Gym Climbing

Climbing is often perceived as an upper-body-intensive activity, but smooth and efficient movement comes from properly shifting your center of gravity over your feet. Learning how to move by pushing with the legs and using the hands only for balance will help you preserve energy that is wasted from overuse of your upper body.

The Goal

Balanced, controlled, smooth movement on less than vertical terrain initiated from the legs

The Equipment

  • Less than vertical climbing wall
  • Climbing shoes
  • Several large footholds big enough to stand on with two feet
The Setup

Position the footholds near the ground creating a horizontal traverse. They should be relatively close together and the height of each hold should vary no more than one foot from the next.

No-hands Traverse Exercise

  • Using the palms of your hand against the wall for balance, step onto the leftmost foothold from the ground with your right foot.
  • Once balanced on your right foot, bring your left foot next to it on the hold.
  • Shift your weight from your right foot onto your left foot. This should free up the right foot so you can move it.
  • Step to the next hold with the right foot. Shift your hips over your right foot to take weight off of the left foot.
  • Repeat these steps until the end of the traverse has been reached and then go back in the other direction.


  • Slightly use handholds for balance if necessary.
  • Remember to fully weight and un-weight your feet before moving. Laterally shift, and then stand.
  • Move slowly enough that you could stop your movement at any time. Avoid falling onto holds and practice stepping down as much as stepping up.
  • Changing the angle steepness of the wall, size of the footholds, or spacing of the holds can make the exercise more or less difficult to suit your current level of balance and movement. Once you feel comfortable performing the exercise, increase the challenge.


- Adapted from Gym Climbing: Maximizing Your Indoor Experience by Matthew Burbach, The Mountaineers Books


The chapter from Gym Climbing on "Lead Climbing"

Return to Story Archives Page

Your Cart

Featured Products

Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home, And Family On The Edge of Alaska

The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, Collecting, And Cooking The 30 Most Common Urban Weeds

Avalanche Essentials: A Step-By-Step System For Safety And Survival