Fundamentals of Technique 4

Optimize Use of Rest Positions

Finding efficient rest positions is as important as finding the best way to do a crux sequence. If you miss a good rest stance, you miss an opportunity to physically recovery as well as mentally “read” and prepare for the next section of the climb. Consequently, locating rest positions on a climb should be viewed with the same sense of importance as in locating all the key holds.

technique-4This process begins with on-ground visualization of the route in an attempt to estimate the location and body position of rest stops. Upon reaching a rest step, assume a body position that will allow the most fatigued muscles to rest (usually the forearms, biceps, and calves). An optimal rest position would consist of your feet in the rest step position, legs straight, and hips over the legs or in a position midway between the feet (should they be on holds more than shoulder-width apart). If the climb is less than vertical, your upper body can relax completely and in some cases you might even be able to assume a no-hands rest position. Such a casual rest position places no time limits on how long you can remain parked there–although this luxury is rare on more difficult routes.

Rest positions on vertical to overhanging climbs make complete weighting of the feet more difficult and often impossible. While you still want to place as much weight as possible on the footholds, a significant amount of weight will remain on your arms. In this case it’s absolutely vital that you hang with straight arms, so that the bones are providing the support, not the muscles of the upper arm. Still, your forearm muscles will need to contract in order to maintain a grip on the handhold. The best strategy then, is to attain a stable stance and alternate shaking out your arms every ten to twenty seconds. This way, both arms take turns resting. At some point, however, hanging out at the rest begins to cost more energy than you can recover–it’s at this time that you need to begin climbing toward the next rest spot.

Fortunately, there’s a recovery technique that I developed called the G-Tox which can markedly accelerate recovery of finger strength while at a margin rest position. Instead of simply hanging the resting arm by your side, alternate the arm position every five seconds between the normal “dangling” position and an above your head “raised-hand” position. This simple technique has been shown by a British researcher to increase recovery by 50 percent or more over the standard dangling-arm shakeout. This should be evidence enough to make the G-Tox a regular part of your climbing stratagem.

A big part of becoming a fundamentally sound climber is learning to gain brief rests in the midst of even the most difficult routes. Practice and unbridled creativity are the only two requisites for solving difficult sequences and finding vital rest positions. Remember that the best climbers are not always the strongest; their prowess instead comes from uncommon mastery of climbing economy and effective resting.

Copyright 2007 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.