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Cornell University

Rock Climbing Conditioning

Climber Outdoors at Little Falls

This page is a resource for those participating in PE 1639: Rock Climbing Conditioning, but the topics presented may be of general interest to any climber. Rock climbing is a sport, a path to physical fitness, a community of people, and a worldwide phenomenon. As such, there are many ways to invest your attention, be it towards technique and training, technical gear, historical context and exploration, social and community impacts. Study can be serious or lighthearted, and like a Las Vegas buffet, you try a lot of different things to see what suits you. Please enjoy the following resources as you dive deeper into the realm of climbing!

Stretch Goals

Getting back into climbing after several months can mean retraining your muscles and strengthening your tendons. Now's a good time to add stretching to your climbing regimen. There are pre-climbing stretches to loosen you up, and post climbing stretches to help you recover faster. You can even do these outside of Bartels while you are waiting to get in!

Climb in Comfort

Have you tried exercising in a mask yet? I've been wearing a mask so much that I only really notice discomfort when I am pushing it high on the wall (it's hotter up there too). If you aren't sure how comfortable you will be, pace yourself and get used to it. You may also want to bring a variety of masks to try out. My advice is to find a style you don't mind wearing and get a couple so you can rotate them while washing them, as needed. One style that I have enjoyed comes from Practical Climbing, who typically make chalk bags. I like the fit and the fact that the straps are not over the ears, so I never drop my mask.

Shop Practical Climbing

Falling in Style

Let's face it, falling is part of climbing. And fear of falling can hold us back from reaching our potential (or the next hold). You can whittle away that fear by practicing good falling technique, which is a skill you can develop like any other at the wall. When you feel like you can fall from anywhere, it gives you the freedom to move with confidence. Although lacking in video demos, this article gives a good overview of some considerations while falling. Practice from good stances and work up to the bigger falls.

Red Pointing

Some of you may have heard about Alex Megos having recently completed his multi-year project, Bibliographie in Céüse, France. There are many goofy terms in climbing and red-pointing does not have an obvious derivation. It is used to describe the successful completion of a climb, without falling or pulling on gear, after working the moves previously. In the film RotPunkt, Alex describes the process of working on this project, and the origins of the term are exposed, along with where the "campus" board got its name. If you haven't been studying climbing history, this could be a nice place to start.

Technique Tips

If you haven't been receiving instruction on your climbing progression, it can feel like progress is slow. It's good practice to identify your weaknesses, and work on those, but how? Here are some videos that give some good tips that might help. These particular videos (and many more on the web) are focused on Bouldering, but the techniques carry over into Roped climbing as well.

For beginners, some simple adjustments can make a big difference, and this pair lays out 10 tips succinctly and with good, quick demos. Their 4th tip: "Read your Route" is perhaps the most cryptic for a new climber. Essentially, you want to look at the holds on a problem and try to determine which hands to use on each hold, where your feet will be, and what sequence will allow you to progress. Check out Bouldering Bobat for more Beginner videos from this team.

Top 10 Tips for Beginning Boulderers

For a different, women's centered perspective, check out Bouldering DabRats. Not all bodies move the same and these women speak from their experience to give you some new ideas of you might make your way up the wall. This particular video is about how changes in hip direction can increase efficiency, but they have a bunch of others on their channel.DABRATS: Placing Your Hips on the Wall

Every Block has a Story to Tell

Have you ever wondered how all of the holds come into being? Well, Menagerie Climbing provides an intimate look behind the curtain in this new short film. Fans of Bob Ross will appreciate this in particular.The Joy of Shapeing

Lead Fall Forces in Climbing Gyms

For you Physics majors, some content with actual numbers! Although the dudes in the video are highliners (sorry, no PE for that here), they have taken their hijinks indoors to look at what forces are being applied to our gear. If you have ever seen the various "kN" numbers imprinted on your carabiners, then this is the video for you.

Turning a Weakness Into a Strength

In a very recent Climbing Magazine article, Carlo Traversi describes how a change in mindset may be what's holding you back. As a 5.7 climber myself, with a lower strength to weight ratio than many others at the gym, I can verify that technique can save you when strength or height are limiting factors.

World's Best Belayer

A little more levity for our roped climbers. We have a tough belay test compared to many gyms, but we like to think that Lindseth belayers are among the safest because of our standard. I'm not sure if the belayer in this video has been to Cornell, but how do you think he would fare?

Master the Deadpoint

There are loads of climbing technique videos out there, but finding quality instruction takes some effort. Often, you'll simply be shown lots of images of people doing the move, without a lot of supporting information, or the video will have a lot of chumminess without much actual climbing. Rockentry videos break that mold by getting right into the content and showing both how to tackle the moves and also how not to tackle the moves. The author breaks down the moves and uses graphics to highlight the parts of the body or the direction of movement indicated. Side by side comparisons of good and bad technique also bring added perspective.

Deadpointing is a technique that will help you reach new heights, literally. When climbers are getting started, they often favor the security of "static" movement, where you maintain three points of contact (one hand and two feet, say) while slowing reaching for the next handhold. While secure, static movement can also be tiring and can definitely limit your reach. "Dynamic" movement describes body movement with added momentum, which can result in longer reaches and more efficient use of your energy. Try standing under a doorway with your feet planted and reach as high as you can. Now, try crouching a little then throwing your hips up and right, letting your feet raise up on the toes, and reaching up right simultaneously. With practice you can gain several inches without even leaving the ground. Getting comfortable with the deadpoint will open up a lot of possibilities for you.

Nutrition's Role in Your Climbing Success

If you are coming to your climbing sessions and finding your energy low and your pump out coming on too soon, you may be able to make some changes in your eating habits towards a positive effect on your performance. If you want to take a deep dive, check out the ClimbSci podcast, or their website For a quicker fix, try this article from Rock and Ice, which is a bit "meatier" than some of their other articles.

Why Route Names Matter

The naming of rock climbing routes has been a staple in the scene. Typically the First Ascensionist (the first person to climb the route) or, in the case of the gym, the Routesetters, will bestow the name. Names can be dry (East Ridge) descriptive (The Dangler), humorous or punny (Route Awakening), cryptic or personal (Gelsa) or vulgar or downright mean. Names can help identify one climb from another, in a more interesting way than simply numbers would provide, and serve as a collective touchpoint when discussing past route or future projects. The choice of names, though, can make a difference in how we shape the climbing culture, and more attention and energy has been brought to bear on the re-naming of some of the worst route names, in an effort to improve inclusiveness across the sport. Read about how this discussion is happening in the industry. If you have suggestions for unnamed climbs in the gym, leave us a note in the comment box!