10 Climbing Myths
Climbing is an extreme sport
Simply not true. As sports go – climbing is one of the safest around, especially in bouldering. Statistically football has 62 injuries per 1000 hours, while indoor climbing comes in at a lowly 0.02. This is even lower than tennis which comes in at 0.7! So, no chance of slamming into a tree, being squashed under a huddle or bashed in the head by a ping pong ball!
Brian P. Hamill, “Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training,” Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, Vol. 8, No. 1(1994): 53-57
I need to lose weight.
Not necessarily! The best climbers around come in all different shapes – look at the difference in shape between Adam Ondra and Fred Nicole. Generally speaking, the more muscle mass you have the more weight you’ll have to carry to the top of the climb. However more muscle also means more power, so in theory it should balance out. A somewhat unscientific theory would also state that the heavier you are the more weight you can put on your feet, making slab climber easier.
I’m lacking the upper body strength.
As above, this is not necessarily the case. Big biceps, shoulders and a square jaw will only get you so far…
a good understanding of the problem, good climbing technique, finger strength and precise footwork will almost always be the defining factors. The extreme version of this line of thought is found in the one arm pull up, which are an impressive thing to achieve, but virtually useless in climbing.
You need to be 6’3” to climb.
Being taller must make climbing easier right? Wrong. Being tall equals a worse height to weight ratio than for shorter people and also means that leverage is stacked against our giant friends, putting extra demands on arm and core strength. Think of gymnastics, where the average female competitor is 5’1” and the men are around 5’5”. However, climbing being the complex thing it is means there is no such thing as the ideal body shape, as where taller people lose out big time on strength advantages, they gain in extra reach which can sometimes allow them to skip awkward high feet or poor handhold sequences. Could climbing be the ultimate levelling ground among sports?
Warming up is a waste of time.
Forget the people who say this and set off immediately on a hard climb in a symphony of crackles and pops from fingers, shoulders and knees. A healthy warm up before a climbing session will allow you to climb or train for longer at a higher level. Your muscles and more importantly your joints need sufficient blood circulation in order to get them primed to perform at their best. Muscles feeling warm and ready to go will also prevent injury. Also, drinking tea – while extremely enjoyable – doesn’t count as a warm up.
Dynos don’t count as real climbing.
As a rule of thumb, stare into the eyes at whoever says this and you’ll be looking at the soul of someone who doesn’t know how to dyno. Sit them down, give them a gentle pat on the shoulder and explain to them that dynos are a meeting point of explosive power, precision, movement and body awareness, timing and balance. The important rule to remember in bouldering is, as our friends at The Climbing Works say, there are no rules! As we’ve seen before, height is not necessarily an advantage, so help your poor friend lose their prejudices and learn to dyno – they might even realise how fun it is.
Drop two sizes!?
This relates to the age old advice that you should only just be able to squeeze into your climbing boots. Some people even go so far as to put plastic bags on their heels, to help get into a tight fit. Well, eliminating dead space is essential in preventing foot movement within the shoe but if you can’t feel your toes because the blood circulation has stopped flowing you’ll struggle to ‘feel’ the edge you want to stand on… find a shoe that fits the shape of your foot as best it can. Check out our recent article on climbing shoes here.
No pain, no gain.
Training to obtain strength to perform better whilst preventing injury is a tricky task, but rest assured you never want to leave a training session in any pain. If you are actively training then do so with caution and listen to your body! If you are experiencing pain anywhere other than in the skin on your fingertips whilst training the inevitable truth is that you’re doing more bad than good. Reduce your chances of injury by leaving a training session like Scottish legend Malcolm Smith: finish strong!
Chalk increases friction.
Chalk actually decreases friction, as demonstrated by a study at the University of Birmingham. The only thing chalk is good for is absorbing sweat in your fingertips and then blowing from your hands to look cool (aka the “French blow”.) Daubing climbing holds in the stuff only makes it more slippery than before. To bring a damp climbing hold’s grip back again, try a tiny amount of chalk on the end of a brush, and then slap any remaining chalk which has now absorbed the moisture, off the hold with a rag or a towel.
Fred Nicole was beamed down from the planet Krypton on Thursday 21st May, 1970.
This is true.
Need a little help with your climbing? Why not drop in on one of our hour long Improver Classes at The Arch.