Dynoing Master Class: Learn to Launch with Power and Precision

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Sarah Nicholson shows good takeoff form on Teny (V2), Roy, NM.

Sarah Nicholson shows good takeoff form on Teny (V2), Roy, NM.

Dynos look simple—just jump to the next hold, right? But as a coach, I’ve seen countless climbers give up on projects within their abilities only because they were stumped by one dynamic move. Alex Stiger, co-head coach and programs director at Movement Climbing & Fitness, Boulder, Colorado, recommends viewing dynos as three-headed hydras—mental, technical, and physical. Fortunately, any climber with solid base fitness and a basic understanding of movement can master this move. (For a refresher, see “Dynoing 101” sidebar. Also check out our upcoming course Master Dynamic Movement—climbing.com/masterdynos.)

The Mental Side

“Commitment is key,” says Natalia Grossman, winner of the 2020 Bouldering National Championships. “Making a halfhearted dyno is often worse than going all in and missing. You’re more likely to hurt yourself if you don’t commit.” In my own career, there was the dyno finish for Jenna’s Jewelry (V4-) on the Pearl boulder in Red Rock. Before hucking to the lip, I had to convince myself the dyno was well within my ability. If I committed, I’d almost surely stick it. But if I let fear hold me back, I was guaranteed a punishing 10-foot drop.

If you’re having trouble committing, make noise—a healthy tennis grunt. I tell my athletes that I don’t believe they’re giving 100-percent effort if I don’t hear any noise. It’s difficult to try your hardest without making a sound.

The Technical Side

Grossman, who has a famously explosive style, is one to learn from. She says repetition and practice are most important for improving technique. She recommends trying as many dyno types as you can, including one-handed, two-handed, run-and-jumps, back-to-back dynos, and dynos off various foot positions, including awkward ones like heel hooks. This gives you a deeper repertoire and helps improve coordination.

As you dyno, aim to jump about 10 centimeters (four inches) higher than required and connect with the target hold before the apex (aka the deadpoint) of your jump, recommend the researchers Franz Konstantin Fuss, professor of Health and Sports Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology, and Gunther Niegl, PhD in physical anthropology and trainer at Alpenverein Akademie in Austria, in their 2010 paper “Biomechanics of the Two-handed Dyno Technique for Sport Climbing.” By having your body still moving upward when your hand contacts the target, you’ll snag the grip with slightly bent (versus fully outstretched) arms, allowing you to more efficiently absorb the load. This technique, tested in Fuss and Niegl’s study, resulted in higher success rates—all climbers who overshot their target hold by more than 2 centimeters successfully caught it, while the success rate was only 28 percent for climbers who hit the target hold within 2 centimeters of their deadpoint. (Note: You must contact the hold while still moving upward. Climbers who overshot the hold but grabbed it on their way down failed every time.)

Vision is also important—as Grossman puts it, “Make sure you’re looking at the hold.” It’s all too common to miss completely, flinging yourself away from the wall because you didn’t have your eyes on the target. Deliberately focus on your goal hold and visualize your trajectory before you attempt the move.

The Physical Side

Grossman says strong arms and legs are critical for big, dynamic moves. She recommends climbing on steep walls and doing dynamic exercises off the wall like squat jumps and explosive pull-ups, as well as focusing on your core.

Dynamic Climbing Drills

These exercises will prep you to land textbook dynos. Depending on your experience level, you’ll vary your approach—I like to mix at least one climbing exercise with one off-the-wall exercise for each power workout. Make sure you’re properly warmed up first. Focus on visualization and commitment through the on-the-wall exercises, and keep strict form on all the drills: core tight to avoid swinging your legs, shoulders engaged by pulling your scapulae back, and a balanced athletic stance (feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent, and chest tall) during the jumping exercises.

Newer climbers: Start building power in the legs with squat jumps, lunge jumps, and box jumps. Try these exercises a couple times per week before moving to the arm-focused exercises.

Intermediate climbers: Do one or two exercises during your regular climbing sessions. Do these a maximum of three times per week, and never on consecutive days.

Advanced climbers: Integrate a few exercises into your workouts every other session. If you wish, add reps and sets as you progress.

On the Wall

Peter Pans

On a steep wall, ideally 45 degrees overhanging, find a juggy boulder problem (V0–V1) and cut your feet after each move; quickly snap your feet back on before executing the next move. This trains the core engagement that lets you re-place your feet after landing a dyno.

Sets and reps: Four sets, with a 3-min rest between each. If that’s easy, add more sets or find longer problems of a similar grade.

Campus on Holds

Also on a steep wall, campus a juggy boulder problem. This is one of the best drills for building shoulder strength and power. Keep your shoulders engaged down your back, as you would on a campus board or hangboard.

Sets and reps: Four sets, with a 3-min rest between each.

Create Your Own Dynos

Find various start and finish holds at appropriate distances. Practice different dynamic moves, including run-and-jumps, and one- and two-handed catches. Mix up your foot positions—high, low, to the side, etc. To find your limits, start small and work your way up.

Sets and reps: Three reps (attempts at the dyno) for four sets (different dynos), with 1-min rests between reps and 3-min rests between sets.

Super Dynos

Stiger suggests initially mimicking the body position and trajectory of your goal dyno, but making it easier by simply touching your target before eventually grabbing it. These “Super Dynos” are great for practicing visualization, focusing on your target hold, and honing mental strength and takeoff form.

Sets and reps: Three reps (attempts at the same problem) for four sets (different problems), with 1-min rests between reps and 3-min rests between sets.

Off the wall

Squat Jumps

These power up your legs for blastoff. Focus on a stationary point, and try to take off and land in the same spot, leaping from a low squat and landing on the balls of your feet. Keep your chest tall and head up, and use your arms to initiate momentum. When you land, immediately drop back into your squat, and then explode back up again. This should be a continuous movement—the squat flowing into the jump flowing into
the squat again.

Sets and reps: Four sets of 20 reps, with 1-min rests between sets.

Lunge Jumps

These build power and coordination. Start in a lunge. At your low point, your forward knee should be at a 90-degree bend with your knee directly above your forward foot, and your back knee should be bent slightly, hovering an inch off the ground. Explode upward, switch legs in the air, and land back in a lunge with your opposite leg forward. Make this exercise a continuous movement.

Sets and reps: Four sets of 10 reps per leg (20 total), with 1-min rests between sets. 

Box Jumps

Pick a box that’s high enough to present a challenge, but not so high that you might not clear it—barking your shins sucks. As with the squat jumps, keep your chest tall, don’t look at your feet, and use your arms to build momentum, then jump onto the box. Land on the balls of your feet, absorb your landing slightly, pause to demonstrate control, then jump down and repeat.

Sets and reps: Four sets of 10 reps, with 1-min rests between sets.

Explosive Pull-Ups

Practice pulling up quickly—with as much power as possible—on the bar, and then lowering with a slow, controlled three-second count. Keep good form throughout. You can also take weight off with a pulley or hang a long resistance band from the bar and place one leg in it. If you’re feeling hardcore, you might even add weight.

Sets and reps: Do four sets of six reps each, with a 3-min rest between sets. Stop if you experience elbow or shoulder pain.

Core

A strong core is integral for controlling momentum.

Sets and reps: Do 4 circuits of 30 bicycles, 15 V-ups, 20 Supermans, and 20 leg-lifts, taking a 3-min rest between circuits. Advanced climbers can add a plank circuit: forearm planks for 50 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 3 minutes, then side planks 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 3 minutes each side.

Dynoing 101

To dyno, build momentum with one (not multiple) powerful pump down with your arms and legs. Twist your hips to keep your body over your feet and close to the wall, and keep your arms and legs in sync—as Stiger says, your arms control your momentum and direction, while your legs control your power. You want them to work together.

On takeoff, lever off the start hold with your arms, pivoting your body around the hold (picture a pole vaulter). Push from your glutes and quads, translating that energy downward through your toes into the footholds. Explode up, not out. Keep your eyes on the target, aiming up and over the hold so you can grab it in an efficient, bent-arm position.

As you grab the target hold, flex your arms, engage your shoulders, and tighten your core to control your “landing,” and then quickly place your feet. Your heart rate will be high, so take some deep breaths, shake out, and chalk up to calm yourself before proceeding.

Ari Schneider is a climber, coach and freelance writer. He has been teaching for athletic and outdoor-education programs since 2013, and is currently a climbing coach for Team Movement in Boulder, Colorado.