Intro to High Steps
High stepping can be one of the most confounding techniques for new climbers. The combination of flexibility and strength required to lift a foot up to your chest and push off it is something that may seem far off, but with a little bit of directed practice, anyone can step as high as their dreams. It is a common misconception that trouble with high steps is a flexibility issue. However, like most problems in climbing, technique is often the root cause.
First, picture an experienced climber you know properly executing a high step. Chances are, they are quick, fluid, and maybe even a little explosive. They make it look so easy, but when you try, you feel crunched up and can barely push off that higher leg. If you do execute the move, it is slow and choppy, hardly graceful. The problem is that you are doing the natural thing, pushing with your high foot. However, the key to effective high steps is almost always in the lower foot. This may seem counter-intuitive, but once you master this skill your climbing ability will explode.
To start off, find your gyms birthday party slab. I promise that if you can overcome the embarrassment, this will be well worth your time. Next, place your dominant foot on the highest hold possible and try and stand up without your hands or pushing at all with your lower foot. If you can do this, congratulations on having the worlds strongest thighs. Now, try it again but, instead, give yourself a boost by pushing with your lower leg. Wasn’t that easier? Try and focus on making a smooth transition from pushing with the lower leg to the higher. After you get the hang of it, practice climbing the kiddy slab with no hands. Not only will this help with your high steps, but it will also greatly increase your balance and comfort on the rock.
After you get used to initiating movement from the lower leg, you can move on to steeper walls and harder routes. The best time to incorporate this type of practice is during your warmup. Try and do the greatest variety of high step moves possible and make sure the motion is fluid. If you are tapping your lower foot on the wall, you are not pushing enough with the bottom foot. Don’t be discouraged if high steps still feel difficult on routes or problems at your limit. It will take plenty of practice to incorporate the new technique into harder climbs. Good luck and happy high stepping!