Climbing Techniques: Better Kneebars
Unlock hard sequences and recover with a solid kneebar ! One of the most useful moves in climbing, the kneebar happens when you cam your foot and the top of your knee/thigh between two rock surfaces. It can provide a much-needed rest or help you through a crux without using a lot of upper-body strength.
You can find good kneebars on vertical and horizontal terrain. Below, we’ve compiled suggestions for subtle nuances in technique, pressure, and body position from kneebar queen Heather Weidner, who has used these methods to send 5.13s and 5.14s throughout the West.
Finding and Setting Up
A successful kneebar relies on the tension created by pressing down on a foothold with your toes, which in turn pushes the top of your knee/bottom of your thigh into another surface. The foothold can be anything from a smear to a ledge. But the thigh-side hold must have enough surface area to provide substantial friction for the larger, less dexterous knee. Of course, the length of your leg will affect how much effort is required. Sometimes you can simply slot your leg in the space between holds. And other times you’ll need to flex your calf and press up into it.
The best kneebar allows the climber to drop both hands and hang hands-free. Especially if you can floss both knees into one spot. Other times, the knee will be barely pressed into the rock—it’s then considered more of a knee scum—which takes off a bit of body weight, providing a slight rest or setting the climber up for the next move.
Kneebars : a question of technique
“Kneebars are going to be slightly different for everyone. So it takes awhile—just like any skill—to find potential kneebars,” says Weidner. Experimenting with different footholds, knee positions, foot angles, and hip height, or using the opposite leg, can transform a kneebar from seemingly impossible to incredibly solid.
To gain more length, you can always point your toes. To shorten the length, try rocking onto your foot more and angling your tibia to one side or another. In extreme situations, you might be able to stack your feet or place your hand between your knee and the rock. But both options can make the next move more difficult.
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