Static or Dynamic, Which Way is Best?

When we first learn to climb, coaches and better climbers will often exhort us to climb slower so we can “establish”, or find our balance. This is because beginning climbers often have trouble understanding their center of gravity and finding positions of stable balance.

Overly Static

Climbing slowly for beginning climbers is often a good teaching tool as it very clearly shows the difference between good and poor balance. However, once climbers progress to the stage where they’re able to use their hands and feet competently to efficiently finding positions of stable balance, this same static approach to climbing can hold them back in their climbing performance.

Many climbers versed on vertical terrain have trouble adjusting to the steep stuff where an overly static style simply doesn’t work. Even on vertical terrain however, a more dynamic approach can be more efficient. To understand why let’s take a deeper look at something we’ve all done.

The Stairs Example

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The Secret to a Solid Heel Hook

hook ready

Heel hooks are key on Silver #6 at STONE Bouldering Gym

Heel hooks are an important tool in your climbing arsenal. As our lower bodies are well suited to supporting our weight, using our legs as much as possible can save a lot of energy and help us climb more efficiently. Heel hooks allow us to use our powerful hamstrings to manipulate our bodyweight.

However, tons of beginners and even experienced climbers try to heel hook a few times but never quite get the hang of it, and give up. They put their heels on the hold just like they see the good climbers doing, but when they try to use the heel, it just doesn’t feel solid, so they end up using more basic techniques which do the job, but are inefficient.

What are they missing that the better climbers are getting? What is the secret to an effective heel hook?

It’s not enough to put your heel on a hold and wish for the best. The Three Components of a solid heel hook are:

1. Place the heel precisely

hook place

Place the heel on the most positive part of the hold

2. Point your toes AWAY from you like a ballerina going en pointe.

hook straight

There should be a straight line from your shin to the big toe

Aim for a straight line from your shin to your big toe. By doing this you engage the calves to push the heel down into the hold, putting more weight on it which locks the heel in place. Tightening the calves also stiffens the lower leg, allowing weight to be transferred more effectively.

3. CRANK. Put your weight on that foot and pull hard with the hamstring and glutes.

hook crank

Keeping the toe straight, crank hard through the heel

Try it and feel the difference.

This isn’t the end-all be-all of heel hooking – there’s a lot more that can be said on the topic, but if you have had trouble with heel hooks before and wondered what the fuss is all about, give this a shot.

Endurance Training – Long Endurance and Power Endurance

Following their crack school and beginner series, Wild Country has recently created two new videos with James Pearson which we like for their holistic approach to fighting the pump.

James Pearson – Stamina Training – Part 1 – Endurance training for routes of more than 30 moves… from Wild Country on Vimeo.

The first video focuses on long routes of 30+ moves. Taiwan actually rarely has routes that are quite this long, but this type of training is still quite effective for beginning route climbers for the following reasons:

  • Climbing long, easy routes increases aerobic endurance, improving the circulation in the forearm muscles(often with visibly increased vascularity). This increase in circulatory ability improves recovery on good holds, as well as the ability to recover  between climbs.
  • Even easy routes get pumpy if they are long. Climbing these long routes highlights the importance of efficient movement.

Walls in the Taipei area which would suit doubles training would be moderate routes on Neihu’s vertical wall, Y17, or iClimb’s lead wall.

James Pearson – Stamina Training – Part 2 – Power endurance training for routes of between 15 and 30 moves… from Wild Country on Vimeo.

The second video focuses on “power endurance” on routes of 15-30 moves. This kind of training fosters anaerobic endurance and will most directly translate into better endurance on the routes in Taiwan – whether plastic or real rock.

The bouldering bit in the 2nd video is a variation of the ever popular, extremely intense 4×4 endurance training which can be done in any bouldering gym.

For more information about training endurance we suggest reading  Performance Rock Climbing and/or Self-Coached Climber

Sean McColl’s Training Video

Who is Sean McColl? One of the strongest all-around climbers around, yet you may have never heard of him.

That’s because while most famous  climbers climb outdoors, working super hard projects captured in glitzy climbing videos, Sean’s focus is on the IFSC World Cup which, although extremely competitive, gets much less coverage in English-language climbing media.

That doesn’t mean he’s not strong on real rock- Sean repeated Chris Sharma’s 9a project Dreamcatcher last year, and has sent V15.

All that training pays off, though . Besides his 2011 ABS Nationals win, this year Sean has been racking up medals in both Bouldering and Lead rounds on the World Cup circuit – unprecedented for a North American climber.