5 Method Suggestions For Higher Rock Climbing Heel Hooking

5 Method Suggestions For Higher Rock Climbing Heel Hooking

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Heel hooking is one of those magical maneuvers that can make a seemingly impossible move easy. When done right, it will help you reach further, use less energy, propel your body over roof edges or around corners, or simply keep your hips closer to the wall.

While easy to understand, heel hooks are not always easy to apply. Here are five tips to master the nuance.


Learn to recognize heel hook opportunities. Do you feel at a loss when moving? See if there are any footrests that would help you keep your body close to the wall or stand up over a feature. Was a boulder problem set with a heel hook in mind? The more you practice, the better you will recognize when heel hooks are appropriate. The first few heels you throw will likely be low and at normal foot height, but eventually you’ll master the heel hooks overhead.


Heel placement is just as important as spotting a heel hook opportunity. Never just hit something with your heel and expect it to hold or help. You actually need to tighten your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and ankles for this gimmick to work. In general, you should turn your ankle into the wall and turn your pinky toe out. Your foot should be about 10 to 45 degrees from the wall. Bending your foot in this way allows you to engage those large leg muscles and take more weight off your torso. Realize that not every heel hook is the same. Some grips require finer placement.


Hamstring and glute strength are essential to maintaining and creating proper tension. While most climbers think about doing their hangboard and campus drills, they often mistakenly neglect the bottom half. Some of these climbers have hobbled off heel hooks with torn hamstrings and LCL injuries. Do some old-fashioned squats or lunges. Better yet, lie on the floor and place your heels on an exercise ball. With hips extended and core tight (flat back!), roll the ball toward you with your heels and roll it back out. If this is easy, try one leg.


Not all, but some heel hooks require knee flexibility for proper and safe execution. Be careful with the heel hooks, which are placed close to your pelvis and require you to rotate your foot outward while rocking back and forth. If your knee isn’t ready for this, an LCL tear can result. Prevent LCL injuries by making sure you’ve warmed up your bottom half properly.


Hip flexibility is another requirement for some heel hooks. If you can’t keep your hips close to the wall while your legs are open, you may lose some needed reach. Every day, practice holding the “frog” pose by opening your legs on the floor and reaching forward. Your legs should be in a “T” position away from your body. This stretch is not only good for heel hooks, but for rock climbing in general. Another good pose is the “dove”.