder– they move in ways that feel the easiest based on their knowledge of climbing. In comparison, a beginners’ lack of experience can lead them down a clunky path of technique and movement that will solidify poor habits. A less common approach is to climb with the intent of completing each move as technically sound as possible. Attention to detail can reinforce correct skills and allow you to progress quickly. Quick results are not very common, but can be achieved by climbers who can effectively practice technique. One of my favorite quotes– “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong”.
Part 1– proper foot placement
Since your legs are more powerful than your arms, it makes sense to let your legs to most of the work. Exceptions to this are steep overhanging routes which we will cover later. To effectively use your feet, start with spotting your footholds and WATCH your foot all of the way to the exact spot you want to stand. Directing your foot placement require a high degree of attention to detail. This is important because your feet are:
Once you see a foothold, position your foot on the most positive spot of the foothold. You will want to use the space of your shoe directly under your big toe. Next, shift some body weight over the hold before standing up on it. It’s this downward pressure that helps the shoe rubber stick to it, so not properly weighting a hold often leads to the foot slipping off the hold. For newer climbers, it is more intuitive to climb with one foot pushing at a time (as in climbing a ladder), so you’ll need to make a conscious effort to develop this important foot skill.
The last step is proper alignment of your center of gravity directly over a foothold. Balance, stability, and application of force are all working together when your center of gravity is positioned directly over your feet, forming a line perpendicular to level ground. On vertical or near-vertical climbing surface, you simply need to keep your body position straight and over the feet as much as possible. When the climbing wall overhangs, it becomes impossible to position your weight over your feet, so new fundamentals take over.