Climbing is a fantastic form of exercise that requires almost no equipment and is as challenging mentally as it is physically. Climbing builds incredible upper body and core strength and strengthens your grip better than any other sport. Here are our top tips for beginner climbers that we wish we knew when we started.
Chalk stops your palms from sweating which will increase your grip on the holds and require less straining to hold on. It’s pretty cheap and you can pick up a ball of chalk for around £1.50 ($2).
Lead with your feet
New climbers, like us, tend to focus solely on their hands and the direction they are going - up - forgetting that they have to move your feet up the wall too. Doing this stretches you out on the wall making further movements difficult because you cannot see where to put your feet because your torso is in the way. A better technique is to move your feet first which will move your torso up and give you a better reach, it also bends the knees and hips to give you more leverage on holds.
Hang like a monkey
Think about hanging from a bar, easy right? But attempting a pullup is much more difficult and hanging with your arms in a bent position is even more taxing.This is because you need to use your biceps, triceps and shoulder muscles to hold your arm bent. Instead, you want to hang with your arms straight and use your much stronger leg muscles to support your weight. If you want a demonstration check out these cuties hanging out in their enclosure at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago
But think elegance
We’ve all heard the saying ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ and it holds true in the sport of climbing. Swinging and clasping for holds will tire you out quickly and will not allow you to develop the techniques required for harder routes. Instead, take the time to study your route before you start and move up the wall as slowly, reaching for each hold with confidence and thinking about the placement of your feet. Think of each hold as a steady flow of energy from move to move, this will help you improve your strength and balance and stop you wasting energy.
Balance is all in the hips
Learning to manipulate your centre of gravity and use your hip placement to climb is key to progressing through problems. And it’s pretty simple - keep your hips close to the wall. By staying close to the wall you keep your centre of gravity over your feet and take weight off your hands which accomplishes three things: first, it decreases the distance you have to move to get to the next hold, second, it increases the effectiveness of your footholds, and finally it decreases the amount of force in your arms that you need to hold yourself up. This is true whether the wall is vertical or overhung...
As a new climber you’re going to have to hire some climbing shoes. Like a ballet shoe a climbing shoe is designed to wedge your toes to a point with an extremely strong rubber sole and a square edge to help grip and support your weight on holds.You should ask for a shoe size one size less than your regular shoe size. Your climbing shoe should be tight so you cannot wiggle your toes but not painful.This does make them a little uncomfortable but a tight shoe does two things that really help you out. One, it gives you a better ‘foot feel’ so you can really sense those ledges and footholds. Two, it ensures the shoe won’t rotate when you put a lot of weight on it - if that happened you’d slip right off whatever ledge you were standing on.
Watch videos of pro’s
One of the best ways to understand how to become a good climber is to watch videos of professionals. Pay close attention to all the methods listed above. Use these videos to inspire you and get you pumped for a great climbing sessions.
Here are our favourite videos:
Climb down as well as up
Climbing back down a route is as hard as climbing up and is a fantastic method for improving your technique. Instead of jumping off, take time to climb back down using the opposite movements of your way up. It will increase your grip and stamina massively and help your balance on the wall.
As in any sport progress comes with practice. Climbing will make you use muscles you’ve never used before, especially in your fingers, so make sure you take a few days to recover between sessions when you start out, until you build up strength.
Additionally, don’t rush your way through the routes on your session. We know how exciting and fun climbing is but pace yourself or you’ll burn out quickly. Give yourself breaks between routes to get strength back and stay hydrated,
Climbing is a brilliant sport that we know you’ll love so use these techniques to help you get started and you’ll be climbing like a master in no time.