February 1, 2022

What is a Drop Knee in Rock Climbing?

by Roger

Drop knee in rock climbing is an advanced technique that climbers use when bouldering and rock climbing.

Experienced climbers often resort to this strategic footwork maneuver when encountering particularly challenging boulders.

The drop knee technique is energy efficient, which is why climbers use it in sections that (strategically) require little energy and effort and more skill.

The technique relies on specific footwork where climbers push down on the hold with the outer section of their foot while the other foot is kept stemmed against the other hold.

This causes their bodies to tense up, helping keep the climber in their initial position. The move requires climbers to have lots of practice, stability, and lower body strength.

Otherwise, they may end up using more energy than they are required to.

To achieve this stance, climbers have to rotate their hip towards the boulder’s surface while the other knee is turned downwards (drop kneeing). The climbers should then rest the other foot against the closest hold for support and shift their weight to the outer section of the foot, creating enough tension to keep them secured to the wall.


Table of Contents

Why is Drop Knee Important in Climbing?

Drop knee is important in climbing because of the following reasons.

  • Drop kneeing is essential, especially for beginners, because it helps them improve their capacity to climb overhangs without wasting any extra energy. The technique also protects your body (muscles) from unnecessary strain and related muscle injuries from over-depending your upper body for ascension.
  • Drop kneeing helps you approach holds that usually seem quite far when using standard climbing techniques. This efficient footwork maneuver provides a stable base that holds most of your body weight, allowing you to remain steady and unshakeable. This will enable you to generate an upward motion (using your hips and feet) that elevates your position.
  • Your legs muscles are bigger and stronger than your arm muscles, and instead of pulling yourself up with your arms, you can use your leg muscles since they are more efficient. As mentioned earlier, this climbing technique is more energy-efficient and covers more distance than most other techniques.
  • The drop knee technique offers climbers lots of balance and stability, two of the most critical things they need when tackling overhangs. They can assume stable positions on poor holds. The balance also makes it easier for climbers to stretch further and grip subsequent holds. The technique also provides climbers with greater control of their flow and movements.

Why Should You Practice Drop Knee in Rock Climbing?

You should practice the drop knee technique because it allows you to extend your reach, improve your stability, and save energy.

1) Drop knee in rock climbing extends your reach

This technique is vital for climbers because it allows them to extend their reach, helping them get to holds they couldn’t reach if they were using standard methods.

When locking the drop knee, all the weight from the other leg is transferred to your hips, allowing you to remain stable. This makes it easier for you to generate an upward motion.

The position also makes you bigger, especially when reducing the angle between your hand, feet, and hips. This helps you stretch further, allowing you to cover a more considerable distance than you could usually reach.

Drop knee in rock climbing improves your stability

Mastering your drop knee technique helps improve your stability and balance by lowering your center of gravity. The method makes it easier for you to ascend your climb even when you’ve got extremely bad holds.

The climber’s extended reach and improved stability give them more time to contemplate their next move. This gives them a massive advantage over other climbers or boulderers.

Drop knee in rock climbing saves your energy

Practicing and getting good at drop knee climbing saves you lots of energy since you get to use your powerful leg muscles combined with your arm muscles to climb faster and more efficiently.

Locking a drop knee allows you to build some outward tension within your body and the footholds leaving your arms ‘free’ to rest till you choose to grab the next hold.

Hanging from extended arms saves you lots of energy than hanging on bent arms.

How to Practice Drop Kneeing Effectively in Climbing?

You can effectively practice the drop knee technique in climbing by using the following tips.

  • Use the drop knee technique each time you practice transverse or vertical climbs. Rotate your feet and hips to either side when making a move and ensure that you keep your arms straight. Doing this will help you get used to the movements, make you more fluid, and improve your efficiency.
  • Climb overhang walls and work through various routes. Challenge yourself and ensure that you get better with each session. Explore how far you can go and master your movements. Ensure that you exercise regularly and build your core muscle strength. You should also do some stretching exercises to help make your body more flexible. 

How to Drop Knee in Rock Climbing? A Step-By-Step Guide

The perfect drop knee position transfers the load to your knees, hips, legs, and core, which leaves your arms to rest.

While you may find it hard to perfect your drop knee technique as you begin, it becomes easier as you keep practicing. This is a step-by-step guide to doing drop knee in climbing.

Step 1: Starting position

It would help if you remained relaxed at the beginning of your drop knee technique. Being stiff will interfere with any subsequent moves making it harder for you to pull off the perfect drop knee position.

It would be best to position your hands and knees on the climbing holds comfortably. Doing this makes it easier for you to properly place your toe on the hold, making it easier to pivot and push yourself off when you are ready.

Step 2: Position your foot

Your foot placement should provide you with enough space between the boulder’s surface and your toes’ edges, allowing you to rotate your toes freely without being caught up.

It would be best if you placed your foot on the inside of the edge, allowing you to make outward changes while rotating your food and dropping your knee.

This position creates an external pressure, which creates more momentum that you can use to ascend.

Step 3: Rotating your foot

Assuming you are in the correct position, the next step involves rotating your foot by moving it towards your body while ensuring that your toes are kept parallel to the boulder’s surface.

Ensure that you adjust appropriately for the space needed to rotate your foot. Over or under compensating will affect your stability and make you lose your balance.

Step 4: Bend your knee

It would help to bend your knee to make a straight line between your feet. You can bend and lower your knee as much as you can; however, you should be careful not to injure your ligaments while you do it.

Putting any unwarranted pressure on your knee’s ligaments could be painful, give you an injury, or hurt you the entire way up.

Step 5: Pull your hip closer to the boulder’s surface

Ensuring that you’ve got your knee in the proper position, you should go ahead and position it downwards and rotate your hip to place it closer to the surface.

Your hip’s quadricep should be so close that it almost touches the wall’s surface, while the other hip should make a right angle to the boulder’s surface.

Step 6: Pull your hand

Drop your knee swiftly and smoothly and push off your holds using each foot to create a momentum that makes your body seem weightless while you twist and reach for the next hold.

Pay attention to your hands when you’re sure you have your feet and knees in the proper position. Pull the arm adjacent to your bent knee to add more momentum to the jump.

Ensure that your arms are straightened and stretched adequately before you make your jump. Take care not to pull your arms before you bend your knees.

Step 7: Grab onto the next hold

Move and grab the next hold with your hand. Making this move will bring your hips parallel to the rock’s surface. You shouldn’t stay in this position for too long if you want to conserve your energy.

When you grab onto the hold using the other hand on the same side as the bent knee, you should release the bent knee and get ready for your next move.

You should then pivot both feet and make some space between them, allowing you to reach out onto the next hold using one foot.

When to Use Drop Knee Rock Climbing Technique?

Climbers use the drop knee in rock climbing for several purposes. However, we will concentrate on three primary objectives – climbing overhanging walls, when holding crimps or slopers, anytime you get two decent footholds.

In case of a knee injury, read our guide on how to prevent knee pain when rock climbing.

Climbing overhanging walls

Climbers use the drop knee technique to keep their lower body closer to the wall, extending their hands and gripping the overhang.

Drop your right knee (when reaching for the overhang using your right hand) and push upwards using the right hip. You’ll need to reverse the sides if you plan on reaching out using your left hand.

When holding crimps or slopers

Slopers and crimps are pretty hard to grip. Plus, they don’t provide climbers with enough leverage you could use to pull yourself up.

The drop knee technique allows you to push yourself up and quickly move to the next hold.

Anytime you get two decent footholds

You can use the drop knee technique if you find a surface that provides you with reliable footholds while using the other foot for anchorage.

However, you shouldn’t use the drop knee technique when smearing on sheer vertical surfaces or if one of your legs is locked in a heel hook.

Using the technique in such scenarios will push you away from the wall, which is quite dangerous. Instead, you should aim to move your body and propel your weight towards the wall to stay safe.

How to Use Drop Knee Technique on High Footholds

To use the drop knee technique on high footholds, the first thing you should do is ensure that you are extremely careful.

Your elbow may be in your knees’ way when positioning your knee downwards. Thus, it’s essential to ensure that you are flexible enough to pull off the technique before attempting it.

Ensure that you finish all the moves before reaching for the next hold. Don’t skip any steps or rush, and try to grab the next hold.

One inconvenience you may face is difficulties locking your knee correctly. If you won’t manage to lock your knee correctly, then it’s possible that you won’t be able to create enough force to complete the drop knee.

Keep in mind that this is an advanced technique, and if you aren’t confident, you should try and play it safe.

However, while you may feel uncomfortable when trying this move, it can help you avoid serious climbing injuries.

How to Use a Drop Knee on an Overhang?

Using a drop knee on an overhang makes you look more professional and uses less strength. It’s a more effective technique, which (when pulled off correctly) increases the speed and efficiency of the ascent.

Using the method on an overhang is a little tricky, but we’ll try and simplify how you could do it effortlessly.

Overhangs are sections of a rock’s surface with steep slopes of over 90 degrees. They are more challenging to climb and often require dedicated techniques to cross over.

While one people prefer tackling overhangs using their hands, it’s safer to keep your center of gravity closer to the wall instead.

You’ll be continually battling gravity; however, the load (your body weight) will be spread between your arms and legs, requiring lots of core strength.

Using the drop knee technique helps keep your hips closer to the wall and builds lots of tension between the feet, making it easier for you to press your hips closer to the wall’s surface.

Sustaining the tension makes it easier to propel yourself to the next hold. The technique becomes more manageable if you practice and get efficient with the drop knee technique.

Using this technique makes it easier and faster for you to move between holds.

The Importance of Warming up before Using the Drop Knee

You must warm up before using the drop knee since it’s been shown to improve performance. Warming up increases the amount of synovial fluid that flows to the joints.

The fluid helps reduce perceptions of soreness, makes the joints work more efficiently, improves blood flow, and increases neuromuscular control.

These benefits help your body perform more efficiently and are essential, especially when you plan on putting it through arduous tasks like bouldering and rock climbing.

Ensure that you warm up various core muscles and the muscles in your arms and legs.

Drop Knee Technique Tips for Rock climbing Beginners and Intermediates

This is a list of three drop knee technique tips helpful for beginners and intermediates.

  • Expand your horizons: You should take your time to observe your surroundings and determine the best path forward. Doing this will prevent any accidents, minimize any strains, and ensure that you make an effortless ascent.
  • Be stable: Ensure that you are in a stable position before making your next move. Take your time and ensure that you are locked in place before pushing yourself forwards.
  • Conserve your energy: You’ll have to be calculating, conserve your energy, and make moves that have to be made. Making rash decisions will waste your energy and make you tire more easily.

Are there any Risks of Using the Drop Knee Rock Climbing Technique?

There are some risks of using the drop knee technique listed below.

  • You risk straining or damaging your joints and tendons
  • You risk missing your hold and hurting yourself against the rock’s surface
  • You risk straining or hurting your muscles if you push yourself too hard

If you feel like you can’t handle the technique, are straining, or have hurt yourself, then you should quit while you’re ahead.

What are the Most Common Drop Knee Mistakes?

The most common drop knee mistakes are listed below.

  • Not positioning your toe correctly on the toe hold. Doing this could affect your balance and make it difficult when turning your foot to drop the knee. Adjust for the space required if you want to avoid this instance.
  • Forgetting to drop your knee immediately after placing your toe on the hold
  • Forgetting to drop your knee low enough. Not doing this will affect your balance, forcing you to use your arms to pull yourself closer to the wall. Consequently, you won’t manage to generate enough momentum when you decide to push yourself when ascending.
  • Not pushing your limits. You should twist your hips as far as possible, ensuring a right angle between the hips and the rock’s surface. Doing this forces your legs to push towards opposite directions, providing you with the necessary leverage to effortlessly push yourself upwards.
  • Reaching out for the hold using the wrong hand after inserting the drop knee. Doing this makes you unstable, making you more likely to pull further from the wall.

What are the Most Common Drop Knee Injuries?

One of the most common drop knee injuries occurs when you rotate your knee. Doing this aggressively places you at greater risk of stressing your cartilage and ligaments.

The movements associated with turning the more prominent femur bone into the smaller tibia stress the knee structures.

Repeated use of this technique is dangerous for your long-term health. Thus, you should be focused, train effectively, and strengthen your muscles.

This will protect your knees, allowing you to climb safely and efficiently without damaging your joints.

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About the author 

Roger

Roger was born into a family of climbers. As the youngest of his siblings, he was also the most ardent climber of them. Small and agile, he practiced climbing all day. Today, Roger teaches children how to climb the large rock walls safely.

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