Part of our "Toes to Knows" Climbing Academy series--covering climbing from footwork to mental preparation.
Tags: Beginner, Movement
Proper hip rotation is a critical skill in efficient climbing. Lots of beginning climbers tend to climb with their hips square to the wall the entire time. Sometimes this is needed, but more often than not, rotating your hips as you ascend keeps you in better balance and saves energy. If you’re someone that always climbs square to the wall, try this drill. It will really imbue the importance of great hip rotation when climbing.
Keeping your hips square to the wall when climbing has several disadvantages. First, it can be hard to maintain your balance, or at least harder to optimize your balance and therefore minimize your grip effort. Second, if you’re somewhat out of balance, then you’ll be gripping harder than you would otherwise grip. This leads to more fatigue in your all-important forearms. Third, keeping your hips square limits your reach. If you hips are square, then your shoulders are probably square also. Hip and shoulder rotation can add 6-10 inches to your reach, which is a huge advantage for any climber.
We coach what we call “same-side” hip rotation. That is, with whatever hand you’re reaching with, you rotate that same hip toward the wall. If the move requires reaching with your right hand, then rotate your right hip onto the wall. If the move requires a reach with your left hand, then rotate your left hip onto the wall. The same-side hip rotation rule is very easy to remember.
Try this drill to imbue the importance of good hip rotation. Try and easy boulder and climb it twice. The first time up, climb with opposite-side hip rotation. That is, if you’re reaching with your left hand, rotate your right hip into the wall, and vice versa. This is an awkward drill that feels very unnatural. On the second trip up the boulder, do same-side hip rotation. Notice how much easier it is to execute the movement and how much more in balance you feel with same-side hip rotation.
If you tend to keep your hips square to the wall, try this drill a few times and undoubtedly the light will go off and you’ll learn better hip rotation habits.