It’s no secret that rock climbing is a demanding sport that requires lots of mental focus, physical strength and balance. As a climber, you’re probably well aware of how to increase the strength needed to scale those difficult cliffs but did you know that proper balance is just as important? Here are 6 tips to help you improve your balance.
- Wear the right shoes
Ok…this seems pretty obvious, right? Maybe, but you’d be amazed at how many climbers are climbing in shoes that don’t fit correctly or that don’t have the right features for them. This is especially true for beginners. Your shoes should not only fit correctly, they should also be selected for the type of climbing you’re planning on doing. You should choose different shoes for neutral climbing that you would for aggressive and vice versa. If you’re wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or that aren’t suited for the type of climbing you’re doing, your balance is likely to suffer and climbing will be more physically difficult. For more information on how to choose the correct climbing shoes, consult the experts. And by experts, we mean starting with this great article by REI.
- Keep your feet low and moving frequently
This is going to be an especially helpful tip for you if you’re moving from indoor climbing to outdoor climbing. Most gym routes encourage large movements between footholds but techniques that work in indoor gyms don’t usually work the same in the great outdoors. Natural rock formations are more likely to require small, frequent movements. To help you get prepared for this, work to make small, frequent foot placements when training in a gym. Try making three foot placements for every hand placement. This will help your body learn how to stay close to the wall and keep your weight on your feet.
- Focus on your lower body, not your hands
It should be no surprise that your lower body is stronger than your upper body. After all, it carries your upper body all day long. It should be stronger! This is a very important thing to remember in rock climbing specifically. It’s easy to get fixated on hand sequences and simply put your feet on the biggest holds possible. But if you instead focus on choosing the correct holds for your lower body and push your handholds to be second priority, your balance will be more strategic making it ultimately easier to climb.
- Weight footholds correctly
There’s more to good footwork than just choosing the right place to put your feet each time. You also need to focus on how you’re “grasping” (for lack of a better term) each and every foothold. Once your feet are in position, wrap your toes over the hold while weighting your foot in a way that maximized friction between hold and rubber. Yes, this does require a LOT of core strength and awareness but concentrating on how your feet are placed on each and every hold will help better balance you entire body and give you more time to plan your next move.
- Find your center of gravity
Your center of gravity is your center of gravity for a reason. That’s the natural way your body communicates with the earth. Don’t fight it. If you don’t know where your center of gravity is or you’re fighting it the whole way up the climb, not only will you be less stable you’ll also have to work a lot harder because you’re fighting gravity! And gravity doesn’t normally budge. If you don’t know where your center of gravity is, use this great tip from Craig Demartino who had to figure out how to find his new center of gravity after losing a limb. Demartino recommends hanging a long draw (at least 24”) on the belay loop of your harness and then climbing up the draw. Where your carabiner swings between your legs is your center of gravity. Once you’ve found it, make moves that put the draw hanging straight down between your legs. As you climb, make slight adjustments so you can understand the difference between feeling balanced and off-balanced. Over time you will naturally understand your center of balance and become a more efficient climber. (Climbing.com)
- Increase your flexibility
Every climber knows that flexibility is important in climbing. Especially in outdoor climbing where you can’t count on a hold being within close reach. What you might not realize however is how important flexibility is to balance. That’s because flexibility does more than just allow your body to be able to reach further and bend in sometimes unnatural ways. Flexibility also helps balance muscle groups that might be overused during exercise and helps realign soft tissue structures and reduce the effort it takes to balance.
The number one way to be a better rock climber? Make sure your muscles are healthy! And the best way to promote muscle health is by practicing proper muscle recovery. Download our FREE Day-to-Day Muscle Recovery Checklist and make sure you’re doing everything possible to promote proper muscle health.