‘If you can climb a ladder, you can climb a route at Bliss.’ We tell people this all the time, and it’s true. Many of our introductory routes have big foot holds and large jugs. They are a blast! Six-year-old kiddos and sixty-year young grandmothers come in and find their way to the top, smiling ear-to-ear. It’s intuitive and natural and a great confidence builder.
Very soon, however, you are ready to move on to more challenging routes. Foot holds get smaller, movement is no longer right-left-right, and holds become much less positive. What’s a granny to do?
Most just try harder, and by trying harder I mean they grip harder and jump more. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for trying harder and occasionally a jump is kinda fun (even for this poorly coordinated white boy). And I have seen some pretty strong climbers making it up harder routes with big moves and large jugs. The problem is that many routes won’t support this kind of climbing. They require more control and finesse (we call that technique 🙂 ).
The good news is that there is one simple habit that you can develop that will build a fundamental skill that will begin propelling you to the next level: use your feet.
Your legs are much stronger than your arms ever will be. They are also the key to engaging your core, which is what holds your entire body close to the wall.
Most new climbers use their feet when climbing like they use their feet when walking. As we walk, most of us really don’t look at our feet. We know the floor is down there and as our peds come in contact with good ole terra firma, we adjust weight and go forward. Climbing however requires much more precision and intent.
The first habit is to look at your feet. Every time. Every move. Look at the hold you want that foot on. Keep your eyes on the hold until your foot is placed correctly in place, and THEN move on. Concentrate on using the front toe-box of your climbing shoe to connect with the hold. That is the part of the shoe that has the best grip and offers the most options for power and movement. The key here is to get in the habit of doing this even on those easy giant foot holds that you could use the entire foot on. Building habits on these easier routes will then naturally transfer to the harder moves.
The next key is to move those feet up before you move your hands. Break that noob tendency to reach as high as you can and then do a pull-up to get your feet up. Use those big sexy thighs, and move your feet first, then push your body up to the next hand hold. Imagine a connection from your feet to your legs to your back and abs as you bring yourself up and into the wall. Then find your next hand hold and simply lay your hand softly on the next hold, caressing it like a delicate flower (OK, that was just dumb, but you get the picture).
There are many more nuances to the use of feet, and we will cover these in future posts, but for now, start here. Look at the foot hold, move your feet, use your toes, lift your body, and repeat. And remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Develop a habit of doing this on every climb. You WILL see improvement.
Climb hard and Follow Your Bliss,