Climbing up a terrain requires the mastering of technique and training of the muscles to perform tirelessly to the top. However, no amount of training can make our muscle power invincible. Good climbing techniques are known for their fuel efficiency.
A climber who keeps pulling on holds and hanging on with their arms will get pumped up to the extent that he might not be able to work his arms properly for the rest of the climb. A good technique will use less effort and more skill in order to conserve energy to be utilized for the whole ascend.
Most muscle injuries during a climb occur because of methods that do not conserve energy. Tired muscles get worked out and refuse to perform as we push them to work. This often leads to climbing accidents.
It is best to train and train for energy-efficient techniques like drop knee climbing so that when we reach the top, we can stand up and wave.
Drop knee is one such technique that requires little effort and energy and more skill.
What is Drop Knee?
Drop knee is a climbing technique that relies on specific footwork and involves pushing down on one hold with the outer portion of one foot as the other foot stays stemmed against another hold so that the tension created in the body keeps the climber in position.
To attain this stance, one hip is rotated towards the rock face as the corresponding knee is turned downward to ascend up a steep or comparatively vertical wall. Shifting most of your weight on the outer edge of one foot creates tension on the foothold where the footrests. Turning your knee downward and inward while turning your hip will get you closer to the next hold.
Advantages of using Drop knee
- Every beginner needs to learn this important method which can improve their ability to ascend overhangs without spilling extra energy. Your body will also be protected from unnecessary strain while you stay safe and far from muscle injuries.
- The holds that seem to be far away can be approached easily using this efficient footwork maneuver. Getting into a drop knee position will turn your hip towards the wall and make it hold most of the weight of its corresponding leg so that your feet stay firm and unshakeable.
When this happens, an upward motion can be generated with your feet and hips, thus elevating your position on the rock. The muscles of your legs are bigger and more capacious than those of your arms. Instead of wasting energy on pulling with your arm muscles, you should rely on the more efficient techniques involving the legs.
This method of dropping the knee will actually cover more distance on the ascend while requiring less effort and energy.
- Another big advantage of this technique is that it allows you to attain balance on the rock face while assuming a stable position on relatively poor holds. Your grip on the next hold will also be enhanced because you are able to remain firm and reach a long distance at the same time.
- The right use of the drop knee technique will significantly improve your control and the flow of your movements.
Drop Knee Technique
The perfect drop knee uses the power of your legs, hips, and core while giving a rest to your arms.
It is important to be relaxed while assuming the starting position. A stiff body would interfere with comfortably executing the next moves. Your hands and your feet should be comfortably positioned in climbing holds. This will allow you to precisely place your toe correctly on the hold so that it can be easily used to pivot and push off when assuming a stance.
Position your foot
The placement of your foot should be such that there is enough space between the rock face and the edge of your toes to freely rotate your foot without getting caught up. The foot should initially be placed upon the inside edge which changes to outside edge upon rotation of the foot while dropping the knee. This also creates outward pressure and generates more momentum for our ascend.
Rotation of your foot
The next step after assuming the right position is to rotate your foot. Rotate it in the direction toward the center of your body and make sure that your toes are directed parallel to the wall.
Bend your knee
Your knee should be bent in such a way that it creates a straight line between your feet. You can bend your knee lower than this level if it is possible but you should take care to not injure your ligaments in the process. Any undue pressure on your ligaments could result in pain and a botheration for the rest of your climb.
Pull your hip closer to the wall
When your knee is placed in the correct position, turn it downward and rotate your hip so that it gets closer to the rock face. The quadricep of your hip should be almost in contact with the wall. The hip outside the bent knee should be more close to the wall as compared to the hip on the other side and your body should be twisted such that it is at a right angle to the wall.
Pull your hand
Dropping your knee in one smooth motion and pushing off with each foot will create momentum such that the body seems weightless as it twists and reaches for the next hold.
When your feet and your hips are in the right position, you should pay attention to your hands. Your hand opposite the bent knee should be pulled in order to build momentum while approaching the next climbing hold. Your arms should be straight and stretched adequately before you put them to work. Take care that you don’t pull your hand before assuming the bent-knee position.
Grab the next hold
You should move on to grab the next hold with your right hand. This move will make your hips come parallel to the rock face. You should not stay in this position for a long time in order to save energy. When you reach this hold on the same side as the dropped knee, look forward to releasing the bent knee and getting ready for the next move. Both your feet should pivot so that there is space between them that will allow you to lift your lower leg and reach the next hold.
Training for Drop knee
It is important to practice this technique in the gym repetitively in order to become skilled to freely employ it on your climbs. You will be amazed at the amount of energy that gets conserved while using energy-efficient climbing techniques. The motion created by this seemingly natural act of dropping the knee pushes you much higher on your ascend than simply pulling and hanging on to holds.
- Whether you are practicing on vertical climbs or traverse, try to use drop knees on every move when you are warming up. You can rotate your hips and your feet on the right and the left sides as you go from one drop knee motion to another. Take care to keep your arms straight while performing this move. You’ll eventually get used to this movement and realize that you had been bending your arms unnecessarily earlier when your legs are so capable of giving you the push for an upward motion.
- Start climbing an overhanging wall and use the drop knee method at every step. Remember that you are training, don’t care about following a route, and use whatever holds are available so that you keep climbing. Explore how much distance you can cover and master this method so that your movements flow.
- This is a simple technique and does not require specific muscle training and workouts any different from your overall rock climbing workout. Remember that practicing an ascend will make sure you reach there. The following exercise will improve and reinforce the motion and approach of your body when performing a drop knee.
It works by coordinating the stability between the opposing pressures of your extended arm and both your feet. Your hip requires great strength and control to undergo rotation during the drop. The muscles that absorb shock when you land roughly from a boulder will also be strengthened by this drill.
Perform this task in sets of three with ten repetitions in each set.
- Stand erect. Your feet should be as apart as your shoulder-width.
- Make a complete 90° turn after pivoting your feet and turning your hips and torso towards one side.
- When you drop one knee on the ground, the heel of the corresponding leg should come off the ground.
- Your toes should support all the weight focussed on your feet.
- Carry a dumbbell in one hand on the drop knee side of your body and press it overhead while performing the drop knee.
- The bend in your front knee, up to 90° will be holding most of your body weight.
- Stay in this position for three seconds after which you can stand up and repeat the exercise.
We have listed some common mistakes made by climbers while attempting drop knee.
Be careful about these common mistakes
If you don’t execute the technique in a proper manner, you might fall off the wall or waste too much energy getting it right.
- When you are positioning your toe on the hold, you do not have to pre-empt the pivot at the first stance. If you step too high on the hold or use too much edge while stepping, it would make pivoting your toe physically impossible. Your foot may get unstable and fall off the hold.
- The mistake can be avoided if you remember while placing the inside edge of your toe on the hold that your toe will have to be turned inwards and will be used to push away. It should be placed on the side of the hold that will allow it to mimic a bridge and generate momentum.
- Many climbers try to position the toe after bending the knee mid-air during the approach. This is not the right way of executing this technique and puts too much pressure on the arms when the transmission is being made. Incorrect technique will never be energy efficient and will fail to utilize the forces and momentum generated by the right motion.
- Keep in mind to always drop the knee after placing the toe on the hold.
- Some climbers do not drop the knee enough while using this technique. If you don’t step your knee right on a steep slope, your body weight will be shifted further away from the wall and your stability will be compromised. You will then be dependent on pulling from your hands as your knee will not be able to generate adequate momentum.
- Twist your torso while dropping your knee to as much extent as possible so that there is a right angle between your body and the rock face. Your feet will be pushing holds in opposite directions once you drop the knee and reach upward with lesser effort.
Beware of drop knee injuries
An aggressive rotation of the knee downward and inward while moving into drop knee places your knee in suboptimal positions that can stress your ligaments and cartilage. Torquing movement of the larger femur bone inward on the smaller tibia bone causes stress in the structures on the inside portion of the knee. Overuse of these specialized movements can be dangerous for the long term health of your lower limb joints.
A torn ligaments up on the high wall could be painful to carry on with for the rest of the climb and could even prove disastrous if you lose balance and fall.
Focus on training effectively and strengthening the muscles protecting your knee so that you climb efficiently, safely, and without any damage to the valuable body of yours.
So drop that knee on your next adventure and we hope the mountain succumbs.