Credit: Andrew Magill

Tips from a pro to help strengthen your climbing technique

When Stacey Weldon started competitive climbing, she was continually hounded by her coaches for her bad footwork. Having “grown up in a climbing gym,” she had good upper body strength but, like a lot of climbers, especially men, she relied on that instead of good technique. After years of practice, and lots of mimicking more experienced climbers, the 23-year-old’s footwork has improved…a lot; last year she was the top female on the Canadian national sport-climbing team. She still has to think about her footwork, though, and the best way to do that is to warm up with a straight-armed climb.

What you need: a 5.6 or 5.7 climb (preferably top-roped), a belay partner, a section of PVC pipe just wide enough to fit over your arm (optional).

How to: As you start climbing, focus on keeping your arms totally straight, relying on your lower body to push you up the climb instead of pulling with your upper body. “When you climb with straight arms it forces you to use your feet and hips properly or you won’t go anywhere,” Weldon says. She does two or three straight-armed climbs and then moves onto harder rock. “You start the day with good technique and that flows through the rest of the session.” If you find yourself cheating, pull out the PVC piping and slide it over your arms. You won’t be able to bend them now. Of course, you’ll also look a little strange, so you might want to find an out-of-the-way crag to try this.