Center of Gravity Placement Part 2

Using the Twist-Lock to Optimize COG on Steep Terrain

When climbing overhanging walls it becomes impossible to position your weight over your feet. In fact many climbers let their center of gravity (usually located near your navel) slump far out from the wall making the climb extremely pumpy. Efficient climbing, and optimal placement of your center of gravity, demands use of the twist-lock and backstep moves whenever possible.

As a climbing wall tilts back past vertical, it becomes increasingly difficult to place a high percentage of weight on your legs. Consequently, a greater portion of body weight must be supported by the arms—which, of course, possess less absolute strength than the legs. Use of the twist lock and backstep together helps draw your body in toward the surface of the overhanging wall. This changes the force vector on the handholds, making them feel more positive and secure. More important, this drawing-in of the body places more weight onto the footholds as your center of gravity shifts in toward the wall.


Crystal Normal demonstrates poor technique (left) and the highly efficient twist-lock technique (right). Horst photos shot at Earth Treks, Timonium, MD.

The twist lock is typically used to ease the upgrading of a hand on an overhanging section of wall. For example, consider the situation in which your right hand is on a good hold and you’d like to reach up high with the left hand. While you could attempt this move straight-on—chest facing toward the wall in a neutral position—it’s far less strenuous to turn your left hip to the wall before making the reach upward. Proper positioning of the feet is critical for making this move work. Since the left hip is turning to the wall, you’ll need to use the outside edge of your left foot on a hold somewhere below or in back of your body (hence the term “backstep”). Usually you’ll find a complementary right foothold to help maintain the twist-lock body position. The feet then press in unison while the right arm pulls down and in toward your torso, creating the twist lock. Finding just the right body position is the key to providing a secure twist lock; when you do you’ll notice that a surprising lack of effort is needed to reach up and acquire the next left handhold. This amazingly efficient locomotion over steep terrain is the magic of the twist-lock technique.

Copyright 2008 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.