10th Jun 2009


I'm only 5.05" tall and am always frustrated that there are just some routes I can't seem to do that other people can.... what should I be working on to boost my abilities.?


Being short obviously has it’s disadvantages to a climber but there are some advantages such as relatively short levers. This means certain moves that require leverage should feel easier; such as locking off. This is when you get a hold and hold it in a static position to allow you to reach up with the other hand for the next hold. For short people locking off is very important because the lower down you can lock off a hold, the higher you’ll be able to reach. So working on your lock off strength is important and you can do various things for this.

1. You can identify a long move on a problem and try and do the move statically. Initially if you can’t just try and lock your position and move as though you are going to reach the hold, repeat this position 5 times with short rests and over time you should become stronger.

2. You can do pull ups but lock in static positions during the pull up for a few seconds each. EG. Starting at the top, hold in a full lock position, then drop to 90 degrees and hold, then if you can drop down to 120 degrees and hold. You can also practice locking off in that top position with one arm at a time, if you can’t hold yourself there at all, still try as this will build up strength but be very careful not to drop down like a sack of potatoes, as the force on your elbow will hyper extend it and cause injuries. So make sure if you are going to try this more advanced technique, you are able to take the weight off your arm with your feet before the load goes onto your straightened elbow. If locking off at the top becomes possible, start to try one arm lock offs in the 90 degree position.

Conversely to locking off, which is obviously very static, being dynamic is very important for short people. If you can’t lock the distance between two holds, then the only way to reach is to essentially swing or jump. Jumping can be very hit and miss especially if your aim isn’t very good (!) and you don’t practice but swinging is very effective.

It uses a lot less strength than locking off and requires little extra training, just coordination practice. You are basically using the body’s momentum to propel you upwards rather than brute strength.

To master this sort of move again find a move that you find the reach difficult on. Get into position below the hold you are aiming for and try to get a little swing going with your body. When you feel ready, focus on the hold you are aiming for and on one of your upwards swings, pull with your arms and push with your legs and at the top of your swing (the deadpoint) you should be able to grasp the hold in control. Unless the hold is more than a body length away, your feet should remain in contact with the rock/wall. If you only have one foothold for this move, try and use your other foot to gain momentum in the swing by simply smearing on the rock and pushing like that. Any extra weight taken by the feet however small, will help in the upward progress.

This method, when mastered is a fantastic help for short people as it can save a lot of strength on the route or problem.

Good luck with these techniques, I hope they help.