Center of Gravity Placement Part 1

Foot Technique and COG Placement

Given that your legs are stronger than your arms, it’s a fundamental law of efficient climbing that the legs should do the majority of the work. The exceptions to this rule are overhanging routes, which demand somewhate greater use of the arms (check back next month for more on body position and use of leg on overhanging climbs).

The process of effectively using your feet begins with spotting the footholds and positioning your feet on the best part of each hold. Directing your foot placement demands attention to detail beyond that given to hand placements. Whereas handholds are easy to inspect, the greater eye-to-foot distance commonly leads to less-than-ideal foot placements. Furthermore, your feet don’t provide the same degree of feel as the hands, making the quality of each foot placement more difficult to assess. For these reasons, developing good footwork isn’t something that just happens—it’s an attribute you make happen via constant foot focus and practice.


Sierra Blair-Coyle demonstrates perfect COG placement and balance.

Upon spotting a foothold and positioning your foot for optimal purchase, you want to shift some body weight over the hold before standing up on it. It’s this downward pressure that helps the shoe rubber stick to it, so not properly weighting a hold often leads to the foot slipping off the hold. Of course, the location of your other three points of contact will dictate a unique balance point and weighting for every new foothold.

In many cases you will be able to advance both feet so they can push in unison. However, it’s more intuitive to climb with one foot pushing at a time (as in climbing a ladder), so you’ll need to make a conscious effort to develop this important foot skill.

The final aspect of fundamentally sound footwork is proper alignment of your center of gravity (COG) directly over a foothold. Balance, stability, and application of force are optimized when your COG is positioned directly over your feet, forming a line perpendicular to level ground. On a less-than-vertical wall or slab, this requires a hip position out from the wall and over the foothold. On a near-vertical climbing surface, you simply need to keep your body position straight and over the feet as much as possible (see photo).

Copyright 2008 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.