Climbing and mountaineering mainly started because early climbers wanted to get to the top. The top of a mountain, a boulder, a cliff, they had a set target. The mantle is the main move required to climb up the end of a route or problem and stand at the top. Knowing how to mantle is critical for climbing success.
Mantling is often compared to climbing out the side of a pool because we mainly use this technique to surmount a lip or shelf-like feature when there are no available holds above it.
Mantling is a fundamental climbing technique to work on, especially if you want to climb outside, and it will definitely help in improving your climbing.
We will go over what mantling is, how to mantle, and we will look at some common mistakes climbers do when mantling. Finally, we will share some video tutorial recommendations on youtube.
What is a Mantle in Climbing?
The mantle is one of the climbing terms that have a story. Because of the similarity of rock shelves to the fireplace mantels, early climbers used to call the action of climbing over rock shelves or lips, mantling.
We typically encounter this move in the middle of bouldering problems or when topping out. Instead of pulling, like you do most of the time when you climb, mantling involves pressing with the palms and pushing to bring your whole body over a ledge or the top of the rock face and stand up.
Essentially, whenever you see a flat hold or rock surface that you can plant your palm on, the mantle is possibly the move you need to execute.
Why is Mantling Important in Climbing
Mantling has both practical and symbolic importance. Because of climbing turning into a sport, and unfortunately for some primarily an indoor sport, its roots and purpose are sometimes forgotten. It started by mountaineers who wanted to conquer mountains, peaks, and boulders. And the only way to do that is to stand at the top.
Imagine, for example, working on a bouldering problem for ages, and when you finally get through the crux, you can’t manage the final move that gets you on top of the boulder because you didn’t practice mantling enough in the past. That would be a bummer, right?
The mantle is the final move, occasionally quite challenging, that, if executed successfully, will give you that feeling of real accomplishment for facing the rock and climbing all the way up.
How to Practice Mantling Effectively in Climbing
It’s rarer to find a problem or route with the mantling move indoors. There are bouldering problems indoors that incorporate it nicely, usually in the middle of the problem, but the easiest way to practice the mantle is while bouldering outdoors.
Mantling depends a lot on where your center of gravity is and how you distribute and shift your weight to the holds you have available. It consists of turning a pulling motion into a pushing motion and transferring your weight along with the movement.
Each mantle is different, so in different situations, you may need to play around with the order of the steps we will provide below. In some cases, you may need to bring the foot high up first and then bring the hands to a more optimal position. In other instances, where the hands can go directly to the lip, they can go first, and you can bring your foot up as you push with the hands.
By practicing often, you will know how and when to use the techniques and movements we will describe, to tackle the move.
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The essential moves are:
- Bring your hand or hands on the lip or as high as you can
- Bring your foot as high up as you can, preferably the heel
- Pull to elevate your upper body
- Push with your palms and foot while keeping your hips in
- Rock over to the top
In general, you should be mindful of where you are placing your feet. If you have available footholds, you should set up your feet so that on the next moves, you can get higher and be able to push more with your hands. The higher you bring your feet, the higher you’ll be able to bring your hips, and it will be easier to transfer more of your weight over the top.
After you bring your hands to the best position you can close to the lip, you need to bring up your foot.
To do that, bring your heel as high as possible, to be able to shift more weight to that side. By doing that, after you pull yourself up, you will have more freedom in your hands to move and rotate them, bringing them in a position that allows you to press up to lift your whole body-weight over the lip.
There are cases when you can’t place your heel securely, and you have to go with the toes, but where possible, prefer the heel, as it will give you more pushing power and stability.
To get to a position where you can push effectively to rock over the top, you first need to pull. If you have your foot high up, you can use it along with your hands to pull and bring your upper body over the lip of the wall. You want to bring your body to a locked-in position that frees up your arm to rotate your palm and set it up for pushing.
While you pull, there are occasions where you can flag with the other leg, extending it below you and to the side, so that you don’t swing away from the wall. Flagging will also give you some momentum, which many times is necessary to get you over the lip. For more details on flagging, check out our article How to Flag.
After you pull and lock in with your body, adjust your hand, placing it palm down. Which side will go first, and if the palm will face inwards or outwards will depend on where you have placed your feet and what the rock looks like. If you turn your hand inwards, with your thumb towards your body, you can push more, but if you turn it outwards, you can get your body closer to the wall and make transferring your weight over the lip easier.
Your hand needs to be in a position that allows you to push using your triceps, the muscles mainly responsible for this part of the move. On most occasions, you will have to press with the whole palm, and your elbow will turn to point upwards. As you manage to push your body upwards, your elbow will straighten and lock into place.
While you are pushing yourself up, lean in, and try to keep your hips as close as possible to the wall. Due to the positioning of your foot, this will require you to keep your hips open, so hip flexibility definitely helps. By keeping your hips close to the wall, again, you give more freedom to your arms to help push you over the top.
As soon as your hips are over the top, you can start shifting your body weight to your foot that is higher up. You can do that by bending your knee to the side and bringing your toes down. Try to keep your movements controlled and stable to lower your chances of slipping.
After rocking over, the only thing left to do is to match with your other foot. You can use the other hand (of the opposite side of the foot that was higher up) to push and bring your other foot up. Then you can stand up or, in some cases, haul your body to the top.
Mantling Technique Tips for Rock Climbing Beginners and Intermediates
We have gone over the technique of how to mantle, now let’s look at some more specific tips that will come in handy.
- Hip Flexibility
Work on your hip flexibility to be able to place your foot higher when initiating the mantling technique. There are many hip-opening exercises you can incorporate in your stretching routine, especially by practicing yoga. You should make it a habit to engage your glute muscles when opening your hips. If you are not correctly rotating the leg and foot from the hip joint, it means you are probably turning your knee, which in the long term, or even suddenly can cause a knee injury. So it’s very important to practice hip opening and mobility exercises safely on the ground so that your glute muscles get used to the movement before you try it out at an intense moment at the top of the boulder.
Sometimes you may incorporate some momentum in your movement by making it more sudden and dynamic, and as we said above, by flagging your leg (the one that is not higher up). If you can do bar muscle-ups, they will definitely help. However, to avoid any injury or uncontrolled fall, try not to make this a habit and rely on it to execute the mantle movement, and only use momentum when it’s appropriate.
- Chalk up
Before attempting the mantle, it really helps to chalk up your hands. Sometimes a mantle move may be more taxing than you think and require multiple moves and a lot of contact with the rock. Most of the time, the mantle will require good friction of the whole palm with the rock.
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- Muscle Strength
Strengthening your triceps, chest, and core muscles will help you gain more stability in your movement and go for the harder mantles. Some exercises that can help you are tricep dips and push-ups.
For your mantling to be successful, you need to commit to the movement fully. Falling while your weight is over the lip of the wall can be dangerous, and mental commitment will give you more chances of climbing up unscathed.
Mantling is a move that may lead to an awkward fall since at least half of your body is over the lip of the rock. So if climbing outdoors, you definitely need to have good pads and experienced spotters. Even indoors, you should have someone to spot you while you try that final move. Having someone to spot you will also give you more confidence and focus so that you have more chances of success when executing the mantle.
Most importantly, with sufficient practice, you’ll be able to improve your technique and nail the mantle move.
Common Mantling Mistakes
When we face a challenging move, it’s easier to make rookie mistakes. Mantles are usually such moves, so listen up!
- You don’t want just to throw your body over the top. By practicing and strengthening your muscles, you will learn to use them efficiently to press your body up.
- By using your toes instead of your heel when you step up with your foot, depending on the route, there are many times where this will push your hip out away from the wall, making it harder to shift your weight to your feet to be able to reposition your hands optimally. So when possible, use your heel to hook your foot higher up.
- Many times you will be tempted to bring your knee on the ledge instead of your foot and basically hug the rock with your whole body, but in the long run, this will not help you succeed. Your knee will not have as much friction as your foot, and you are also more susceptible to injuries.
Helpful Mantling Tutorials on YouTube
A concise explanation of how to mantle, with some useful technique tips. The example presented is while bouldering indoors:
An overall description of mantling:
If your climbing gym has rings or a sling trainer, here are some exercises to train you for hard mantling:
Wrapping Things Up: Final Things to Remember for How to Mantle
Mantling is an invaluable climbing technique for conquering a climb and getting to the top. It’s especially useful when bouldering outdoors, and by practicing it, you will definitely be improving your climbing.
To wrap things up, let’s go over some key points for how to mantle:
- Correct distribution of your weight and shifting of your center of gravity are crucial for the mantling technique to succeed.
- Bring your foot as high as you can, preferably planting down the heel.
- Free up your arms so that you can rotate your hand and push down with your palm.
- Keep your hips close to the wall to help you shift your weight over.
- Hip flexibility and a good range of movement are crucial, not only to succeed but also to prevent injury.
- Strong triceps and core will make pushing yourself up more accessible.
- Remember to chalk up.
The recipe for success in mantling consists of coordination, flexibility and mobility, and muscle strength. And of course, commitment!
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like our other climbing tips here.