/ Backstepping properly - how to drive upwards

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Vampire - on 15 May 2018


I’m finding it difficult to do backsteps properly. I get the idea that twisting into the wall brings you centre of mass closer to the wall and over the foothold and I definitely feel more stable in a backstep, but the problem I have is then driving upwards using my feet. This just seems much harder in the backstep position.



When I started climbing I learnt to put my weight over my big toe. This is how I have done most of my climbing and it has so far served me well. In a backstep, however, the foot that needs to do the driving is on the outside edge. Isn’t it just much harder to get power this way? Consider a right backstep – left hand on a good hold, and feet on 2 mediocre feet holds. You backstep by turning your right hip in, your left foot can toe in, but your right foot is on outside edge.

How do people drive up in this situation? What is the best part of the foot to use for outside edging, or should I be driving up with my left toed in foot? I just haven’t got this to click yet and so far it’s just been easier for me to climb front facing. What makes the backstep worse is that you need to keep some space on the foothold to pivot which can make a mediocre foothold even worse.


Any advice appreciated.


Dandan - on 15 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

Backstepping is something of an Americanism, if I understand correctly it is what I would consider a drop-knee or step-through, turning the hips to get one hip closer to the wall and straighten the opposing arm.

As far as driving up, I guess this is situation specific, which is the better hold, which direction you are heading, all sorts of factors will affect it.
The purpose of a backstep (drop knee/whatever) is to decrease the difficulty of the move by virtue of weight distribution and straightening of the arm that is about to pull. This advantage should outweigh the difficulty of driving up from the outside edge of your foot, if it doesn't then perhaps you should do that move in a frog position, with open hips and inside edges.
You should however feel comfortable pushing up on either the inside or outside of your foot, maybe some drills of climbing on outside edges wherever possible might help?


Vampire - on 15 May 2018
In reply to Dandan:


Thanks. Which part of your foot is best for outside edging? I’m doing the drills in self-couched climber but I don’t think they mention that.


Greasy Prusiks on 15 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

Have you seen Neil Greshams Master Clases on YouTube? Well worth a watch. 

Jon Greengrass on 15 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

I'll bite...

the best part of the foot for outside edging is the outside.. right side of your right foot as you look down at it in your example.

Vampire - on 15 May 2018
In reply to Greasy Prusiks:

> Have you seen Neil Greshams Master Clases on YouTube? Well worth a watch. 

Yes I have as well as a few other ones. They have been useful, but it looks so much easier on the videos…I can’t get it to work like that. The implication in his videos is that we should always climb like that but I haven’t been able to do that very well in all but the simplest cases and even then, just frontal climbing just works better for me. For me I think it’s using the outside edge properly that is stopping me using it correctly. I’m sure he’s right so I want to figure out what I’m doing wrong.


DenzelLN - on 15 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

Ill second Neil Gresham's masterclass series, im a beginner myself and i repeatedly go back to his videos. Really helpful.

Without watching you do it, its hard to say why you cant drive upwards.

It might be that the right foot in your example is marginal and a more fluid dynamic twist and push movement is needed just to reach the next hold, after which you can move your feet up and of the naff hold.

It could be that the foot is too high with your leg really bent underneath you. I struggle pushing off positions like this as your basically doing a one legged squatt off your little toe. I sometimes find it best to get both feet as high as possible then use a full drop knee and use body tension to hold the position and shift your weight towards the direction of intended travel. Or push with your other foot aswell to gain a little momentum.

Or find a better hold with your left foot and front flag/back flag depending on height of said foot.

I could be talking tosh, but worth a try.


Post edited at 16:27
summo on 15 May 2018
nacnud - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

Do your shoes fit?

If they are too big/wide then standing on your outside edge is much harder. Stiffer shoes can also help. 

RockSteady on 17 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

How you drive up from a dropknee depends on which direction you're travelling in. If you're going in the direction of the dropped knee, you are pushing more off the front leg that's not dropped, so your big toe inside edge. For the dropped knee foot you are twisting in on the outside edge with your little toe, and sort of pulling in a bit to keep the foot on.

Going straight up, it feels like bridging, with the push from your big toe on one foot opposing the push from your little toe on the foot with the dropped knee.

Going in the direction of the non-dropped leg is the hardest and can sometimes be hard to push off. You are basically standing up off your little toe on the dropped leg and have to push hard and pull in with the foot at the same time.

Make sure you're practising on an overhanging wall as there is little benefit to doing drop knees on vertical or slabby ground. Generally focus on your hips twisting in and up. Vary which foot you place first, but always make sure you focus on giving yourself room to pivot off the foot on the dropknee side, as you will be rolling from inside edge or frontpointing to the outside edge and little toe.

Hardonicus - on 17 May 2018
In reply to Vampire:

Isn't this called an Egyptian?

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