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Teaching a beginner to use his legs
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FFSchooley


May 13, 2013, 7:53 PM
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Teaching a beginner to use his legs
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I am a bit stumped. I have been climbing for a number of years and do ok teaching general climbing technique to newbies. but I have a buddy who has been climbing for about 6 months and has got me stumped. He is doing ok in the gym, but has a serious problem using his legs and trusting his feet. I gets much worse outside. He is very frustrated because he sees brand new climbers blow past him on the routes he is projecting. I have tried to tell him to trust his feet and use his legs until I am blue in the face, but he pumps out and can't continue climbing.

I figure time will fix this but Unfortunately he only can hit the gym once a week, twice if he is lucky. Getting outside only happens a few times a month at best and the local crag has few easy climbs. Short of just climbing and letting time on the rock teach him the ways, does anyone have ideas, tips, suggestions of gym based training or drills that might help? Any tips that would help him or help me as his "coach" would be great.

In case you need a bit more info, he is able to climb 10b/c in the gym if its not past vertical. at the local crag, the easiest face climb is his project, a 5.10a face climb that is like climbing a ladder. it has huge incut edges and knobs everywhere. He can get past the crux at the bottom but as soon as he needs to use his legs to climb the upper section, which is basically stepping up giant edges one foot after the other, no technical moves, he is spent due to over gripping and using his arms.


surfstar


May 13, 2013, 8:24 PM
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Drag him up a slab. When there are no hands, you have to use your feet.


edge


May 13, 2013, 8:38 PM
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I taught footwork to some of the junior climbers on my team by putting metal "jingle bells" on elastics that went over their shoes around the arch. Sloppy footwork led to constant jingling that made them focus on quiet feet.


Syd


May 14, 2013, 3:21 AM
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Fear makes peoples' attention move upwards and disconnect with the legs. Have him very slowly walk around on flat ground for a while. Tell him focus all his attention to the changes in feelings on the soles of his feet as he walks on sand, gravel, rocks. Then ask him to do an easy climb and feel through is feet again. Yeh, sure all you blokey blokes I know, men have no emotions and feel nothing. Just give it a try though. I've seen it work.


acorneau


May 14, 2013, 6:38 AM
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Slab is a good idea. Does your gym have a good dihedral? If so, put him in there and restrict him in the following order...

1. Don't grab any holds higher than your shoulders (reduces arm pulling).
2. Don't grab any holds higher than your waist (forces mantles).
3. Don't grab any olds at all, only palm-smears on the wall.

All these exercises will teach him to rely on his feet more and more.

You may also ask him about his shoes. If they're not fitting well he may not be trusting them because his feet are slipping around in them.


FFSchooley


May 14, 2013, 7:12 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Will definitely try some of these ideas. When he first started he had horrible fitting shoes and he always climbed with the arch of his foot. Once we figured that out and got him new shoes he started using the proper edges of his shoes. But he still feels like he needs two bomber handholds. And if the stance is anything out of balance it's even more of an issue. Thanks again, keep the ideas coming!


ecade


May 14, 2013, 11:23 AM
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How is he mentally while climbing? Is he calm?

IMHO and Personal experience, unless you are calm, you can't put the weight onto your legs. I'd go so far as to say that there is a correlation between level of calm and amount of weight put on your legs. The calmer, the more you are willing to play around with body positions and loosen grip to find the optimal point.

If he is calm, controlled and feeling safe, then perhaps try Chalk Bag Hands. best done in a gym or on a very juggy route. requires 2 chalk bags that are worn as gloves, making it nearly impossible to actually grip something,

The other issue might be flexibility. it sounds like from below that he has problems high stepping... for that I'd say Yoga, well for anything from a headache to heart break to just remembering to love, live and breath, i'd say YOGA


ecade


May 14, 2013, 11:27 AM
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FFSchooley wrote:
... But he still feels like he needs two bomber handholds. And if the stance is anything out of balance it's even more of an issue. Thanks again, keep the ideas coming!

Also, does he know how to flag and does he understand the way his body balances? and ergo, why we flag, which is for one reason, to manipulate our X, our centre of gravity so as to force our weight into a more balanced position... its funny because it explain why sometimes, less (points of contact) is more (balance with less force used)

Also CORE, core work outs will be crucial to helping him balance better and allowing him to use the most powerful muscle group in his body to his advantage rather than having hang as dead weight


jt512


May 14, 2013, 12:21 PM
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Syd wrote:
Fear makes peoples' attention move upwards and disconnect with the legs. Have him very slowly walk around on flat ground for a while. Tell him focus all his attention to the changes in feelings on the soles of his feet as he walks on sand, gravel, rocks. Then ask him to do an easy climb and feel through is feet again. Yeh, sure all you blokey blokes I know, men have no emotions and feel nothing. Just give it a try though. I've seen it work.

Another fine post from Syd about how to learn to use your legs well in climbing. For women, the key is childbirth; for men, it's to walk on gravel.


hugepedro


May 14, 2013, 12:59 PM
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jt512 wrote:
Syd wrote:
Fear makes peoples' attention move upwards and disconnect with the legs. Have him very slowly walk around on flat ground for a while. Tell him focus all his attention to the changes in feelings on the soles of his feet as he walks on sand, gravel, rocks. Then ask him to do an easy climb and feel through is feet again. Yeh, sure all you blokey blokes I know, men have no emotions and feel nothing. Just give it a try though. I've seen it work.

Another fine post from Syd about how to learn to use your legs well in climbing. For women, the key is childbirth; for men, it's to walk on gravel.

This whole time I shoulda been getting all my female partners pregnant???

Well it's not like I haven't tried.


FFSchooley


May 14, 2013, 1:05 PM
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You all bring up great points. I will have to talk to him about his comfort level. I have been wondering if he is nervous or anxious but can't really get a good read. As far as flagging and balance in general, no he has no concept of any movement other than foot up, hand up, etc... I know this is an issue in itself and haven't even began to figure out how to tackle this. Figured one thing at a time but more suggestions are welcome. Just ordered self coached climber hoping that will be insightful. I am becoming more of a trainer that a partner lol. Thanks again for all the ideas and input!


ACJ


May 16, 2013, 3:59 PM
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I've worked on this a lot with people so here's my breakdown. Make sure he is only doing this on EASY routes, maybe even not on route at all to start. Just climb the wall with all holds on. If you try to progress to hard stuff fast you lose the gains right away.
My Tips:

1. Quiet Feet: Have him focus on touching each hold silent and soft.

2. Watch your feet. Climbers often look at the foot they are going to, start to move their foot there, then look away before placing it. Make sure he watches his foot all the way into the placement.

3. Right side, left side, toe in. Climb the wall only using the right side of both feet (outside edge of right foot and inside edge of left foot). Then switch to the left side, then do toes pointed only.

4. Down climb every route and also try the previous techniques while doing it.

5. Little Feet: Climb the wall and use EVERY foot hold that he can reach. This will naturally keep his hands stationary while moving his feet a ton.

Yep try all those and then move on to crushing! I still warm up using these drills and it gets my head on straight before moving on to hard stuff.

Good Luck!


RedRightHand


Aug 8, 2013, 7:43 AM
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Let him traverse over easy rock and let him do two things:

-keep his nose in a line directly above his toes ("nose over toes")
-push his heels down

This helped me a lot when starting out.


BarrsGW


Aug 8, 2013, 8:11 AM
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Make him climb with a blindfold on.

This does a few things. It forces the climber to search for hands, while doing this he must find a stead stance. If they do not find solid feet their arms will fail quickly. Second, It reinforces the memory of holds. "Remember where your left hand was? That hold is at your left knee."

Tips! - Make it an easy 5.5-5.6 slabbed climb. Possibly one he just climbed. The belayer may need to give beta. Make that as little as you can while keeping the climber moving. The belayer is the only one who can talk to the climber. If too many people are talking he can't hear you.

One other idea I have heard of but not tried is climbing with tennis balls in your hands.


brinosaur


Aug 8, 2013, 9:35 AM
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Work on low angle traverses in the gym, focusing on low or near-vertical terrain with small feet, gradually phasing out the use of jugs or other bomber holds. Scout out possible hands-free stances (on slabs, stems in shallow corners, etc) and have him traverse in between the stances while holding them for a set time. If there are low angle routes in the gym, preferably with smaller feet, do the same drill there as well.

Having taught quite a few technique classes to the gym crowd, these drills seemed to impart the ideas of good footwork better than gimmicky exercises such as blindfolds, tennis balls, bells, etc. However, one drill that was mentioned earlier that focuses on limiting reach (no hands above head or shoulder height) helps quite a bit with key foot and body positioning technique such as pivoting on the toe, turning hips, flagging, manteling, etc.

One important detail you left out -- is this guy leading or on TR? Fear of heights or falling generally contributes to shit technique, which is often exacerbated on lead.


brooklynclimber


Aug 15, 2013, 9:10 AM
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The Self Coached Climber has some good exercises which I think improved my footwork. It used to be free for Kindle, but not any more - perhaps it was a promotion that ended.

http://www.amazon.com/...self+coached+climber


jorgegonzalez


Aug 15, 2013, 1:45 PM
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In Joshua Tree I have a small boulder (5') which is real slopey on one side. I have them climb up it several times to get familiar with the features, then tell them to do it with no hands, feet only. Teaches them balance and how to move up (I call it "gain elevation") with their feet.


blueshrimp


Sep 4, 2013, 7:20 AM
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Best way to learn to use your feet is to climb a no-holds slab. Period.

I always drag beginners to slabs for their first or 2nd climb outdoors. I always start the season with an outing on slabs. And when I feel my technique failing on normal routes, a day or two at slabs reminds me that I wasn't using my feet properly.

Slabs. The panacea for bad technique. Seriously.


cJackson


Nov 13, 2013, 7:05 AM
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This may be my first post on this board...

I'm very much a beginner. I can usually muscle my way up the first route I attempt but I'm done after that. I know what that means, that I need to use more legs and pay more attention to my feet. Intellectually I know this. Practically, it's a different story, but I think I've made some recent progress since the other night, I completed two routes at the gym. That's a first for me.

I'm constantly reading, re-reading, trying new ideas, etc. What usually happens is I get out of sequence or I find myself in an untenable position with no idea how to get out of it. Once in a while, there's a hold nearby that I didn't realize was there and other times, I made mistakes earlier in the route that put me in an awkward position. I often find myself standing in a way that affords no practical next move. Like, I've reached too far and my legs are straight. I had that last epiphany last night just before I left for the day, so I'm anxious to try that route again with an emphasis on keeping straight arms and bent legs.

I guess what I'm saying is the beginner may know what it is you're saying but may not have realized it in a practical sense. But as a teacher, one needs to look at many things as potential problems. Sometimes it's a poor decision that left the climber with no options, sometimes it's a habit that leads to awkward situations, and sometimes it's a matter of 'I didn't even know that was possible'. There are different types of learners. Just keep the message consistent and find different ways to reinforce/express it.


ClimbClimb


Dec 1, 2013, 7:01 PM
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So someone mentioned it, but I will reitarate an opinion of mine -- good footwork is not about feet, or hips, or mental energy. It's about abs, back muscles, and various other things (call it "core" if you must). A beginner can *understand* very well that they should trust their feet or use their feet, and clearly their legs are strong enough to hold their weight, so what's the problem? It is the unseen level of conditioning needed in the rest of the body to make that work for you. Of course, after you've been climbing for a while, you can just "do the move", and it seems impossible to understand why the new person can't do the obvious.

I have, therefore, a contrarian view: "using your legs" is not about using legs or learning technique, it's about building up enough strength.


Snowbat


Dec 24, 2013, 2:18 AM
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Somewhat odl thread, but I thought I'd share my experience.
The thing that helped me rely more on footwork, was to attach 2 quickdraws to the heel of each foot and climb as silently as you can.
If you rely on armwork too much and don't watch your feet, the quickdraws will hit the wall and make noise. If you calmly place your feet first, you'll make less noise.
It has helped me with my footwork quite a lot.


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