Body Positioning

When a ship comes across a large rogue wave that could potentially flip it and crush it, it can be best for the ship to point forward and head straight into the wave. With the front cutting directly into the wall of water, it is possible for the ship to float over. It is still dangerous for the ship, but the ship is much stronger in this position. If the ship were caught on a side, it would almost be guaranteed to flip. This is a weak position for a ship facing a threatening wave.

Positioning makes a huge difference. Similarly, when a climber is on a hard climb, the positioning can work to make the climber face the crux strongly in a position that is most likely to work or weakly in a position that won’t work no matter how strong the climber. Positioning isn’t all a climber needs to make a hard move, but it does play a major role in getting the climber close or impossibly far.


When a climber falls, the fall could be caused by a number of things. However, it is a good idea to make sure the positioning was the best first. Little shifts in how our body aligns with the route, can make a climb easier or harder. Try a variety of positions to find which one feels the strongest before climbing again. Many climbers know or think to do this unintentionally, but being aware of what precise position works or does not could help in developing your route reading skills and technique.

The chances are high you will come across a similar move somewhere along the line where your mind will instinctively apply the knowledge you have gained from this process of being aware of what you are doing. By thinking through what you are doing, learning, and discovering, you are ingraining the effective skills deeper into your mind.

Not only that, it is important to remember positioning isn’t luck. It is more mathematical. Certain positions work well because of how they place our center of balance. It aligns our body into what some refer to as the box of balance. Ever move our body makes is purposeful to keep it in balance. Think of when you are walking across a plank or the top of a stone wall. As your balance gets a little shaky, your arms instinctively go out to help shift your body’s balance. Your body wants to keep balance and move in certain ways to hold strength. Some of what we do in climbing may try to fight against the body’s nature wish. This could be how it was set not matching with our body alignment. However, when our body isn’t balanced right, it isn’t strong. We must readjust to find the right positioning.

Since body positioning is logical, mathematical, and a process with a set idea behind it, it makes sense that you could learn how to figure out and predict it. There are some climbers who think a lot before the climb about how their body would need to be. More advanced climbers can look at holds and know right away which way their arm would need to be to hold it the strongest. They can tell where their feet need to be and how they need to be positioned. Some of this a particular climber might be intelligent to from an understanding of the mechanics, but a lot of it is practice and experience. We are all capable of learning these things.

We start picking up some basics. In a cave, for instance, you will often find turning your hips in towards the roof in a certain direction will help you move. If you merely dead hang, you will be in a weak position. People climbing in a cave are often flagging, turning their hips in, and using toe grabs. These things help keep them from swinging and keep them in a strong position.

heel hook

We also start to understand holds better as we become more acquainted with them. This helps us decide positioning. For instance, if you see an under cling, you know you will need to get your body higher than it to grip it with the most strength. You will know that being far outstretched reaching up to it will give you little power, but propelling yourself up into it will give more power.

An idea proposed for footwork is to tie an object such as a weight to a sling and attach it to the center of your harness. Then traverse a climbing wall. Try to climb in ways that move the weight as little as possible. Ideally you wouldn’t move it at all. This shows you if you are climbing in ways that keep your center of gravity/balance. By being able to move around the wall without swinging the weight, you are using effective body positioning. This is recommended for footwork because a large part of the right positioning is in the footwork.

The fact that the two are so heavily intertwined speaks to how crucial footwork is. Body positioning is an important thing to spend some time practicing, working on, and thinking about. It could really improve your climbing and make it feel much easier.

josh 8


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