Advanced Bouldering Tips

In this post, we’re taking a look at some of the techniques used by experienced boulderers, with demonstrations from Vertical Limit staff member Kosta and regulars Dave C and Dave K.

Technique #1 - Knee bar

Climber: Dave C

When should you use it?

A knee bar is used to take the weight off of the climber’s upper body. This technique will hold your position on the bouldering wall and you should be able to release both of your hands without falling off.

A good time to use a knee bar is when your arms are already wide and you need to grab a higher hold - using a knee bar allows you to free up your hands to make your next move, which you might not otherwise have been able to do. This technique also allows you to give your arms a rest. Look out for opportunities to use it whenever your arms are too pumped.

Technique #2 - Drop knee

Route: red V4 // Climber: Dave C

What is it?

A drop knee is not so much a ‘technique’, but a difficult move. We have included it as it’s an extremely useful one to know and watch.

The drop knee is one of the best energy conservation techniques in bouldering. The idea is to heavily weight the outside of one foot, with your other foot against another hold. This position will allow you to bring your hip closer to the wall. The drop knee is most useful for routes with steep angles or overhangs and helps the climber to maintain stability and tension.

Notice how, in the video demonstration below, Dave is holding his position on the wall by using the drop knee and uses the same leg to push himself up the wall. He is primarily using his legs to propel himself upwards, taking the strain off of his arms.

Make sure to lock the knee that is performing the drop knee or you may fall off.

Technique #3: Toe hooks and double toe hooks

Climber: Kosta

We’ve covered heel hooks in a previous post with Vertical Limit staff Isaac and Kieron, and here’s Kosta demonstrating toe hooks and he briefly uses a double toe hook (which is as it sounds - using two toe hooks at the same time). The toe hook is an incredibly useful and underused technique. Like heel hooks, it requires a lot of core strength and the other main muscle groups used in a toe hook are your calf muscles and hamstrings.

What is it used for?

Toe hooks can be used as a replacement for your hands on overhangs, aretes and side-pulls. In the video, Kosta is using the technique on a side-pull. They are great for maintaining balance and for holding your body close to the wall for more stability.

The technique uses the big toe to ‘grip’ or ‘hook’ a hold. Often a quality shoe, with a thick layer of rubber covering the top of the toes, makes all the difference in this technique being comfortable or uncomfortable.

Technique #4 - Dynamic movement

A good place to start to improve your bouldering is getting used to dynamic movement.

Don’t confuse “dynamic movement” with “dyno”. A “dyno” is a vertical launch, basically a sort of jump move whereas “dynamic movement” is more of ‘a style of climbing’.

There are two styles of climbing: static movements and dynamic movements and there are pros and cons to each. Beginners will naturally start out climbing in a static way, because beginners are more focused on perfecting new techniques and trying out different ways to complete a move rather than trying to complete a route fast. Static movements are slower but more fluid, controlled and accurate. Dynamic movement is faster, more energetic and generates more power for upwards motion. The pro is that climbing in a dynamic way can sometimes allow the climber to complete a problem route based on speed and power, rather than having to perfect a certain technique that is only needed for a single move in the whole route. Moves such as heel hooks and toe hooks have a requirement of having developed the relevant muscle groups enough to be able to do the technique, which can sometimes take weeks or months depending on your body’s condition. The con to this style of climbing is that it sometimes sacrifices accuracy for getting to the top quickly but it’s not so much of a disadvantage as you might think - if you’re moving quickly so not using any single hold for long, slight inaccuracies may not cause you a problem.

The ideal is to use both static and dynamic movement, whichever is most appropriate. But we advise for those looking to improve their bouldering to try to use some dynamic movement, as some moves can put a lot of strain on the body - it’s sometimes a case of doing a difficult move quickly or falling off.

Route demonstration - dynamic movement

Route: Red V4 // Climbers: Dave C and Dave K

A lot of customers seem to like this route, but we have noticed a few people struggling with some of the moves. That’s why we’ve chosen it for a duo video demonstration with two experienced boulderers offering their take on it.

We hope you enjoyed these bouldering tips and come down to Vertical Limit to try out these techniques on some of our challenging routes!