Category Archives: Balance

Features about acquiring balanced approach to climbing.

Foot matching and swapping

You may find yourself in a position where you appear to have your feet in the wrong position for the next move. Rather than making the next move an awkward one it is often possible to shift your feet around in one of three ways, the foot dance, foot match or foot swap – changing the foot that is stood on a crucial hold.

The foot dance requires three footholds to choose from and making a series of moves until you manage to get the other foot on the foothold you want.

There may not be enough holds to simply move you feet around and a more tenuous foot match is needed. Think ahead to place
your foot to allow the other room to share the
foothold and you may be able to get both feet onto the single hold.

The foot swap or hop is needed where the foothold is too small to match on, and there are no options for a foot dance. Place your second foot directly above the foot you want to replace, get the big toe right above the other, and hop. During the hope remove the lower foot and the top foot should drop right onto the hold.

Foot swapping exercises

On a traverses and routes when warming up make foot swaps on every move, remember to try the foot dance, foot match and foot swapping.

As you get more confidence start making more and more tenuous foot swaps, eventually you will have an idea of how small a foot hold you can do this on.



Laybacking and Arete’s

Cracks, corners or arêtes, many can be con- quered by a series of layback moves. Get it right and you can move quickly and ef ciently, get it wrong and you’ll have a strenuous off-balance nightmare. The basic principle is the rule of opposites, trying to use left hand against right foot and vice versa.

Lay backing exercises

Step onto a vertical wall with your left hand and left foot directly in line with one another and lean right, laying away from the holds. Now push off the wall with your right hand. What happens?

Layback and barn dooring off!
Layback and barn dooring off!

Step back on to the same holds using the rule of opposites. Face in the direction of the hand (so if using right hand and left foot face right) and lean away from your hand. Push yourself away from the wall with your left hand. What happens this time? Is it more or less stable than the using limbs from the same side of the body?

Get back onto the wall, using the rule of opposites. With your foot ‘accelerate’ and ‘decelerate’ like you would in a car. Is there a point you can ‘decelerate’ to where you start to feel the ‘barn door effect’? Try to hold this position. Then ‘accelerate’ as hard as you can. Which felt easier to maintain balance?

Try the exercise again. This time the ‘accelerator’ is a button under your big toe. See whether you can get the same effect just by pressing the button lightly.

Find a corner, arête or flake and link some laybacking movements together, concentrating on keeping your arms straight. Then add the rule of opposites, does this help you stay in balance?

Lay backing a delicate groove in fontainebleau
Lay backing a delicate groove in fontainebleau

Then ascend without crossing your hands over. Always lead with the same hand, keeping the outside shoulder lower than the inside one.

Try again, this time crossing hand over hand, as you layback up the feature. Is this easier or harder than leading with the same hand? Which feels more in balance? As you acquire skill and shoulder strength, it will become easier to cross hand over hand.

Think about your feet. Layback up a feature three times, on the rst go keep your feet really low, the second go bring them really high, and the third go somewhere in between. Which feels easier?

To layback ef ciently the trick is to know when to transfer the weight from one set of limbs to the next.

Laybacking tips

  • Concentrate on keeping your arms straight, pivoting around the hands and shoulders, using your feet to drive you up.
  • Between movements try and develop opposite limbs taking the strain.
  • If it is a short section of laybacking try and climb it as quickly as possible to a rest.


Many arêtes will succumb to a series of laybacks. To climb them well requires kinaesthetic aware- ness of the various positions of rest open to you. The change of angle around an arête can be ad- vantageous, if our feet are on one side laying away from the arête even a small hand hold on the other side can become a jug.

Arête exercises

Layback up an arête, using the rule of opposites. You may need to move from one side of the arête to the other as hand and footholds dictate. Try moving around the arête from one side to the other.

Recall the hands-off rests video. Climb an arête and with as many hands-off rests as possible.

Lay backing up an arete can be delicate and strenuous all at the same time.
Lay backing up an arete can be delicate and strenuous all at the same time.

Arête tips

  • Find as many rests as you can.
  • Pivot around your hands by driving from the feet.
  • Practise moving around arêtes from left to right.
  • Most of time you will climb facing towards the arête.

Corkscrew Rock Over / Rule of Opposites

Although similar to the rock-over as it essentially involves the transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Its difference comes from pivoting during the movement phase so that you arrive at the next point of balance on your outside edge, which as we have learnt from earlier exercises is more efficient. This keeps your hips and centre of gravity as close to the rock as possible, reducing the leverage onto you hands as you lean back.

A break down of the corkscrew rock-ver with the twist towards the end of the movement.
A break down of the corkscrew rock-ver with the twist towards the end of the movement.

Stand on the oor and raise your foot onto a hold using the inside edge of your boot. Use handholds for balance and rock-over. As you reach the point of balance pivot around on your foot to end up on the outside edge of your boot to nish.

Then try the pivot during the rock-over rather than at the end of the move-ment. Pivot round on the higher foot as you move up to arrive at the new point of balance on the outside edge of your boot.

Link a series of movements from foot to foot, concentrating on putting the twist in as you rock-over and arriving at the point of balance on the outside edge of your boot.

Compare this corkscrew rock-over to a standard rock-over, which feels easier? How do they compare on short distances and at the limit of your stretch? Short step or high step? Which type is easier on slabs, vertical walls or overhangs?

Pick a foothold directly above the lower hold and then a hold way out to the side. Try moving the pivot to before, during and after the rock-over. Does one need a stronger grip with your hands?

A corkscrew rock over onto a high ledge.
A corkscrew rock over onto a high ledge.

The rule of opposites

A standard rock-over tends to make us move left and right as we step up, whereas a corkscrew rock-over or a step through can help us to go directly up. Stepping across the centre line of your body and trying to stay sideways uses opposing left and right limbs.

So the rule is: The upper body uses the opposite limb to the lower body (left hand, right foot – right hand, left foot). Combined this with facing towards the hand you are using at the time.

Using the rule of opposites: Stepping up onto the outside edge of the left rock boot, and using mainly the right hand to layaway, and left hand to press down.

Rule of opposites exercises

Use only opposite limbs left hand – right foot and vice versa..

Emphasise the direction that you are facing, if you are pulling on your right hand then face to the right.

Now try making the pivot before you rock over so that you are always rock- ing over onto the outside edge of your foot. This will help keep your centre of gravity closer to the wall, reducing the leverage on your hands.

You may find that if the step is too high you will have to do the twist during the rock-over.

Experiment with higher and higher steps, reaching them using sidepulls.

How does the rule of opposite feel? Easier or harder when stepping through? Is there a height of step when stepping through that it is easier to twist before, during or after the rock-over?

Cork screw rockover/rule of opposites tips

  • Move fluidly, carried by momentum, between one foot and the other.
  • The pivot can happen before, during or after the movement. Experiment with what feels better when doing short or long steps, stepping out to the side or into the centre.
  • When you pivot before the movement you will back step onto the hold.
  • Use opposite limbs.
  • Face the right direction.


One of the more basic climbing movements (which you will have worked out for yourself no doubt) – how to transfer your weight from one foot to the next. Be awarene of your centre of gravity (usually around your belly button). The key is to rock your weight from one foot to the other fairly quickly and hit the next point of balance before moving on.


An everyday action like getting out of a seat requires rocking our weight from one point of balance to the next – a ‘rock-over’.

Rock-over exercises

Standing on the floor, raise your foot onto a bench and bounce up onto this foot. You have just performed a rock-over. This can be done with your hands at rst, but eventually you should be able to manage it without by gauging the amount of force needed to just arrive in balance. Too much and you fall over the foot you are rocking onto, too little and you end up back on the foot you started from.

Move onto a higher bench or a table, remembering to use both feet.


Rocking over onto a bench.
Rocking over onto a bench.

Try the move on a slabby wall, rocking up onto a foothold. Emphasise a dynamic and speedy movement to a point of balance. Visualise the next point of balance as your belly button or head moving to directly over the foot you are about to rock-over onto.

Rock over onto a slab
Rock over onto a slab

Now link a series of moves from foot to foot, each time concentrating on that point of balance.

Rocking over from standing on the floor,
a quick movement to re-establish yourself on a balanced position stood on the next hold, with the climbers belly button directly
in line with the foot.

You can demonstrate the shift of you centre of gravity from one foot to the other with a water bottle or weight hung from a belt in the small of your back (roughly where your centre of gravity normally is). The plumbline will hang directly over the foot you are balanced on.

Using a Plumbline to visual the point of balance.
Using a Plumbline to visual the point of balance.

The plumbline helps you visualise when you have reach a point of balance, when the weight is directly over the foot.

Try all this blindfolded (or just close your eyes) .You will need to rely on your sense of balance, rather than vision.

Advanced rock-over exercises

With well developed exibility you can attempt to place your foot beside your hand into a rock-over. This high stepping rock-over is particularly useful for the short, as well as on hard slabs. This will place strain on your groin, so build up slowly.

A high stepping rock over, where you match hand and foot before rocking over.

Stand side on when making the move and you will be able to step through onto the outside edge of your foot. Alternate stepping though with both your left and right foot to zig-zag upward.

Stepping through whilst rocking over
Stepping through whilst rocking over

Rock over tips

  • Move uidly, carried by momentum, between one foot and the other.
  • Hands can help you initiate and stop movement.
  • Concentrate on coming to rest on on one foot in balance.
  • Stand side on.
  • Pivot from facing one way to the other as you alternate the in which direction you headed.

Basic Climbing Techniques Overview

Imagine two identical twin climbers with equal strength, one uses good basic climbing techniques whilst the other doesn’t. The twin who uses their feet and body more effectively will be a far better climber. Rather than stumbling upon basic climbing techniques there are some essential building blocks which you can drill into yourself. In the following section there are some exercises that you can repeat and test on different climbing surfaces.

So that they can be repeated until they become second nature, many of the exercises need to be practiced on easy terrain. And by keeping the climbing simple we can gauge which techniques feel easier. For footwork excercises, small boulders can be very useful as hands are super uous. Otherwise start them on easy top-roped routes.

If you are already a climber, then you may have develop some poor technique, as such you effectively need to unlearn those techniques and learn the newer more efficient ones. This in itself presents all sorts of problems for the learner, as unlearning something is possibly harder then learning right the first time.

How Often Do I need to Train Basic Climbing Techniques?

You will need to regularly carry out these training drills to develop good fundamental technique over and over again. Until your default technique becomes the more efficient one. As you will find yourself if you haven’t spent the time relearning technique returning to the older less effective technique when you become stress.

As a rule of thumb, it is often worth spending the initial warm up of any climbing session focusing on technique. As first off the terrain should be easy and secondly focusing on this process rather than an outcome will help you to drive home these basic climbing techniques.



Coordination: Mind to Body Warm Up

As you are warming ups, doing some pulse raising exercise you can add in some co-ordination exercises. These will focus your concentration on kinesthesia (your sense of movement), proprio- ception (sense of space) and balance. We can effectively turn on the part of the brain that we use for learning and acquiring new skills.

In the long term, these types of coordination exercises can become second nature, it is in the context of the learning to learn that these exercises will benefit you for the first few sessions that you use this book.

Coordination exercises

  1. Balance on one foot and move upper body and other limb to counter balance each other.
  2. Rub tummy, pat head whilst balancing on one foot. Put the other foot forwards, left, right and back.
  3. Rotate arms in opposite directions whilst walking around then change your direction of travel.
  4. Basic Juggling, then move to see if you can do it on one leg?
  5. Rotate your right foot in a clockwise direction and then with your right hand write a number six in the air.
  6. Run on the spot with your legs going in slow motion and your arms as fast as possible and vice versa.
  7. If there are three of you tried the human plait or some gymnastic multi person balances. (see video below)
  8. Various Yoga poses 

Video of German Climbing team warm ups with coordination exercises

The video below show various routines that the german climbing team have used over the years to warm up. Many are fun and require a high level of coordination and look more like acrobatics than climbing.

Coaches Notes

This warming up people coordination is extremely important when we are teaching people new physical skills. As it helps them to access the right part of the brain for learning.