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The logic behind these techniques is pretty obvious, yet when the lactic acid builds, many climbers tend to abandon them completely. They are subtitle yet game-changing principles that may just help you climb harder instantly.
1. Down and Up!
This is one I come back to again and again. I’ll even repeat it to myself mid-route if I have to. “Down and Up” is an easy reference to the stretch reflex. Remember going to the doctor as a kid and having her bang on your knee with a mallet? That’s the stretch reflex in action, which involves the contraction of muscle fibers in response to a stretch. It helps prevent injuries and, importantly for climbers, has a noticeable impact on athletic endeavors. Take this example: If you want to jump as high as possible, you don’t just go for it from a standing position; you squat down slightly first and then explode up. Yep, that’s also the stretch reflex in action. In climbing, it means that if you need to do a punchy move, don’t start from the top of the position and go for it. Squat down on the wall. Or wind up in the opposite direction of intended movement. I’m not saying you should do a bunch of up and down pumps before doing a dyno—that’s a massive waste of energy. Instead, be decisive. One down and then up. Exaggerate it more than your instincts tell you to, and you may just stick the move.
2. Twist it Out.
For this tip, I’m not talking about drop knees between moves, although that is an excellent technique. Rather, I’m referring to the extra relaxation you can give your muscles if you twist into rest positions. This is definitely a subtle one, but it can make a world of difference. Here’s the logic behind it: When you rest, you would never rest with both hands on, right? You shake out one hand and then the other. The same principle can be applied to your core and possibly even your legs, depending on the footholds available. Twisting from one side to the other will allow you to relax more parts of your body.
3. Stay Loose.
Hard moves require body tension. You’ll have to bear down and grit your teeth to keep your feet on the wall. Or you’ll have to squeeze your core and your butt in order to keep that finicky kneebar locked in. Maybe keeping your elbows from chicken-winging will require every muscle in your back to be active. Yet while you create and maintain that tension, you must also be loose and fluid. Contradictory? You betcha. But climbing well necessitates full-body cooperation. Every muscle must work in tandem, and if you start to get too tense, you’ll automatically hinder your range of motion and ability to engage or relax muscles through moves. Another way to think about it is this: the best dancers are fluid. The awkward ones? They resort to doing the robot. Don’t be a robo on the wall. Relax the muscles that don’t need to be engaged. I find deep breaths to be really helpful here, as well as shrugging my shoulders down and back when possible.
4. Keep Your Lower-Body Active.
When fatigue starts to set in, most climbers stop being as active in their lower half. They get focused on the next hold, pulling harder, gripping down more, and they stop pushing through their feet or moving their hips. Funny, because the lower half doesn’t get as pumped as the arms. Once you start cruxing out, remember to move your feet, swivel your hips, and/or simply push through those footholds, and you just may make it to that next rest.
5. Faster and Faster.
Less time on the wall means less energy is expended to hang on. As you learn a route and work the moves, think about executing them faster and faster while maintaining technique and accuracy. You can actually work on this technique away from the wall on your rest days. Draw a route map if it helps. Personally, I like to visualize each move. You can time yourself climbing it in your head and see if you can get through the line faster each time. That will directly translate to your on-the-wall recall and execution.
Bonus tip: Laugh a little. Cheesy I know, but try it before tying in. Laughing is a panacea to all hard, scary things.