Arm positioning for roof and overhangs.


Original Post
Raymond Moreno · · Millbrae, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

Hey, folks, I have a question for some of you more advanced boulderers.

I've been climbing since March of 2016. I'm pretty short (5' 4"; huge) and am pretty comfortable on V3's and V4's.

Because of my height/reach disadvantage, AND INEXPERIENCE, some of the longer reaches shut me down on a route. But I usually just ";cheat"; past the unreacheable spot, and usually complete the route.

Anyhoo...back to the question.

Because of my height, certain ";reachy"; routes are NOT to my advantage. But other routes really play to my strengths. Of the latter are overhang and roof routes. (Bouldering and lead climbing).

I am currently working on a long V5 roof traverse, and I have almost completed it. But my climbing pardner tells me I usually climb with a slight, or even strongly, bent elbows.

Which brings-up my question.

How should folks hang from their arms on long roof traverses?

Some folks say that you should NOT hang on your skeleton (with straight arms), as this can set you up for shoulder injuries, and it also instills bad posture. Hangboard instructions also warn NOT to hang off your skeleton for the same latter reasons.

The consensus of the latter camps say a ";slight bend"; in the elbows, with good posture, is key.

But some folks say that straight arms is the way to go. They say it takes less energy/effort, and installs proper toe and hip positioning.

Just curious. What do y'all think about this topic?

In Christ: Raymond

Acmesalute76 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40

http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en_US/experience-story?cid=esther-smith-shoulder-maintenance-for-climbers

Bending your elbows will use more energy and has nothing to do with shoulder posture.

I'm 6'1"; so I have all the opposite problems...

Also, you just started in March and are climbing V5? That's insane if it's outdoors.

Baba Fats · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

I am by no means an advanced climber. In fact I've only been climbing since June 2016 (less that you). But my wife and I have been working primarily on roof boulder problems for the last few months. So take this with every skepticism you can muster until someone else chimes in.

When you say that others tell you not to hang from your skeleton, I feel like they mean don't just reach your arm out and let your whole body weight hang on your shoulders. That would put too much tension on the tendons and ligaments connecting your arm to your shoulder socket and back. Instead, if you pull your shoulder blades back and together, you are not putting that same tension on your soft tissue. I hope that makes sense. Think of it like when you are holding on, if your shoulder feels like it is being pulled in front of your chest, that is poor posture. But if your chest stays out in front, you are spreading the weight of your body from just your arms to your whole core muscle system.

As for your arms being completely straight, I wouldn't lock them off at the elbows. Keep them straight enough that there is easy movement, but don't bend enough to feel any excess activation in your biceps or triceps until you need to move.

Again, I'm a new climber too. This is just from some of my recent experience with roofs. And I'm sure someone will have more precise advice for you

Daniel Joder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

I think what you might be getting at is this...yes, hang from straight arms (elbow is not bent significantly) but don't hang directly on your shoulder joint--keep some slight tension there so you stay on the muscles thus avoiding a possible separated shoulder. Maybe someone with some anatomy and physiology expertise can chime in here with a proper explanation and clarify what I am trying to explain.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Hangboards are different because 100% of your weight is on your arms and you are doing it for more prolonged/intense periods of time. Plus, since hangboarding is a "workout" rather than "performance," energy efficiency is less of a concern. For regular climbing, straighter arms will help conserve energy and let you push more with your feet. That said, there are times when bent arms are preferable; for example, if your feet cut and/or you are campusing, you'll need to engage your arms a bit more to stay on and move upward. It's important to remember that straight arms is a "passive" position designed to minimize energy use.

kevin neville · · Somerville, MA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 0

First, as a tall climber, thank you for recognizing that "... other routes really play to my strengths."

Anyway, to the question, you shouldn't hang off the skeleton. Especially at the shoulder, that means keeping the shoulder blade "activated", somewhat down and back. Else you end up like me, with osteoarthritis at the AC joint. At the elbow, sometimes a nearly straight elbow means your grip muscles will last longer; but I don't think that there's any advantage to a fully slack bicep, and possibly elbow problems... Other times you want your body in close to keep body tension and make the feet more effective.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 200
Baba Fats wrote: When you say that others tell you not to hang from your skeleton, I feel like they mean don't just reach your arm out and let your whole body weight hang on your shoulders. That would put too much tension on the tendons and ligaments connecting your arm to your shoulder socket and back. Instead, if you pull your shoulder blades back and together, you are not putting that same tension on your soft tissue. I hope that makes sense. Think of it like when you are holding on, if your shoulder feels like it is being pulled in front of your chest, that is poor posture. But if your chest stays out in front, you are spreading the weight of your body from just your arms to your whole core muscle system. As for your arms being completely straight, I wouldn't lock them off at the elbows. Keep them straight enough that there is easy movement, but don't bend enough to feel any excess activation in your biceps or triceps until you need to move.
I think you summed it up pretty well. The above linked article on Black Diamond's website also explains it. Basically you don't want to hang totally slack on your arm like a sack of potatoes, you want to keep your shoulders, arms, and core engaged so you're not putting all the stress on the connective tissues in your points.

Stealing the photos from the BD article:

You want to do this:


You don't want to do this:
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Nice! That's a really good description.

Raymond Moreno · · Millbrae, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

Just wanted to close out this thread by thanking the folks who responded.

I did not mention this before (that I can remember), but I was getting pain at the base of my bicep (closest to the crease of my elbow), and also on my upper forearm. (Also closest to my elbow).

Brachioradialis/brachialis strain.

Definitely from hanging and moving on underhangs and rooftops with overly-bent arms.

I've since started hanging and moving with straighter arms, and focusing more on ";climbing tall";. (With better posture, and proper recruitment of my shoulder and back muscles).

I have noticed that I am expending less energy, and have more strength left over at the end of the routes. It is also less aggravating to the latter-mentioned body parts. (Bicep and forearms).

Kudos.

In Christ: Raymond

Aweffwef Fewfae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

it really depends. resting with straight arms is obviously best on jugs, when any angle you grab the jug is juggy and the feet are also juggy.

you want to put your weight on your feet, which are likely stronger. sometimes there will be a trade between weighting feet with bent arms and straight arms. the trade will depend on how good the feet are, how much weight the arms are taking, how difficult it is to move from said position.

bending your arms will be required for many holds. some holds will have a direction, where having straight arms will change the angle and make them much worse. as such, bent arms will be a requirement. consider 2 side pulls using compression. there is no way in this example to keep your arms straight.

using straight arms only works at v0 and stops working at v1.

Benjamin Chapman · · Small Town, USA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 12,867

RaymondMillbrae...you mentioned experiencing pain at the base of your biceps and upper forearm. Please remember that it takes awhile for your tendons and ligaments to strengthen and adapt to the rigors of climbing. You describe yourself as pretty short, but huge. As you're only been climbing since March it maybe that your muscles are up to the task of tackling V5, but it takes time for your tendons and ligaments to strengthen and catch up to your musculature.
Patience. When you feel pain your body is trying to tell you something. Check out nicros.com and the training center tips by Eric Horst. He's great about responding to questions about training/rehab.

Evan V · · Nashua, New Hampshire · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 195

I know this is about arm positioning. But I cant help and think you need to be more static. Ive never seen you climb, but sounds like you are making very dynamic moves with little breaks or rest.

It would be worth reading about static and dynamic climbing and the benefits of both.

Cheers!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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