In the third installment of our How It Works Series, we’ll be digging into one of climbing’s most classic moves: the dropknee. The dropknee is an underrated and underutilized fundamental that should be in every climber’s repertoire. Learn!
The dropknee is a footwork technique that involves heavily weighting the outside of one foot—with the opposing foot stemmed against another hold—in order to generate body tension. This position entails swiveling the corresponding hip towards the wall and torquing the knee downwards (hence the name). The dropknee is usually most helpful on walls with relatively steep angles as a method of controlling stability and tension.
In this article written by Kevin Jorgeson in 2012 for Climbing Mag, he explores the nuances of footwork—I highly recommend you read this and try everything he suggests. He notes that the dropknee (also known as the “backstep”) is essential for generating stability and power from the hips. Take the advice of a master!
There are three huge reasons you want to dropknee:
Once again, I advise you to practice this technique in the gym. With a little bit of repetition you’ll probably notice the natural feel of the dropknee position and the motion it creates. When you realize the amount of energy it will save you in the long run, your mind will blow.
Here are my recommendations for practicing:
Words of Warning
And finally, some injury prevention. Heed my words!
Be very cautious about how far you drop your knee while employing this technique. It certainly depends on your level of flexibility, but the possibility of damaging tendons, ligaments, and muscles around the knee is very real.
If you ever start feeling pain while dropkneeing (which usually only happens on super steep walls or while cranking super hard moves), DROP! On that note, never jerk your knee forcefully into the position. Tearing your MCL is never worth it.
What move would you like to learn about next? Let me know in the comments section!
Connor Griffith has been climbing for 13 years in areas across the world, from California to Colorado to Switzerland. A V11 boulderer with multiple first ascents around the globe, Connor is also a professional route setter, a student of climbing movement, and a coach.