Climbing Drills: Focus and Footwork

  • SumoMe

Today’s Tuesday Training will cover two drills, one mental, the other technical.  First is the focus drill, recorded by Eric Horst in his book, Training for Climbing.  This focus drill may seem rather strange at first glance, but the distracted gym climber may find it very helpful.  He says that there are two parts of this focus drill, best performed at different times:

The “Singular Focus Drill” exercise is best used when you are climbing on toprope and well below your maximum grade.  The “Pinpointing Your Focus for a Climb” exercise can be used before attempting any climb, though it’s especially effective when preparing to start up a difficult route.

Now I know that these drills may sound weirdly meditational; that was my first reaction when reading this as well.  But I have tried these drills, and they are definitely worth trying.  My younger sister is naturally an easily distracted climber, but after teaching her to sequence and insisting she perform this drill, her concentration has much improved.  You can also tailor these drills any way you wish; their main purpose is to direct your mind to what you are about to climb.

Today I will only focus on the “Pinpointing Your Focus for a Climb” drill.  Here’s how Eric explains it:

Stand at the base of the climb, assume an extended posture (shoulders back), close your eyes, and place the fingertips of your dominant hand against the rock face.  Your fingertips should be touching the wall lightly (not gripping a hold), and your hand and arm should be completely relaxed.  Now take three deep belly breaths, inhaling through your nose to a count of five and exhaling through your mouth to a count of ten.  Let a wave of relaxation wash across your body, and then direct your entire focus to the tips of your fingers touching the rock.  Concentrate singly on the sensation of your fingertips touching the rock- you should begin to feel the thermal energy moving from your fingers to the rock (on rare occasions when the rock is hotter than your body, you will feel thermal energy conducting into your fingertips).  Maintain a relaxed, singular focus on the energy exchange between your fingertips and the rock for anywhere from thirty-seconds to a minute or two.  If your focus ever wanders, simply redirect it to your fingertips.  Soon your mind will become completely still, as all your focus is pinpointed on the tips of your fingers.  Upon reaching this state, open your eyes and begin climbing.

Interesting, huh?  Before you completely dismiss it as another strange yoga-like stance, go try it, and then (challenge 1) post your results and opinions in the comments.

The next drill is less unusual, and many of you have probably heard of it before.  It was taught to me by one of the PEAK team coaches, Andrew Palmer, during my last isolation warm up, a few minutes before I climbed the finals routes.  It is a good warm up and ab workout that also helps train good footwork habits.

First, find a deep, bomber jug on an overhang in the bouldering cave at your home gym.  Dead hang on this hold, arms straight, and single out a foothold.  Place your right foot on it, careful to position only the toe of your foot on the very best section of the hold, as if you were to grab it with your hand.  Then push on the hold as if you are going to stand on it, with a downward force that brings your hips closer to the wall.  Then drop to a hang once more and repeat with your left foot on the same hold.  Remember to pick holds that are to your right and left, that are high and low.  Vary the types of holds as well.  This will help your footwork to become more precise.

I was surprised at how much this helped me to pay attention to the exact section of the hold I should use, and since I need to greatly improve my footwork, this is a drill that I will use as often as possible.  Post in the comments to tell me how this technical footwork drill went for the second challenge of the day.  Have an awesome climbing week!

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