If you are a professional climber, you probably know that it is not always possible to power your way up the cliffs. It is essential to be familiar with a set of techniques that are designed to tackle specific problems during the climb.
To become a great climber, along with strength and power, you also need to hone different techniques and movements.
But how do you improve the techniques of movement and balance?
It is quite apparent, the best way to learn different rock climbing techniques is by climbing every opportunity you get!
When you’re attempting a challenging boulder or a vertical crag, one of the best techniques to tackle the three-dimensional movement is by performing a drop knee.
Drop knee is hands down one of the most classic moves in rock climbing. Although the fundamental of drop knee is highly underrated, its significance is unrivaled in climbing.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “how to drop knee?”
Well, don’t worry!
In this article, we’ll be digging deep into the topic of the drop knee technique. We’ll also go through the step-by-step guide on how to perform this technique properly.
What is Drop Knee?
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The drop knee is a fundamental footwork technique used while rock climbing and bouldering. It is an extreme technique that involves building the tension between the two footholds. The pressure is built up by allocating the entire weight on the outside of one foot with the opposing foot supports against another hold.
This extreme footwork technique involves pushing the corresponding hip towards the wall or the crag while twisting the knee downwards. It is an excellent move to tackle steep angles or overhanging walls by controlling body tension and maintaining stability.
Why Should You Practice Drop Knee?
The drop knee is an essential footwork technique mostly used to maintain stability and generate power from the hips. Here are a few reasons why you should practice drop knee and why this advanced rock climbing technique should be in every climber’s repertoire:
Extend Your Reach
One of the most obvious reasons why you should practice drop knee techniques is to reach the holds that seem too far away.
While locking the drop knee, almost all the weight of your corresponding leg shifts to your hip. This shift in weight allows your feet to remain in a stable position to generate an upward movement using your feet and hips.
This position also makes you relatively larger as you shrink the angle between your feet, hips, and hand. Therefore, it enables you to cover a longer distance than you can generally reach.
Mastering a proper drop knee can also significantly improve the balance and stability of your body. Locking an appropriate drop knee allows you to maintain an appropriate balance on the wall, even with relatively bad holds.
With improved stability and extended reach, you will have more time to make the best out of your grip on the following hold. It is undoubtedly a massive advantage for any climber or boulderer.
Employing a drop knee will also save your energy, something every rock climber would fawn over. By locking a proper drop knee, you will be able to build outward tension between your footholds.
Therefore, this tension will not only relieve your arms but also allows you to hang from the extended arm until you grab the next hold. While you hang from the extended arms, it saves you an incredible amount of energy compared to bent arms.
How to Drop Knee? A Step-By-Step Guide
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1. Starting Position
Before you start making the moves to employ a drop knee, it is crucial to position yourself in the right way. Ideally, you need to have four points to contact to nail this footwork technique. In the starting position, make sure that both your hands and feet are on the holds.
2. Position of Your Foot
Once you stay in a comfortable position with your hands and feet on the holds, make sure there’s plenty of space between the wall and your toes. It is significant to have enough space to ensure you do not get stuck on the wall while rotating your foot.
Depending upon the holds, the ideal point of contact may vary from one hold to another. However, it should usually be somewhere near the ball of your foot and your big toe.
3. Rotating Your Foot
Once you nail the position of your foot and maintain the proper space, it is time to rotate your foot. Slowly bend one of your feet towards the center of your body. Keep turning the feet until it is directly parallel to the wall.
4. Twist Your Knees Down and Pull Your Hips In
Once your feet are parallel to the wall, gently start bending one of your knees. Keep turning the knee until you make a straight line between two footholds. At times, you can also go slightly lower, but it can add more strain to your ligaments.
Now, pull your hips towards the wall in a smooth move and turn your knee downward simultaneously. Remember, the hips on the side of your bent knee should stick closer to the wall compared to the other side.
Be very cautious while attempting this step to prevent serious knee injuries.
5. Pull the Opposing Hand Towards You
This process entirely depends on the distance between you and the following hold. If the hold is not too far to reach, you can skip this step. Most of the advanced climbers tend to skip this step to save the much-needed energy during their climb. However, only do so if you are a professional climber and confident about what you are doing.
After dropping your knees and pulling your hips towards the wall, pull the opposite hands towards you. To gain momentum and stability to grab the next hold, you would now want to start pulling the hand that is on the grip.
Make sure you only attempt this step after you drop the knees. It is significant to follow these steps one after another to prevent serious drop knee injuries.
6. Grab the Next Hold with the Extended Arm
Finally, it is time to reach out to the following hold and grab it with your extended arm.
Once you grab the next hold, you can place your hips in a parallel position to the wall’s face. However, it is best not to linger in the parallel position for too long if you want to save your energy.
Soon as your hips end up in a parallel position to the face of the wall, lock the next drop knee and reinstall the angle between your hips and the front of the wall.
Note that while attempting the drop knee, your hips should no longer be parallel to the wall. Remember to twist the hips closer to the wall and allow your arm that is grabbing onto a hold to stay stretched.
Now, as your arm stays stretched, you can make your move with the other arm and reach out for the next hold. This way, you can save a significant amount of energy in a long climb.
Using Drop Knee on High Footholds
A drop knee is an excellent footwork technique to reach high holds. However, in high footholds, it is significant that you stay cautious while attempting a drop knee.
While attempting a drop knee in high holds, your elbows might come across the way of bending your knee down. Also, it is crucial to be a lot more flexible to pull off a drop knee on high footholds.
Before you reach out to the next hold, make sure to finish the entire set of moves. Do not skip any steps or rush in to grab the following hold.
One of the most significant inconveniences you may encounter while employing a drop knee in a higher foothold is the difficulty of locking your knee correctly. And, if you won’t be able to lock your knee correctly, you will not be able to generate the right amount of tension to nail the drop knee.
Remember, drop knee is an advanced rock climbing technique. If you’re not confident about getting a decent drop knee in place, it is advisable to play it safe and head to the next hold inefficiently. Although this method may be slightly uncomfortable, it can prevent you from serious injuries.
Using Drop Knee at an Overhang
An overhang is a section of a wall or rock, which includes a steep slope of more than 90 degrees. In climbing, the overhangs are a much challenging and demanding section that requires dedicated techniques to cross over.
It is really common for most climbers to dangle freely on their arm strength, without using the feet as a point of contact in the overhangs. However, to tackle the steepness of the overhangs, it is ideal to keep the body’s center of mass as close to the wall as possible.
Since you’re continually battling gravity to stick to the wall in the overhangs, the load in arms and hand muscles significantly increases. Additionally, it also requires plenty of core strength to tackle this section.
One of the best climbing techniques to tackle the overhang is the drop knee. The best part about using a drop knee is that it forces you to keep your hips closer to the wall.
This technique also builds up a lot of tension between your feet. This tension makes it convenient for you to press your hips closer to the face of the wall without using your core strength.
Sustaining this tension makes it a lot easier for you to lunge in for the next hold. Once you master the drop knee techniques, it seems pretty straightforward to climb the overhangs without losing your footings.
Employing a proper drop knee in the overhang sections will minimize the total amount of time for you to campus your way up the wall and make you look a lot more professional. Besides, you’ll also be able to stick to the face of the wall without using much strength.
Common Drop Knee Mistakes
Since drop knee is an advanced rock climbing technique, it is quite challenging to nail the perfect score as a beginner. While practicing this technique, it is quite common, especially for beginners, to make mistakes.
Here are a few common drop knee mistakes you should avoid in your next climbing session:
- One of the most common mistakes climbers makes while employing a drop knee is a lack of commitment. And, it is reasonably understandable too, as this technique can cause severe injuries if not done correctly.
However, if you are not fully committed to attempting this climbing technique, you will not be able to build enough pressure between your legs. Without the right amount of tension, you will not be able to employ a drop knee effectively.
Therefore, commit yourself, bend your knee down, and stick your hips to the wall to build enough pressure that is required to lock this technique.
- Another basic mistake while attempting to drop knee is not twisting your knee. Most beginners place their foot in the dropped position right from the get do. If you do not rotate your knee in the right position, it makes the entire move unnecessarily tricky.
In a few exceptional cases, you may have to position your foot at a certain angle to make a move convenient.
However, in most cases, you can simply nail the drop knee from the normal position. Remember to push your hips parallel to the wall and twist your knee from there.
- Although it looks fairly simple, employing a perfect drop knee is not quite as easy as it seems. Another common mistake climbers tend to make while attempting a drop is the use of the wrong hand.
After twisting the knee and pushing their hips to the walls, most climbers lunge over to the next hold with the wrong hand. Reaching out with the wrong hand will leave you in an uncomfortable position, that will eventually force you away from the face of the wall.
Drop Knee Injury
By now, you should have already figured out that drop knee is an advanced rock climbing technique. If not employed properly, this footwork technique is highly sensitive to severe injuries. If you are not confident enough to employ a drop knee, do not attempt it!
Here are a few injuries that are directly associated with the drop knee:
- One of the most common injuries is knee strain. It is a considerably minor injury caused due to stretching of the ligaments in your knee. Knee strain should heal within a couple of days.
- Another drop knee injury is associated with meniscus and knee ligaments, also known as ‘Unhappy Triad’ as a whole. The risk of injury in these areas is extensively critical, and it is best to avoid them. If you have injuries in the knee ligaments and meniscus, it is sure to take a long time to heal.
- Finally, the most severe injury you can face while attempting a drop knee is the dislocation of the knee. Although this is not the most routine drop knee injury, it is better to stay cautious and avoid it! You may get injured when you fall awkwardly or lose your balance while attempting the drop knee.
Well, that’s all for our step-by-step guide to master the technique of drop knee. If you’re an aspiring climber looking to take your climbing skills to the next level, it is crucial to learn different fundamentals.
Drop knee certainly marks as one of the essential techniques in rock climbing. However, it is vital to stay aware of the injuries associated with this footwork technique and take the necessary precaution to prevent them.
Table of Content
- What is Drop Knee?
- Why Should You Practice Drop Knee?
- How to Drop Knee? A Step-By-Step Guide
- Using Drop Knee on High Footholds
- Using Drop Knee at an Overhang
- Common Drop Knee Mistakes
- Drop Knee Injury