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Your Insecure Overhanging Techniques

Original Post
Jplotz · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 1,090

On vertical terrain I top out at 5.11d these days. Put me on an overhanging wall with not so good holds (slopers, marginal side pulls, think lower wall routes at Vantage of you've been there) and I flail. My lead grade drops to 5.10c-ish. Get immediately pumped. Lose sight of my feet. The pump clock kicks into high gear.

I'm doing something terribly wrong. I'd like to know what you bad hold, overhang masters focus on when you climb. A few helpful tips would be appreciated! Just a few nuggets that I may be able to put into practice.


John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Get thee to a gym.

But seriously. I had the same problem with the steep until I started working at a gym that had a lot of steep terrain. Time and rate took care of the problem. Steep stuff can be really disorienting when you aren't used to it and don't have alot of power. Training on steep terrain solves both problems.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

I find, both with myself and the folks I watch, as one gets out of their comfort zone, their focus starts narrowing to the area within their wing span. They forget to pay attention to their feet, and they overreach to get the next good hold.

It is exactly at this time that one has to double down on paying attention to their footwork. You did not get to the point where you can climb 11d without really honing how you are using your feet. You have to slow down and make an effort to look at your feet and not overreach.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

What do you mean by overreach, Matt?

Anyways, I would add: boulder. I always feel much more confident on overhanging sport routes when I've been bouldering regularly. Many times, a solution to bad hand holds comes from your feet; was there a good heel hook or bicycle that you missed? Was your body positioning off? Success on overhangs often comes from your hips. Are you moving with your hips parallel to the wall, or perpendicular? Do you use drop knees or backsteps? 11d to 10c is a pretty significant discrepancy.

Lately, I've noticed that I tend to keep my feet too low because I'm 6'3 and can usually reach holds if I fully extend. The trouble with this is that it often means I pull with my upper body too much rather than my feet or make overly dynamic moves. If you watch Adam Ondra climb, he almost always has his knees bent and goes for really high feet (for tall guys like him, it can look kind of goofy because his knees end up near his head, but it works!).

peakest · · Manitou Springs, Colorado · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 33

Engaging the core and weighting my toes is usually the key to keeping me on route with overhanging climbs.

Like someone already said: boulder. Try some easy overhanging problems in the gym to get the technique down. It's a different beast for sure.

Jplotz · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 1,090
Lately, I've noticed that I tend to keep my feet too low because I'm 6'3 and can usually reach holds if I fully extend.

This nails my problem exactly. At 6'2", with a 6'7" reach, I too make the same mistake on overhanging terrain. Fully extended, good luck trying to find a good foot hold. Great advice about climbing smaller. And great reminder about core and toe engagement. I think I just need more mileage on overhangs with marginal holds. Bouldering is a chore for me, but living close to Leavenworth, it's such a shame I don't do more of it. Because without a doubt it would be beneficial of i didn't overdo it on my ancient tendons.
Creed Archibald · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 868

I am a lanky dude that avoids the steep. Last year, I banned myself from rope climbing anytime I went to the gym. For a full month, the only part of my gym I visited was the boulder cave. I'm still no overhang master, but that month gave me huge improvements in technique.

Sam Stephens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 1,020

I'm a tall dude as well, and getting stretched out can hurt you if you don't have the strength to control it. I learned to climb at a place where footwork was king, and if you can find a way to translate that into the steep stuff it helps immensely.

The best general advice I can give you, is that you have to find a good understanding of how your body wants to be oriented in space. Steep climbing techniques differ from the vertical stuff in that turning across your body more is one of the best ways to gain height without pulling hard. Techniques like rotating across your shoulders/chest to gain height versus trying to push straight up through your arms or spinning your horizontal orientation back and forth from extreme left to rights to get the right feet can make a huge difference.

One thing that will never change is a piece of advice I got a long time ago, and it is to use the holds like they want to be used. Depending on the orientation of the hold, position your body in a manner to make the best use of it. Slopers, keep your arms straight and directly under them as best as possible. Sidepulls, orient yourself so you can make the most of them (this is where spinning your body helps immensely). Underclings, well just get powerful and get your feet up into them so you can stand higher.

As others have also said, look ahead and behind. Be looking multiple moves ahead, and be looking constantly for feet. If you're used to the vertical stuff, you know the feet have to be right, that doesn't change. Don't be afraid to get a little bunched up, it can be less detrimental in the steep stuff than in the vertical stuff. Your footwork is just as critical, if not more so in the steep stuff. Sometimes it takes some creative footwork to make a hold or a move work. Your feet aren't always directly under you like I've said, sometimes they're out to the side or even at hand height.

Redyns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 80

i'm most insecure when people are looking at my behind on overhangs.

T Roper · · the gym · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865
matt snyder wrote:i'm most insecure when people are looking at my behind on overhangs.
turn it into micro-aggression and send!
Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125
Ted Pinson wrote:What do you mean by overreach, Matt?
Pretty much the same thing you said about keeping your feet too low; when you go for the highest hold you can reach, it elongates your body and takes weight off your feet. You need to have some compression in your stance to be able to effectively put pressure on your feet.

I do it from time to time, and I see folks who are at their limit do it frequently. Instead of staying on the lower hand holds and moving their feet up, they reach as high as they can. Sometimes, they have to do it, and it is the best possible move, but more often it ends up putting them in a position where their feet are barely in contact with the wall and even the hands are not in a great position to really grip the holds.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Ah, ok...yeah, wasn't sure if you were using the term literally or figuratively. I guess it's a little of both.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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