ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Rock Climbing Techniques and Skills

Updated on February 23, 2013

If you’ve read anything about rock climbing already than this point may already have been beaten to death: climbing isn’t all about strength. Climbing is just as much, if not more, about problem solving, technique, mental control, balance, and flexibility. Your strength, as well as your other skills, will improve as you climb more often and tackle more difficult routes.

Below is a list of tips for beginners and some techniques for more advanced climbers. Try taking on one or two of these skills each time you go to the gym, instead of trying to implement all of them at once. It will become ingrained in your muscle memory very quickly—it will become intuitive.

Rock Climbing Tips for Beginners

If you’re just beginning to climb, there are a few important things to remember:

1. Breath.

Your muscles are working hard. They need oxygen!

2. Don’t over-grip the holds.

You’ll wear yourself out very quickly by hanging on for dear life. Relax.

3. Step high.

Moving your feet higher will make you taller, making you able to reach higher, and thus access previously out of reach holds.

4. Use your legs.

Your arms need some help! Keep your core engaged and push from your feet.

5. Read the route.

Look at the route before you climb: does it veer off to the left or right? Are there any holds hiding on the other side of an arête? Make sure you are prepared to make the moves that the climb demands.

By stepping high you'll be able to reach more holds.
By stepping high you'll be able to reach more holds. | Source
Flagging helps you to balance your weight. My right foot is flagged in the picture above.
Flagging helps you to balance your weight. My right foot is flagged in the picture above. | Source
Here, I am reaching for an undercling. Both of the large jugs just above me are underclings, and must be grabbed from beneath.
Here, I am reaching for an undercling. Both of the large jugs just above me are underclings, and must be grabbed from beneath. | Source

Rock Climbing Techniques

1. Stretch before working out.

Establish a routine that gets you to the gym early enough to stretch before you climb. A regular stretching routine can protect your tendons and ligaments, extend your reach and height, and improve your flexibility. Stretching your hips will make your high steps higher, and allow you to do all kinds of other crazy contortions on the wall in order to get to the next hold.

It’s particularly important to stretch out your hands and forearms before climbing. One of the most common injuries is a strain or tear to one of your pulley's (the ligaments in your fingers), and that takes surgery and months of recovery time. Leave a few minutes to stretch out after climbing too. It will help to prevent tight, sore muscles the next day.

Many climbers, myself included, swear by yoga classes. It improves strength, flexibility, and focus significantly. Most climbers notice a profound difference in their climbing.

2. Keep your arms straight when possible.

Keeping your arms straight instead of bent will preserve tremendous amounts of energy. Imagine that you are a monkey swinging from limb to limb. If you can, use the hold as a pivot point as you reach up towards your next hold.

3. Flag your feet.

To flag is to extend one leg out as a counterbalance. For a reverse flag, extend the free leg between the working leg and the wall. Learning to flag and adjust your center of gravity is absolutely essential to climbing.

4. Keep one hip towards the wall.

Keeping one hip towards the wall improves the height of your reach and keeps your center of gravity close to the wall. Your knees and toes are a good indication of where your hips are pointing-- they should point to one side or the other. If you are reaching to the next hold with you right hand, your right hip should be against the wall.

5. Plan ahead and take rests.

You should already be reading the route, but now it’s time to really read the route. Envision yourself pulling each move and figure out any tricky sequences before you even get on the wall. Notice any bomb jugs that might provide a rest. Once you get to 5.10 and beyond, you should take rests where you can get them. Some climbs are more sustained than others, and may have few rests or none at all.

6. Shake out.

While you are resting, shake out your arms. This will encourage fresh, oxygenated blood to rejuvenate your forearms and hands.

7. Use underclings.

Every new climber does it-- we avoid underclings. At first we may not understand what they are, and then it just becomes habit to skip to the next hold. One day you’ll find that you can’t avoid them any longer. The trick to underclings is to get up almost on top of them. It won’t work if you are below the undercling (unless you are able to use it like a pinch), but only once you feet are high and the hold is right in front of you. Now the undercling allows you to reach with a full arm span to the next hold.

8. Don’t be afraid to smear.

This may come as a revelation to some: you don’t always have to have a foot hold to reach the next hold! Sometimes, you can get enough friction from the wall to get to your next hold. Smearing works even better outside on real rock, because the rubber molds grips the irregularities of the rock.

9. Heel hook.

To pull a successful heel hook, you must have properly fitting shoes so that your heel doesn’t slide in the shoe when you put weight on it. Make sure that you are actively pulling your body close to the wall with your heel as you reach for the next hold and you’ll be extremely solid. This method can take a lot of weight off of your arms and help you reach to higher holds when there aren’t many options for feet.

10. Train hand and forearm strength, but don't simply lift weights.

There are a number of exercises that are helpful to climbers, but simply going to the gym to pump some iron is not very effective. Check out this easy to follow, detailed book about stretches and exercises specifically for climbers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great tips, Stephanie. I always wanted to try to learn how to climb a rock wall someday. It sounds a bit like fun. Voted up for useful!

    • sgiguere profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Giguere 

      6 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Thanks, I certainly hope so! I try to write about other things every now and then...

    • eHealer profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great hub Sgiguere, people who like rock climbing are going to find your series of hubs extremely useful. You are developing a great brand that will provide you with a great following. Well done!

    • sgiguere profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Giguere 

      6 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Great jpcmc, thank you! Everyone needs a little time to relax and get used to the heights, but breathing is a pretty vital function :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Great tips. I remember when I first faced the wall. I held my breathe every time I moved. This was a bad idea. After some time I learned to relax with every climb. Voted up and shared!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)