Are You Solid?
Without going into the details about the technique/strength dichotomy, or lack thereof, I would like to pontificate a little about one of the most overlooked climbing techniques. So often, discussions about climbing technique center on what is going on with everything but the hands, but the hands are the limiting factor for almost every climbing technique in existence. How can you move gracefully, with purpose and control, on the rock if your hand is slowly slipping off a hold? On holds at our limits, this is partially unavoidable, but fairly often, I see climbers suffering from weak hand placement technique on holds well within their limit. This might not matter so much on a short boulder, but on longer problems or routes, having solid hand technique might mean the difference getting shut down on 12a or warming up on it.
The excellent Self Coached Climber features the exercise Glue hands. In a nutshell, Glue Hands is all about committing to hand placements. Once you place your hand on a hold, you are not allowed to move it under any circumstances. While this is a great exercise for building precision, it doesn’t go far enough to develop the solidity necessary to climb hard sequences with ease. Achieving this requires a bit more work, concentration, and a complete reevaluation of how you view poor holds.
The first change is that you will no longer think of “holding” poor holds. From now on, you are “moving” on them. For whatever reason, climbers love to hesitate on small holds. This has got to stop! You know you can make that move, so instead of climbing with doubt and hesitation, grab that hold and make the move to the next one. Think light and easy and it will be light and easy. You might be saying, “That move is right at my limit!” It might be right at your limit the way you are doing it, but I bet with a few subtle changes, you will be able to do it with relative ease. Tell yourself that it is easy, and it will be easy. Be solid and stable on those holds!
The next change is much more technical but crucial to see true gains from the first. You need to learn to move powerfully and dynamically while still keeping your hands relatively stable. The best way to do this is to put way more time in working your open handed climbing. Open handing is much less multidirectional than crimping and therefore lets you get away with much less slop. Just don’t let it constrain your climbing style. If you are climbing more statically to compensate, you aren’t really learning the skills, just making yourself a less effective climber.
Hopefully, this little tip will make a big difference in your climbing. Don’t expect results overnight. This has to be applied every time you climb. Like all new techniques, start on super easy problems and work up through the grades. Good luck. Send some rigs for me.