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How To Drop Knee!

Connor's back with a new climbing move for your repertoire.

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!

What It Is

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!

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Why You Want To Dropknee

There are three huge reasons you want to dropknee:

  1. Employing a dropknee can help you reach holds that seem far away. When you lock in a great dropknee your hip turns toward the wall, taking most of the weight of its corresponding leg, and your feet stay in a stable position. This allows you to generate upward motion with your feet and your hips, as opposed to using your arms to pull. You’ll find that this actually increases the overall distance you can reach.
  2. Employing a dropknee can help you balance on the wall while climbing, and therefore stick to relatively bad holds. Given the relative stability of your body and your ability to reach a long distance, you create more time to optimize your grip on the next hold—a huge advantage, if said hold is terrible.
  3. Employing a dropknee at any given moment gives you the appearance of a climbing master. All the hotties in the gym will be impressed.
Hone Your Skills

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.

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Here are my recommendations for practicing:

  • Try to use dropknees on every move of your warmup—on vertical climbs and traverses alike. The goal here is to never bend your arms. Swivel your hips and your feet between dropknees on both your right and left sides. Eventually you’ll get used to the motion, and you’ll find that bending your arms is unnecessary—you can generate all the upward motion you need from your legs.
  • On an overhanging wall with a large amount of holds, just start climbing straight up. Don’t worry about following routes; just climb. Using a dropknee on every move, explore how far you can reach. Keep the dropknees coming and flow your way up the wall.

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!

About the Author

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.

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