In a vague attempt to create a kind of basic online reference I am going to start trying to write a (small) series of articles on here, explaining different aspects of climbing and how you can use them to improve. Hopefully. I mean, that’s the plan. Bear with me if it’s just drivel. I’m not a professional, and there’s a reason I didn’t do an English A-level…
Anyway, I thought we’d start off with how you move when climbing.
While this sounds like an oxymoron, this the way most people new to climbing will try to climb. Essentially, you do ‘the move’ slowly, often not changing/removing any of your points of contact during, and once you’re in the position you want, you then reach of the next hold.
This style of climbing is very efficient when you’re footholds are good and/or well placed. It is also usually the best way to deal with slopers, where the slightest impulse (transfer of force/momentum for the non-physicists) can dislodge your hands or feet, and is often seen on slab climbing, where, even though the feet are usually pretty bad (read ‘invisible to mere mortals’), the need for delicacy is paramount.
However, on steeper (more overhung) ground, it is very wasteful, as you normally need to lock off your arms to reach the next hold, which uses more muscles, and hence more energy (which is why we all shout ‘STRAIGHT ARMS!’ at you). It also is very intensive on more sustained moves, such as a rockover.
This brings us on to the other type of movement:
It’s very hard to persuade people to climb like this (as myself and @Dynosteve have found out), because it involves using momentum to reach the next hold, and normally reaching for the next hold as you move, but it does come eventually.
The classic example is the rockover; done slowly, they are usually very instensive, as that involves hauling all your weight over a (normally high, or far out) foothold, often on poor-ish handholds. However, if you start the rockover by actually rocking or popping, the momentum will do most of the work for you, and all it takes is a (fair) bit of confidence.
This style really comes into it’s own on overhangs, where a pop here and there can save you tonnes of energy over the course of a pitch. Dynamic foot movements are rarer and feel sketchier, but sometimes bumping a foot higher is the only way to get past a sequence. It’s also often the only way to reach far off holds, and it looks awesome if you pull it off.
Having heard that, why would you possibly want to use static climbing? Well, on poor holds, it can be hard, or just stupid, to generate the necessary momentum, and you tend to be less acurate in how you hit the next hold, which can mean many a fall on pockets, or nasty slopers or ‘tweaky’ holds. Also, it can be very intimidating to do a big dynamic move on lead, and places greater stain on muscles and tendons if misjudged, possibly resulting in injury.
In reality, you will very rarely use either style in isolation, even during a single move. Often, an pop will be used get you past the strenuous part of a move, and then you slow down to approach/stop when you reach the hold in order to more carefully place you hand/foot. It’s worth becoming comfortable with both styles, rather than just flailing, slapping and locking off up routes, as well as knowing when to use each and how to combine them. It will really make your life easier. Don’t give up too quickly, or tell yourself ‘I can’t let go of that hand hold!’ or ‘Steve managed to dyno to that sloper compression, why can’t I?’ (Steve has anti-gravity magic; we have ceased to be surprised by the things he does); it will come with experience.