Overhangs are a weak point in rock climbing for me currently. I think I know the theory: the goal is to use the legs to push yourself up, keep straight arms as much as possible and avoid pulling, and generally keep the hips closed even to the extent that one leg is flagging when reaching for another grip.

There is a good chance that I'm weak in the lowest part of my squat, to the extent that if my legs are too crouched in I have very little strength to stand up with. (I realized this today). That makes it hard to crouch up with feet then stand up. This may be my problem (but leaving this question open for better intel).

However, it always feels like a trade-off to me: if I use straight arms and keep hips closed, it's far too much stress on my hands and I won't be able to maintain grip strength even on the juggiest v0s and v1s. Otherwise I can just strong arm it but this is obviously poor technique and doesn't scale (no pun intended). How can I repair this?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question?outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/6710/…
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 7:21
  • @WedaPashi I didn't see that (thanks) but I don't think so... still hits hands too hard.
    – djechlin
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 7:24
  • Actually something I discovered on another course today is that I'm weak in the lowest part of a squat, and that makes courses like overhands especially tough since most people I've seen bring their legs/feet very high and stand up from there. That's something I'm poor with and might explain a lot.
    – djechlin
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 7:25
  • @WedaPashi well it might actually just be the answer... I probably wouldn't have posted if I realized this before, but I'm also not sure there isn't further know-how so leaving open.
    – djechlin
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 7:58
  • 2
    If your weak in the lowest part of a squat (I.e., initiating pushibg up out of a high step,) you may want to focus more on pushing with your glutes - your butt is what will push you out of that position. Lots of non-athletes have problems activating those muscles.
    – DavidR
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 21:29

3 Answers 3


I would suggest core strength is more the problem than leg strength, if you notice it specifically on overhangs.

On a slab, your legs are doing most (or sometimes all) of the pushing, while minimal weight is on your hands for balance. As it gets steeper more of your weight will always be on your hands, but the stronger your core is the more you can keep your feet on the wall, meaning you can transfer weight onto them. There will always be more weight on your arms on steep stuff, but technique can help a lot on how to transfer this onto your feet / knees / whatever else you can get involved. Look for creative rests like knee-bars too!

Another thing that is not directly in answer to this but may help, would be to focus on not re-gripping holds - try to hit the sweet spot first time, as every time you adjust your hand you are effectively doing another move and getting more pumped. Technique is always the answer, alongside getting stronger.

  • +1 for that last line, that's a subtle thing that is quite draining and I had missed. Silent foot practices that.
    – djechlin
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 14:52
  • Reading the comments, this also relates to the 'high feet' thing - the higher your feet are, the easier they are to keep on the wall. If they are low, you are effectively a longer pendulum trying to swing out, and it requires a lot more body tension to stay on.
    – SpoonerNZ
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 15:52
  • "sticky hands training" is what you're saying here too.
    – djechlin
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 18:30

For a novice, momentum, and fear of falling, matter more here than in most things you'll do on the wall.

Statically reaching on an overhang is very intense. Use your legs (generally) to push/propel yourself up. If you keep your arms straight you should move throw the arc like a pendulum and grab effectively. But the next trick is to remember to pull with your feet when you do this. Say you can get your foot in a jug (using an easy example like this helps get to the pith of overhang, which is what you're asking about). You push for momentum, then pull for stability and to keep your foot from slipping out. Anyway, that is technical - I'm trying to say, yes, momentum makes it easier for foot to slip while you're unpracticed, and yes, that is exactly the sign you should be doing it and practicing, not a sign that it's hard and to be avoided.

Your hands are getting tired because you're spending too much time on the wall in general. This applies to all climbing. But I think overhang can create a particularly intense feedback loop: you do indeed need to use momentum more, so you slow down because you're unsure what to do, so your hands have more time to drain more, so you try to slow down to make sure your positioning is exactly right...

Again, this is a vicious cycle in all climbing, but very acute here. Try moving faster and falling more. Train falling too, no joke. Even if you're not an acrophobe, it takes many - some say hundreds - of falls before your fear of falling really leaves the picture.


There's no hard and fast guidelines for climbing overhangs that don't already generally apply for vertical or even slabs. I generally agree with SpoonerNZ, core strength is a huge part of it.

On steep ground try to place your feet so that you can adopt a body position that relies on major muscle groups, not minor ones, sometimes this is likely to be higher than you might think, especially if you have a big move coming. Some of it is about forward planning for where you need to be and being energy efficient. Some moves can only be started with low feet, as balance and momentum come into play.

Something this natural is difficult to explain and this is technique that is largely developed through practice and observation of others.

Sadly the only real answer is simply get stronger, there are some things you just can't tech your way out of.

  • core what? lower abs? obliques? it helps a lot to know what specific muscle to focus on. then it "clicks" and you become much more aware of your overall fitness and technique.
    – djechlin
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 19:13
  • I would usually put them into three groups, upper abs, lower abs and obliques. If I were to choose one I'd go for lower abs though as exercises for these will bring other related groups into play anyway. Forget the six pack, now we're talking eight pack.
    – RogerB
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 10:33

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