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7 Techniques for Climbing Overhangs: How to Climb Overhangs

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Climbing an overhanging route can be super intimidating, both mentally and physically. These routes often take climbers years to work up the courage to project, but they shouldn’t be that scary. There are a variety of techniques to help you work on your overhanging climbing ability as well to help you train better for overhanging climbs.

In this article, we’ll cover some great beginner tips and tricks for making overhanging climbs seem more approachable as well as some more advanced climbing techniques to start integrating into your climbing if you are passed the beginner techniques. Overhangs offer a great challenge for every climber, so there’s always something out there left to learn.

Helpful Beginner Techniques for Climbing OverhangsHelpful Beginner Techniques for Climbing Overhangs


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It can be really intimidating to start an overhanging climb. Overhangs can be exhausting for your body and really scary for your mind. The potential for a fall into open air is quite high, and this can push people out of their normal climbing mindset and really hinder their ability to think through moves clearly.

We’ve compiled a short list of the best climbing tips and tricks for beginners or even more advanced climbers who are just starting to climb overhangs. We want to allow you to feel prepared for the climbs that you are going to project. These tips should give you the necessary tools to work through a variety of overhanging projects.

1. Climb on your skeleton

The most common thing you’ll hear while you’re up on an overhanging climb is to climb on your skeleton. While this might seem like an odd tip since you are obviously always weighting your skeleton while you’re climbing, it actually can be super helpful.

When you try to climb with your arms fully engaged and in a typical pull-up position, you will sap the strength from your arms really fast. If you hang back on straight arms, you will be able to continue to climb for much longer. The main thing to remember is to still keep your shoulders engaged, even as you hang on straight arms.

Try to work a short overhang, maybe 3-5 moves first with bent arms and then with straight arms. By keeping your arms straight, you force yourself to use your legs much more than your arms to lift your body up to the next handhold. This will allow you to do the climb smoothly and not tire out as fast. This is the best tip out there for feeling more confident on overhanging climbs.

2. Engage your core

Your core is super helpful for overhanging climbs. It will help you stay on the wall and keep working up the overhang. If you are unable to keep your core engaged and your feet on the wall, an overhanging climb will be exponentially harder.

If you are looking to train for overhanging climbs, the best piece of training advice to help improve your overhanging climbing game is to focus on training your core. Having a strong core is essential to being able to climb overhanging walls. Here are some great workout routine ideas to help get your core in shape for overhanging climbs.

This workout can be done with small weights, if you have them, but can also be done with no equipment, making it a great at-home option.


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Planks are a great exercise to help your core, but just make sure that you’re doing them correctly.


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Make sure you work out your whole core, this includes your upper and lower abs as well as both sides. This is a great workout for your lower abs.


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Here’s a few more exercises that are great for your core routine.


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If you really want to challenge yourself, try working towards a front lever. This is an amazing core workout and also a super challenging move, so don’t rush, but take your time and train well.


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3. Breathe

This might sound simple, but this can honestly be the difference between staying on the wall and swinging off. Take a moment to breathe and get all the oxygen that your muscles need out to all your limbs. Your muscles can’t work if you don’t provide them with the materials they need, so make sure you take good care of them.

Remembering to breathe can also be super helpful for your mental game. A huge part of climbing overhanging climbs is being able to stay mentally present. Sometimes we get caught up in the physical challenges of the climb and forget the technique that can help us. Taking time to breathe and think can help this challenge.

4. Keep your feet on the wall

If your feet come off the wall, your body is likely to follow. Make sure that as you move your body up the overhang, you push down hard with your toes on every foothold. This will help you keep your feet on the wall, but you will have to keep your core engaged the whole time as well.

It may not be easy to keep your feet on, but the climbing will be exponentially harder if you can’t keep your feet on the wall. Think about ways you can use holds with your feet to pull yourself into the wall. For more details on creative ways to use your feet, keep reading on for the intermediate and advanced techniques.


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The Best Intermediate and Advanced Techniques for Climbing Overhangs

The Best Intermediate and Advanced Techniques for Climbing Overhangs

1. Work on your odd moves

Odd and creative moves are often super helpful on overhanging climbs. When you can’t use the same technique you use on vertical terrain, you’ll have to get more creative. There are a variety of odd foot techniques that can help you steep climbing and can even help you become a full-blown roof climber.

  • Heel hooks


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Heel hooks are a great way to help pull yourself into the wall if you find a hold that allows you to do so. These are also a great way to pull yourself out of the overhanging section and onto any vertical terrain above. Throwing a heel above an edge and cutting out with your other foot can often allow you to pull the edge easier.


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  • Toe hooks

Toe hooks are similar to heel hooks in that they are a pulling motion instead of a pushing motion, which can sometimes make it easier to stay on the wall. Toe hooks are often useful below your center of gravity, especially if you feel like, in the process of moving the other foot, you are likely to completely cut feet.

Partway up the climb in the video, you can see him stick his right foot out and hook his toe around the back of the large white hold. This is a great way to use a toe hook as it helped him keep his body close in to the wall as he reached up for the next hold.


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  • Bicycle

A bicycle is like combining a toe hook and a heel hook, but not exactly. It involves pushing down on a hold with one foot while simultaneously pulling on the back of the hold with the other foot. It is a very particular move but can be super helpful on overhanging climbs, especially indoors when bouldering a hard roof problem. This is a great move for indoor bouldering.


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  • Knee bars

Knee bars are a super useful tool to help you take advantage of rest spots. When you’re climbing an overhang, you will wear your body out faster than you would on a vertical or slab climb, so taking full advantage of any good clipping stance if you’re leading, or any good rest spot is essential.

Any time that you can get yourself into a position where you don’t have to have all your muscles engaged to stay on the wall, it’s a great rest spot. Knee bars can be used to help find good rest spots. By wedging your knee into a spot in the rock, you create another limb that’s helping to hold you on, so you can take the pressure off of somewhere else.


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2. Move with purpose

The longer you hang on an overhanging climb, the more tired you will get, and the harder the moves will feel. Take some time while you are on the ground or before you enter the roof section of the climb and think about when you are going to do while you are in the roof section. Make sure you remember your technique and remember to breathe as you work your way up.

Rushing won’t help you any more than stopping will, but make sure that you do keep moving with purpose between your rests. Find some good rest stops before you enter the overhang so you can aim for those. Catch your breath and think through your next moves before continuing on.

3. Clear your mind and work on your mental game

Climbing on overhanging rock is so much about your mental focus. Sure, it is physically challenging, but its oftentimes easier to overcome physical challenges than it is to overcome mental challenges. Find a good routine to help you clear your mind and focus on the climbing challenge in front of you.

Many climbers come to find challenging routes, such as overhangs, to be an almost meditative experience. Overhanging climbs are a great place to be fully in the moment since if you are thinking of anything other than the challenging climb in front of you, you are likely to fall off the wall and have to restart. Being able to think clearly while working through a challenge is a great skill to develop, and overhanging climbs can help you do that.

How to Rest Effectively on Overhang Routes?

How to Rest Effectively on Overhang Routes?

Finding good rests on overhanging routes is super important. Rests allow you to catch your breath and focus on the next section of the climb while allowing your body to recharge a little bit. Good rests often help prevent the dreaded pump from forming in your forearms nearly as fast, so knowing how to rest efficiently can be super helpful.

As we’ve mentioned before, kneebars are a great tool for effective rests. You are often able to do a one-handed rest if you have a good kneebar. This lets you shake out the other arm and then switch and shake out the first arm. Knee bars are also not uncommon to find on overhangs, so knowing how to hold yourself up with them can be super helpful.


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Another fun way to take a rest while working an overhanging climb is to bat hang. Bat hanging allows you to rest both arms at once and simply hang upside down, like a bat, from your feet. By keeping your feet flexed, you will stay on the hold. The main challenge with a bat hang is getting into and out of the move and making sure you don’t stay in it too long; otherwise, the blood might all rush to your head.


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You could even integrate a kneebar and a bat hand together, like in this picture;


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3 Helpful Videos on How to Climb Overhangs

3 Helpful Videos on How to Climb Overhangs

No matter how many times we explain how to climb overhangs to you, sometimes you just need to see it done. Here’s some great videos on how to climb overhangs that might help you get started with your overhanging climbing journey.

1. Training for the climb

This first video shows some great weight training exercises and moves that can help you train for overhanging climbing more effectively. If you find that overhanging climbs seem super challenging for you, it might be a good idea to focus your training off the wall on moves that will help you with an overhang. Overhangs do take a large amount of strength, even to help use the tips and tricks that we’ve discussed in this article, so dedicating some extra time to training is never a bad idea.

2. Overhanging climbing for the beginner

This video does a great job of simplifying the basics of overhanging climbing. It breaks down the moves and does a good job of showing what she’s talking about. We know that overhangs are often the climbs that people avoid when they are first starting out climbing, but don’t feel like you have to. This video makes overhanging climbs seem much more approachable.

3. Overhangs for the more experienced climber

This video goes a little more in-depth and integrates a bunch of the moves together, making it a good option for a more advanced climber. As you progress with climbing, videos like this one are a great way to keep improving your skills. Watching someone better than you climb is also a great way to get inspired and to learn how to do more challenging moves.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Climb Overhangs

Overhanging climbs might seem impossible, but there really aren’t. Once you know how to train effectively for overhanging or roof climbs, it can make the moves seem much more manageable. Being able to use techniques to help you out while you’re working your way through an overhanging climb can make the climb seem much easier and simpler than it first appeared.

There’s often a belief that only big, burly, strong climbers can ever climb overhangs, and this is completely false. With good technique and a belief in yourself, anyone can do overhanging climbs; it might just take a little extra training or thought into the moves that you will be doing.

Did you find this helpful? Then also check out our other climbing tips here.

> 21 Advanced Bouldering Tips and Techniques

> 15 Climbing Core Workout Tips

> 11 Onsight Climbing Tips to Climb Stronger

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