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How to climb indoors more like you are outdoors

February 2, 2013

I had an epiphany. It hit me today as I was bouldering a crimpy V3. We know that indoor rock climbing is nothing like being out on the real rock. But why? Other than the obvious reasons (tape marking routes, overhangs everywhere, plastic, ect…), what specifically is it in the actual climbing, the holds, the motion that makes it different? I have always wondered this but never really can get a good answer. And then I saw it. I saw myself climbing on this particular problem and realized what makes the actual climbing different.

Lets go back to last week when I was working on a project out on the local crag. I have been trying to have better self awareness when climbing and on this particular day I managed to pay more attention to my body position and movements. This route is a 5.11c with half pad edges, 2 finger pockets, and small, slick footholds. And as I climbed it, just like every other route I climb outdoors, my focus and success was in my footwork. Keeping my hips into the wall and trusting my feet. You say, “no kidding dummy! You didnt know this? This is basic technique!” Well yes, I know this. But it is illustrated much more clearly when you climb on real rock. Hence the point I am getting at. Hand holds were basically for balance only as I barely had the strength to hold on, let alone actually pull myself up the wall. I was forced to use my feet by the simple design of mother nature. Real rock makes you use technique.

Now fast forward to today. As I am bouldering, I notice that the hand holds are all soo positive. From the smallest edges to the slopers to the pinches, they all seem to allow for so much more arm use. I found that even on my max problems (V5), my hips were out from the wall as I used too much of my arms! Now once again, this goes back to basic technique and keeping your hips close to the wall, which I know how to do and know that I should do it! But for what ever reason, when I am in the gym I have the tendency to use too much arms as I am sure many of us do. I think its just the nature of the plastic holds that, try as hard as the manufactures may, just can’t compare to real rock. Plastic holds allow you to skip technique (to a point).

So from this point forward, I am maintaining my heightened sense of body position and movement and am forcing myself to keep my hips in and climb with my feet, even on the jug fest 5.10’s and V1’s. I have to consciously tell myself over and over until hopefully it becomes habit in the gym. The harder routes tend to lend themselves to better footwork and technique but I still notice the positivity of the holds and the ability to over use my arms if I don’t focus on my feet. While this epiphany might not be profound for those that have been climbing a while or are simply better than myself, I hope that this insight might lend some help to those that are new or looking to improve. And I hope that it lends to better, more realistic gym climbing.

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