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Climb Harder by Increasing Your Dynamic Strength

There's a time and place for static moves. But what do of the world's strongest climbers have in common? They are very good at moving dynamically.

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The ability to move dynamically is a critical skill for hard bouldering and sport climbing, yet many climbers struggle to “bounce and slap,” even when that is what the move demands. A static style has its place on easy terrain, or even difficult sections if the protection is marginal. However, you will be pouring away energy if you lock off and slow-mo to every hold on cruxes and sustained sequences, and you’ll place unnecessary strain on your tendons.

It can be difficult for climbers who have engrained a static style to re-program themselves to move dynamically, but have faith. It can be done. My first advice is to boulder more, and to redpoint hard projects rather than exclusively climb onsight. My next recommendation is to be sure that fear of falling isn’t encouraging your static style. If so, address this fear as a priority. Once you have done that, you should analyze your movements via video feedback or the constructive criticism of your partners.

Meanwhile, you can make strides with the following supportive exercises. Don’t worry too much about full-blown dynos as these rarely crop up unless you’re a hardened boulderer. Instead, take a detailed look at the deadpoint sequence, which essentially provides the blueprint for dealing with all hard climbing situations.

1 Deadpointing

Deadpointing is the term coined to describe reaching (or “slapping”) for a hold at speed. In contrast to dynos, which you use to overcome long reaches, deadpointing is often required when you are either too weak or too pumped to hang onto a hold long enough to reach the next hold statically. Once you master the technique, you can start using it strategically to climb harder and more efficiently.

With deadpointing, you usually remain on one or both of the “take-off” footholds. Aim to catch the target hold precisely at the weightless moment (or “deadpoint”) at the top of the move. If you let go of the lower hold and reach for the target hold too early, or move too slowly, you won’t achieve sufficient height; but if you hold on too long, you’ll lose momentum and “drop out” (i.e.: you will be traveling downward by the time you catch the hold).

2 Movement Sequence

1. Commit: Don’t waste time attempting to static a move. There is no such thing as a half static/half dynamic move. Do one or the other.

2. Set your feet: Make a quick check that your feet are in the best position and don’t delay. On longer deadpoint moves, you will need to generate upward thrust from your feet; consider this when selecting footholds. Placing one foot higher than the other usually works best. If using both feet feels unbalanced, consider taking one foot off and flagging.

3 Generate Momentum

You can crank up momentum three different ways. For all three methods the key is to let go with the lower hand approximately two thirds of the way through the pull-up. A small bounce can work well before you go for the move, but don’t bounce more than once.

a) Hinge deadpoint. Use this method when you are moving to a hold directly overhead. Straighten the arms and lean back from the wall by bending at the waist like a hinge, then thrust the torso inwards and jump to the hold.

b) Pendulum deadpoint. For diagonal or sideways moves, swing the hips like a pendulum and then “flick” your hand to the hold.

c) Rock-over deadpoint. If there’s a good high foothold, rock up onto it at speed. Use the hinge method to generate additional momentum from your torso.

4 Maintain Contact

Be accurate with your fingers, especially on pockets and slopers, which may only have one specific good part. Your hips should finish vertically below the target hold—too far in and you’ll swing out after grabbing the hold. Too far out and you’ll miss the hold. You need to be stationary as you hit the hold. When using small footholds that are positioned low, “drill” your toes and tense your hamstrings and core muscles at the precise moment you latch the hold—think “feet” at the same time as you’re thinking “hands.” Don’t be too quick to blame lack of core strength if your feet are coming off, as lack of coordination is nearly always the culprit. Down-turned shoes help. If you’re still having difficulty sticking the target handhold, try cheating into position by using extra holds when climbing indoors or a power- spot from a partner if climbing outside. This will help you build confidence in the move and enable your body to map into position.

5 Additional Exercises

For extra practice in moving dynamically, try double-handed deadpoints on a campus board with your feet on foot rungs. Alternatively, clapping push-ups and star jumps (start squatting then jump and extend your arms and legs out to the sides) will teach you timing and get you moving more explosively.

This article appeared in Rock and Ice 222