CLIMB 7A IN 2020
7a seems to be that ever elusive grade that took me an age to push through. If you are struggling to grasp that magical number 7 (or any grade!) then today I will be looking at some drills that I have used to improve my technique and climb harder. All of these exercises can be combined into a warmup to give a fun and productive start to your session.
Silent feet is best done with a partner to shout at you! It's no fun at first, but once you get into it can be quite the enjoyable challenge trying to sneak across a traverse, climb a boulder or ever a route without so much as a squeak out of your feet. This puts all your focus onto your feet, an aspect that many climbers overlook, and helps to breed good habits that will transfer into all aspects of your climbing.
So much of climbing is in the beta, and memory of the nuances of key sequences can be the difference between success and failure. A great exercise to practice this essential skill is to look at a boulder problem for as long as you need, then turn around and describe the sequence in as great a detail as possible to a partner. Remember to not just include hand movements, but foot placements, body positions, clipping (on routes), flags and every little thing you can think of. This skill of analysing and visualising a route before you climb is incredibly powerful, and will rocket you through the grades if done right.
Another exercise to keep focus on the feet, sticky feet means that once your foot is on the hold, it stays in that exact position until you are done using it. This means that there is no room for error when you put your foot down, and breeds great habit for the rest of your climbing. If you're feeling extra brave, combine this with silent feet for a footwork fiesta!
Twisting is important in climbing, as it allows us to keep our hips closer to the wall, reach further and put less weight on our arms. To practise this and develop it as a habit, exaggerate the movements during your warm up. Not only will this get you twisting and moving your hips more while climbing, it also helps to warm up muscles that are difficult to target otherwise, and will help prevent injury.
No handed climbing:
This is a drill that I still practise almost every session, and involves doing moves on the wall using only the feet. I tend to just jump on the slab at the wall and start walking around, making bigger and more awkward moves as I start to feel more comfortable on my feet. Climbing no handed is the ultimate tool to help you experiment with body positioning, foot placement and becoming comfortable on your feet, so no climber should be missing out on it.
There is no magic bullet in climbing, no one exercise that will improve every climber, but that is the joy of it! The greatest skill you can have as a climber is the ability to look at you own climbing and see your weaknesses. As much fun as it is to work on the things you are best at, working at what you are not so good at will lead to massive improvements quickly and make you wonder why you ever avoided them.
Hopefully these drills will give you some inspiration to improve your climbing, target your weaknesses and get climbing hard! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to tweet me @Alex_Waterhouse.