How to become a better rock climber

Stef Zisovska

You were always curious to know how rock climbing felt and one day you decided to try it. Since then, you can’t think about anything else but putting your hand on the rock again. There are many aspects of rock climbing that make people fall in love with this challenging activity.

For example, the physical exertion involved, dealing with problems, the feeling of overcoming gravity, and the social aspects. Improving in this sport is a lifelong challenge, so if you are a beginner, don’t despair. There are many ways to make yourself a better rock climber than the one you are now. Nobody’s perfect and things don’t change overnight, but with a little bit of practice, you can definitely improve your climbing skills.

Climb as often as you can

The thrill of climbing
The thrill of climbing

If you’re new to rock climbing, try to do it as often as possible. To achieve some serious goals in the sport, you need to practice a lot. Start with climbing gyms as they offer many different climbing problems and difficulty levels.

Gyms are also good places for you to observe what other climbers are doing and pick up some tips from them. Spend as much time as possible climbing, and the results will follow.

Take a climbing course

If you still don’t feel secure about it, start with a climbing course at the local climbing gym. Getting a mentor is also recommendable for people who need some extra help and tips. An experienced person will be able to teach you far more than you’d learn by yourself.

Set personal goals

Every beginner is a different story. Never compare yourself to others and set personal goals that will help you improve your climbing technique. Whether it’s fighting a fear of heights or pushing yourself into a new grade range, your goals need to be smart and attainable.

The technique is what matters

Good technique is key to climbing success
Good technique is key to climbing success

If you want to succeed in what you’re doing, dedicate more time to learning techniques than to gaining strength. Learn good movement, careful footwork, balance, and body positioning before worrying about getting stronger. The physical strength will come as a result of the technical ability.

Learn how to use your feet

They say great climbing begins with great footwork. The foot placements should be silent and deliberate. Practicing good footwork will increase the control you have over your whole body while you’re hanging on a rock.

Keep your arms straight

Right use of arms when climbing
Right use of arms when climbing

Holding yourself up with bent arms is not a good idea because you will get a buildup of lactic acid in your forearms and this is tiring. Try to keep your arms as straight as possible while climbing as it’s the more efficient way to do it.

Center of gravity

Keep your center of gravity low and close to the wall/rock. By using the big muscles in your legs more, you’ll gain more stability and avoid shivering while hanging out there.

Warm up

Warming up
Warming up

Don’t ever think of starting a climbing session without a proper warm up! It is important to prepare your muscles to prevent injury. What you need to do is:

  1. cardio exercises to get your blood flowing
  2. dynamic stretching
  3. 30-minute easy bouldering

Use your shoulders

Opposition exercises like push-ups, dips, and shoulder presses are the best for engaging your shoulders. Climbers do a lot of pulling so the shoulders must be well developed.

Strengthen your core

Focus on your lower front and back core muscles and less on building your six-pack. Your core will help your feet stay on the wall on steep terrain.

Practice using your fingers

It takes a lot of practice to get hands as strong as the pros!
It takes a lot of practice to get hands as strong as the pros!

If you start climbing as an adult, the tendons in your fingers are likely not that strong, so you need to do some extra exercises. Pace yourself on small crimp holds so you don’t injure your fingers, but still, do some useful practice.

Also, it’s good to learn the climbing jargon and to join the local club. Go for it and good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival