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Self Coached Climber Reading Journal

Training Exercises

Not all of these exercises are designed to directly teach form or proper technique, but rather some are designed simply as a vehicle for exploration through which proper technique will be learned. Remember to relax and experiment with movement. Do not focus too hard on performing each exercise perfectly if it sacrifices exploration.

Base of Support

For climbers, efficiency of movement rather than raw physical strength is the basis of effectiveness, and efficiency begins with learning to establish a strong base of support. At its root, a climber's base of support consists of where and how he contacts the rock surface, or in other words, how effectively he places and uses his hands and feet. Contact quality, in turn, is determined by proper hand and foot positioning and precise, swift placement. The relationship between the holds and the climber's center of gravity is also critical. Their size, shape, and orientation determine what directions of force can be resisted and thereby influence his choice of potential movements.

The Self Coached Climber, pp. 28

Silent Feet (pp 40)

On an easy vertical route or wall or traverse with lots of large hands and feet climb while making as little noise as possible. This means any scrape, adjustment, or bumps.

Beginners should climb with their feet 90 degrees to the wall, more advanced climbers can climb on their big toes in a backstep position.

Slow down and never sacrifice precision for speed, only increase speed when you can maintain accuracy.

🎯 Goals

  • Direct focus completely to our feet when placing them on new holds
  • Deliberate foot positioning
  • Accurate feet
  • Establish solid base of support through our feet

🧗General Procedure

  1. Identify hold and more importantly exactly the ideal position for our foot to be on it
  2. Slowly move foot to the position
  3. Don't redirect your focus from the hold/foot until you have applied weight onto the hold
  4. Count every error in your head

🤔 Ask yourself while climbing

  • What am I doing to keep my feet silent?
  • How have I changed my climbing to accomplish this goal?

Glue Hands (pp 41)

Climbers often already direct enough focus to their hands while climbing but do not put enough import on the accuracy of said placement.

On an easy wall or traverse imagine your hands have been treated with a special glue. Once you touch a hold you cannot move it at all until you have moved the other hand.

🎯 Goals

  • Deliberate hand positioning
  • Accurate hands
  • Establish solid base of support in through our hands

🧗General Procedure

  1. Identify hold and exact position for your hand
  2. Move your hand slowly to the position you envisioned in the previous step
  3. Maintain focus on the hand until weight has been applied
  4. Count every error

Body Awareness

Keen perceptual awareness of the body is critical to learning movement. You can improve your .climbing and succeed on more difficult routes by developing the ability to perceive and respond to ever more subtle information about how you are oriented in space, the quality of your balance, your muscular tension, and the position of your limbs. All this suggests what movements are available to you at any given moment. The ability to do this at a high level means you must know your body very well, it means having an excellent kinesthetic map of your body.

The Self Coached Climber, pp. 46

No Handed Climbing/Press

🎯 Goals

  • Find your center
  • Explore balance and movement using only lower body
  • Explore how full body tension maintained throughout a climb can affect where work is being placed

🧗General Procedure - Basic

  • On a slab climb without using your hands as support. You are allowed to push directly on the wall but cannot touch any holds with your hands. Make fists or hold tennis balls to prevent the use of your hands.
  • Take smaller steps at first then build up to larger steps.
  • Once established on a hold, find center by leaning in and away from the wall, as well as side to side.
  • Any time you feel significant tension or movement say "pressing" out loud

🤔 Ask yourself while climbing

  • How often did you press?
  • How high up in your body did you feel the tension?
  • Did you ever need to press as hard as you could?
  • When you weren't pressing, what were you doing?

If you didn't notice any of these, do the exercise again but take larger steps and try to press as hard as you can the entire time

🧗General Procedure - Press and Tension

  • Climb on vertical or overhung wall (anything less will not work) two grades below max
  • Take normal sized steps
  • Once established on a hold press all the way through your lower back creating a line of tension

🤔 Ask yourself while climbing

  • Where there any times you aren't pressing?
  • How hard were you pressing?
    • Most climbers lose tension and hang on holds after grabbing them. To correct this, practice maintain the line of tension for every hold. This is not the best way to climb, but we are experimenting with tension.

Straight-arm Climbing (pp 63)

🎯 Goals

  • Gain awareness of how much you are currently using your arms in movement
  • Learn to remove the over-dependency on arms and transfer that work to hips, trunk, and knees.

🧗General Procedure

  • Top rope vertical walls
  • Keep arms completely straight while climbing at all times
  • Whenever you find yourself trying to bend an arm, explore what you can do with your lower body in order to prevent arm bend


Backward Traverse (pp 68)

  • traverse backward in a constant backstep position

Forward Traverse (pp 69)

  • traverse forward in a backstep position

Same Side In (pp 69)

  • traverse both directions but to move the left hand, you must twist left hips in and vice versa
  • movements must be sequential. Cannot move an arm and leg at the same time
  • pivot on toes
  • Same Side In Top Rope (pp 72)
    • vertical or slightly overhung, anything else will not work
    • same activity but vertical
    • don't stick to a route, just focus on body movement
    • try to combine with silent feet and press exercise
  • Same Side In (straight arm) Top Rope (pp 72)
    • there are times when we need to bend our arms, but the goal of this exercise is to eliminate extra work done by arms, learn full range of motion of body, and let arms bend as a result of action of entire body
    • traverse first
    • turn in, move hand, sequentially!!
    • attempt on top rope
    • attempt on different wall angles
    • combine with silent feet, glue hands and press exercise once it is feeling smooth


Line and Flag (pp 75)

  • Same as SSI above but one foot must be removed for each hand movement 🧗General Procedure
    1. reach to hold
    2. draw straight line down to find foothold
    3. do whatever flag feels best
    4. reach for new hold

🤔 Ask yourself while climbing

  • Do you favor a type of flag?

🧗General Procedure - Variation Same as before, but only use points of contact on the same side of your body

  1. as you step onto the wall make contact either your right hand and right foot or v.v.
  2. flag and reach for a new handhold
  3. draw line down to find foothold
  4. turn body to move free foot to foothold

Drop Knees

  • Drop Knee Exercise (pp 79)
    • variant of same-side-in, one-foot-off top rope exercise
    • slightly overhang wall
    • use both feet
    • if you want to reach with the right hand, first place left foot low, then bring right foot to a hold at knee level or higher and drop knee.

Back Steps

  • Passing your Farthest Point (pp 80)
    • traverse
    • each move must reach past your farthest limb
    • repeat on variety of wall angles

Chapter 1 - Center of Gravity

  • Fundamentals of center of gravity location, placement and movement
  • COG is generally right at our navel
  • When on the wall, we can create a line (2) or a polygon (>= 3) by drawing lines between our points of contact
  • We are most stable when our COG is close to the center (both 2d and 3d) of this plane
    • I have noticed after reading this that strategies to obtain this ideal differ between different climbing circumstances (slab vs. overhang etc.)

Chapter 2 - Base of Support

  • Start by defining the fundamentals of climbing holds for both feet and hands
    • Will not write this all down as it was mostly review for me but still important
  • The second half of the chapter focuses on the importance of accurate and deliberate hand and foot placement
  • We are given two exercises (that can eventually be combined) that boil down to:

    1. Visualize exactly where you want to place your foot/hand for the next move
    2. Move it exactly to that position, slowly and without making any noise
    3. Imagine the limb is now glued to that position; if you must move it mark it as a fault
  • Climb easy routes or traverses like this keeping count of how many faults you make
    • Start slow prioritizing accuracy in all aspects (keeping with the doctrine of no noise)
  • Increase difficulty both physically (harder routes/traverses) or mentally (in front of more people or on scarier terrain (lead)

While these skills and exercises seem simple and boring, they develop good fundamental habits that will improve overall climbing from the ground up.

Chapter 3 - Body Awareness

The main takeaway from this chapter is that each of our movements is a much more complex action involving many more muscles than we realize. We often take this for granted and end up focusing on the muscles that make most sense to flex at a given time.

Using the exercises in this chapter we will be able to get a better grasp on tension and using our lumbar and lower body to take load off of our arms, which is a common mistake in climbers. We will also gain a better sense of our COG.