We’re all familiar with the feeling of frustration after falling off of a move that seems too powerful or too hard, or the feeling of exhaustion after climbing something at what seems to be our limit. Whether we’ve witnessed this or experienced it firsthand, we, as a climbing community, have accepted these feeling as normal, as a banal platitude, a fact of life. This unfortunate acceptance, however, comes only from the complacency which we exhibit. If we stop and question why we’ve accepted this sensation as normal, we can very easily recognize that it shouldn’t be viewed as such. There’s a time and a place to try hard, but more often than not, a little laziness can go a long way!
Certain areas of our climbing tend to create the largest amounts of failure, exhaustion, and in the long run, plateaus. We’ve all, at one point or another, struggled with our footwork, with big moves, and open-handed holds. Our feet have all inadvertently popped off of footholds, or simply felt too bad to weight in the first place. We’ve all had trouble sticking dynamic moves or holding on through the momentous swing that is certain to follow any sizable move. Every
one of us has faced off with a sloper in what feels to be more of a wrestling match than a move on the climbing wall. And who hasn’t gone home after a day of climbing with sore arms, sore shoulders, and a sore back?! Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case anymore!
This simple, yet unfamiliar, concept of climbing lazy has benefits that can be easily observed across all climbable terrains. I’m sure, by now, you’re all thinking, “What is climbing lazy?”. In climbing, laziness tends to be somewhat synonymous with efficiency, essentially
expending as little energy as possible when successfully executing a sequence of movements.
Now keep in mind, a not-so- lazy climber can be just as effective as a lazy climber, however, they will clearly not be as efficient, causing them to tire more quickly due to their substantial reliance on physical fitness. This heavy reliance on strength and power also has unintentional consequences on a climber’s tendencies on the wall. The not-so- lazy climber will see an underutilization of their feet and an obvious overexertion of their shoulders, not to mention a dismal consistency in repeating demanding movements, when compared to their lazy counterparts.
Ok, so you want to know the secret to climbing lazy? Well, here it comes! First, let’s consider a static position, before we delve into the concept of lazy movement. Take, for example, something as simple as holding onto a sloper. The two ways in which you can most drastically increase your coefficient of friction on any open-handed hold, are to either apply more force, or change your angle of approach. Our intuition would have us believe that when a hold feels bad, we have to hold onto it harder. This usually involves not only over-gripping with
our hand, but also with our arms, shoulders, and upper back. In short, we tend to naturally want to apply more force. Unfortunately, this not only means that we’re exerting so much energy that we’ll become fatigued very quickly, but it also redirects weight off of our feet, and onto our hands and shoulders, in turn, requiring us to use even more force, simply to remain on the handholds. In some cases, this overexertion of our upper body can take so much weight off of
our feet, that they come right off the holds they were resting on. If we’re to consider the other option to definitively increase the coefficient of friction against the holds, and instead, change
our angle of approach, we’d see vastly different results. To do so, under the same circumstances of holding onto a sloper, you’d simply move your hips as close to your heels as you’re able to, the ultimate goal being to have as much bend, or compression, between your
hips and your feet as is possible, with as much extension between your hips and your hands as is possible. Essentially, you’d be relaxing onto your feet. This position dramatically changes your angle of approach towards the handholds. The direction of pull becomes less ‘in’ towards
the climbing surface, and more ‘down’ onto the holds themselves, allowing utmost laziness in holding on. With your center of gravity low, thanks to the proximity of your hips and your feet,
more of your weight is driven onto your feet, allowing them to be fully and effectively utilized, without fear they’ll unintentionally pop off of a foothold.
Next, let’s examine how laziness fits into movement while climbing. Consider again, the notion of lazily relaxing onto your feet, keeping bend in your body below your hips, and extension above them. You’ll want to strive to maintain this position as much as you’re able to.
As you execute a move with this in mind, you’ll find yourself using your arms more to pivot around handholds, rather than pulling in, towards them. Your feet will remain secure through the duration of the move, as your weight is solidly driven onto footholds by the crouched stance your lower half has taken. Rather than generating more force and momentum than is necessary, you’ll find yourself settling onto holds while totally elongated from the hips up.
At this point, you’re off to a great start on your journey to climbing lazier, but we can go a step further. Some of you may be familiar with the breathing techniques utilized in yoga and certain forms of meditation. Not surprisingly, these can help you to relax considerably more than you may be able to without such methods. This can also be utilized while climbing. Amidst movements, focus not only on relaxing off your hands, and onto your feet, but also on your breathing. Allow each inhale to be deep, slow, and relaxed. Fill your lungs fully, and allow your stomach to expand, all the way down to your pelvic bone. Be sure not to pause between your inhales and exhales. Exhale, releasing the air the same way you would a sigh. Allow the air to come out without restricting its flow, or forcing it out. As your lungs empty, begin to take another breath. This breathing pattern will promote a natural relaxation of your entire body, but most noticeably in your shoulders, upper back, core, and arms, while climbing. This relaxation will further allow you to drive weight onto your feet and off of your hands, allowing for the laziest climbing possible.
With all of these things in mind, head into your next climbing session with the same mentality you would a nap. Remember that climbing doesn’t need to feel difficult or challenging in a purely physical way. Instead of trying hard and finding yourself both frustrated and exhausted, strive for laziness. Using more force and energy is usually not the solution to any problem you may encounter while climbing. Just take a deep breath, relax, and do the move. After all, being relaxed and expending a minimal amount of energy and effort is often the best
route to success!