Climbing Tips for Short People: The Ultimate Guide

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Climbing can seem almost impossible if you can’t reach the holds, but there are some ways to make climbing more accessible to those a little shorter. Although indoor climbing tends to be more of a challenge for shorter climbers than outdoor climbing, even indoor climbs are possible for shorter climbers with the right technique and training.

What Height Are We Defining as Short for Climbing?What Height Are We Defining as Short for Climbing?

When someone says they are short, they tend to mean that they’re under around 5’5”, but the real challenges of being short begin around 5’2” or so. Most climbs in climbing gyms are set with a climber in the 5’8” to 5’11” range in mind, but most at least consider climbers around 5’4” to 5’7” when they are setting.

For the purpose of this article, we will be considering anyone who is 5’2” or shorter to be a short climber, but these tips are great for anyone. Someone in the 5’3” to 5’5” range who is flexible, may climb more like a shorter climber while someone of the same height who reaches up more, may climb more like a taller climber. It doesn’t matter how tall you are; good technique will only help your climbing ability.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Short Climber (Besides the Obvious)

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Short Climber (Besides the Obvious)

While the obvious disadvantage of being short is that you can’t reach as many holds as someone taller than you can, many of the less obvious things to note about being a shorter climber are actually advantages. Being short can have some amazing advantages when it comes to climbing, so don’t give up just because you can’t reach a hold on the first try.

Short climbers generally have an easier time keeping their center of gravity close to the wall, which can help immensely with balance. They also tend to have a better height to strength ratio than taller climbers do. This height to strength ratio is what often leads to kids being amazing climbers, and it can greatly benefit shorter climbers as well. As a shorter climber, you have less body mass to be moving up the wall, meaning that it takes less raw strength to move your weight, which can actually be a big advantage.

Another benefit of being a shorter climber is that you are forced to learn technique, meaning that it might seem harder when you start out climbing, but you will oftentimes be able to keep progressing onto harder, and harder climbs faster than a taller climber would. Many tall climbers find climbing easy when they start, so they never bother to learn technique, something that makes harder routes super challenging for them.

As we’ve mentioned before, shorter climbers will have an easier time outdoors since outdoor climbing routes aren’t set by a particular person. They offer more of a variety of ways to do the same route. Indoor climbing, particularly indoor bouldering, can often be really hard for shorter climbers since indoor climbing routes or problems are set by a setter.

Route setters tend to set routes for a particular body type without meaning to. If the route setter is tall and lanky, they may unintentionally set a really reachy climb. If the route setter relies heavily on their left side, they may set a climb favoring the left side of the body without even realizing that they did. This is why indoor climbing can often seem harder for shorter climbers than outdoor climbing, but the technique can still help.

Helpful Techniques for Short Climbers

Helpful Techniques for Short Climbers

There are some techniques that can make climbing easier for anyone on the shorter side of things, but these techniques can also help taller climbers as well. Techniques that help you keep your center of gravity close to the wall and allow you to reach more holds are never a bad thing to incorporate into your climbing.

High footholds

Shorter climbers may find that working their feet up higher and then standing up allows them to reach more handholds. This requires good balance and an ability to keep your center of gravity close to the wall as you bring your feet up, meaning that a higher step is often easier for a shorter climber than a taller climber. While a shorter climber is able to work their feet up, a taller climber has long legs that often force their body away from the wall if they step too high up, making it hard for a taller climber to balance as well.


Smearing is placing the ball of your foot directly on the rock or wall and using the sticky nature of the rubber on the soles of your climbing shoes to help you stay on the wall. You don’t need any footholds to be able to smear, which makes smearing a great height equalizing move. For a more petite climber who may not be able to reach the next foothold, smearing can be a great way to work your way up the wall.

Heel hooks and toe hooks

Using holds in more than just the most obvious way is a great way for a shorter climber to work their way through a challenging section of the wall. Being able to use a hold as a heel hook or a toe hook, or even camming your foot so you’re using both your toe and heel can be a great way to use a foothold if you can’t get your weight up and above the hold yet. Having the flexibility of both the body to reach the hold and the flexibility of the mind to think up innovative ways to use the hold is super helpful to shorter climbers.

How to Tackle Dynos as a Short Climber?

How to Tackle Dynos as a Short Climber?


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Dynos can be super useful for shorter climbers. They can allow you to get to holds that you might not be able to reach otherwise. A dyno is a dynamic movement like a jump that allows the climber to propel themselves upwards off the wall and to another hold. Dynos can often seem impossible when you first start out climbing, but there are some ways to make them easier to do.

Make sure you set yourself up well for your dyno, get solid hand and footholds to launch off from and pick which hand you’re going to be reaching upwards with. Turn your head to look towards your goal or the hold that you are jumping towards. Looking upwards will not only allow you to actually see the hold that you’re jumping for but by turning your head the direction that you’re jumping, you actually give your shoulder more room to move and gives yourself a better shot at catching the hold.

Dynos are about believing in yourself. They might seem scary to begin with, but with practice, dynos can be a great way to help shorter climbers reach holds. Just remember to watch where you’re going and keep your body close to the wall. If you launch yourself off the wall, then you’re pushing yourself in the wrong direction.

As a petite climber, having a more dynamic style of climbing can be a great way to reach holds that would otherwise be out of reach. You can incorporate dynos into your climbing to make it more dynamic, but you can also do a deadpoint, which is like a dyno, but without fully leaving the wall, to help you reach holds.

A deadpoint is a great way to use your momentum to help you stretch farther to reach a hold while not fully leaving the wall. A dead point typically includes leaving one foot and one hand on the wall, pushing off with the other foot, and reaching up with your free hand. It often feels less scary than committing to a dyno, but can be super helpful for a smaller climber.

How to Gain Extra Reach as a Shorter Climber?

How to Gain Extra Reach as a Shorter Climber?

The most obvious way to get a little bit of extra reach as a shorter climber is by standing on your toes. Most climbing shoes are stiff enough that you can stand on your toes like a dancer and get another inch or so out of your reach. There are other ways to get extra reach, though, so don’t worry if this doesn’t work for you.

One of the best ways to get a little bit of extra reach is to rearrange your body and try the reach again. Putting your hip into the wall as opposed to having both hips facing the wall square on can give you slightly more reach with the arm that is turned into the wall. Understanding how to rearrange your body to give you more reach is a great skill for a shorter climber to develop.

7 Training Tips for Short Climbers

7 Training Tips for Short Climbers

Shorter climbers can benefit from training in the same way that any taller climber would benefit from training, but there are some targeted things to be training if you are a shorter climber that will benefit you greatly.


Working on improving your flexibility as a shorter climber is never a bad thing, so here’s some easy ways to work on it.

1. Incorporate yoga into your training

Many yoga routines and workouts utilize flexibility and strength together, making them amazing training for climbing in general. As a shorter climber, try to find yoga moves and routines that focus on flexibility or balance since those will be the most helpful for you. Here’s some moves you could think about trying, but there’s so many more out there that are helpful.


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2. Daily stretching

Doing some mild stretching every day is a great way to keep your body limber. Try creating a short and soothing stretching routine to do every evening before bed. The best time to stretch is after you’ve been moving and when your muscles are already warmed up, which is why evening is a great time to work some stretching into your day.

Here’s some good poses to think about using in your daily stretching routine:


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Core Training

3. Follow a climbing inspiration’s routine

If you prefer following a preset workout, try this core workout that Lynn Hill put together. Lynn Hill is an amazing climber and is also super short. She does a great job of walking you through some core workouts, so you don’t have to worry about making up your own routine.


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4. Work your abs fully

Doing workouts such as sit-ups or crunches are great, but they only work a small section of your abs. Make sure that you do the center variation of an ab workout as well as both the left and right variation to get a full core workout. Having a strong core is a great way to improve your climbing ability and allow you to progress through harder moves.

Power Training

5. HIIT workouts

There has been a growing trend recently towards utilizing HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, to work your muscles for power. This can be a great way for shorter climbers to help train their muscles to get more power for dynamic movements.

Here are some great options for HIIT workout routines that incorporate different movements and muscle groups. Take some time to look these over and choose one that works for you or combine a few to tailor it to your exact needs.


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This last example has two very different styles of HIIT workout, both are amazing, but the second more power-focused workout is better suited for shorter climbers looking to develop greater power in their movements.


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6. Work your legs

Doing leg-focused and power-based training can be a great option for shorter climbers. Having strong legs will allow you more power in moves like dynos. This will also help you work your feet up and allow you to fully stand up, even in unstable positions, so you can actually reach as high as you can for the next handhold.

Leg workouts such as squats and jump squats are great and can be incorporated into just about any climbing training routine. Using an elevated surface, such as the one pictured, can also be a great way to add more power training to your existing leg workout.


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7. Train your fingers

Along with having a strong core, great flexibility, and strong legs, having strong fingers and a strong grip can be super helpful to shorter climbers. If you are going to do a dynamic movement, you have to be able to trust that your hands and fingers will be able to keep you on the hold once you make the move. Check out our guide on beginner hangboard workout here.

Hangboards are a great option for someone looking to invest in some training materials for working their fingers, but there are plenty of ways to work on finger and grip strength without investing in a hangboard.

You can use a rubber band or a bucket of rice to help work your hands and slowly build up your finger strength. Rubber bands can be used as a home version of the bands you can buy at many climbing stores and gyms. If you have a bucket of rice, you can stick your hands in and open and close your fingers. Forcing the movement against the rice can help strengthen all the muscles in your fingers.


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Wrapping Things Up: Climbing Tips for Short People

Using technique and a little creativity can go a long way for a shorter climber, so don’t get discouraged! With these tips and tricks for a shorter climber, you’ll be well on your way to sending your next project. Just remember that although it may seem more challenging to start out climbing when you’re short, you will benefit from learning and practicing all that technique in the long run, so just keep on climbing.

If you are a short climber and you need some inspiration, check out all of Lynn Hill’s climbing accomplishments. She was a competitive rock climber and the first person to free climb the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite, and she’s only 5’2”. She’s an amazing inspiration to climbers of all heights, but especially those who share a similar height to her.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like our climbing tips for tall people here.

> 21 Advanced Bouldering Tips and Techniques

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