A Brief History
Since the birth of rock climbing one of the golden rules has been to maintain three points of contact, to move with ‘control’. However since the 1950’s, when the gymnast John Gill started revolutionising climbing with his dynamic style, dynamic movement and dyno-ing have become an ever important element in any climbers repertoire. With a brief google search I found that the first Guinness World Record for the furthest ‘dyno’ was set in 2002, at 2.575 meters. The now standardized set up of a diagonal jump has since been extended, and the current record stands at 2.85m (set by Skyler Weekes).
Some people still regard dynos as a novel distraction from ‘real’ climbing. This is mainly a view held by some old school trad climbers, looking down their noses at boulderers. In some ways they have a point. Only on rare occasions is a full dyno necessary in any climbing situation. However, some of the hardest boulders, routes and even big wall red points have only been unlocked with the most unlikely and terrifying looking of dynos (examples: Rainbow Rocket, 3 Degrees of Separation, The Prophet).Clarifications
While dyno’s may not be used very regularly in everyday climbing, there is a large continuous spectrum between static climbing and a dyno, which requires various levels of dynamism. Let me clarify. A full dyno requires you to temporarily remove all your points of contact from the rock in order to get to a hold you couldn’t otherwise reach. When static climbing you are only moving one body part at a time, while the other three hold you in a position to reach the next hold. The big difference is the use of momentum. However momentum can also be used to varying degrees between these two extreme styles of climbing:
- I like the word ‘pop’ because it gives the best description of the movement in one word. When a hold is just out of reach, a little momentum built up by a short sharp swing of the hips, leg or even nod of the head, can provide a great temporary ‘boost’. The quick release of energy can propel you that extra few inches, providing momentary ‘weightlessness’, enabling you to grab the next hold while retaining a couple of points of contact in the process.
- If the next hold is a few feet away a jump may be required. More swinging of hips and a strong thrust from the legs/leg can propel one hand up to the next hold while retaining the other hand’s Alternatively, both hands may need to grab the next hold while a foot remains in contact with the rock. Either way, one point of contact is maintained, somewhere between a dead point and full dyno.
The Art of Movement
All this jumping around may sound like hard work. But the ability to move over the rock using fluid dynamic movement can save a tonne of energy compared to trying to repeatedly hold your body still in awkward positions. In reality these two forms of movement require different types of muscular strength and technique, and applying a healthy mixture of the two is a crucial part of climbing.
I am focusing on the more dynamic end of the spectrum in this post. This is partly because dynos look awesome, and partly because mastering the art of a good dyno unlocks the door to a lot of other more crucial dynamic techniques that can really help improve general climbing.
The Perfect Dyno?
Every dyno has its own particularities, but there are some common themes.
Plant your feet– in a position to generate movement in the desired direction of travel, where they are unlikely to slip off due to the high forces generated. You may see some climbers ‘wiggle’ their foot on to the hold. Clarifying how much your foot is sticking to the hold builds confidence.
Generate momentum– As touched on before, drop or sink onto your footholds in order to generate power by extending your legs. Coupling this with swinging the hips or another limb and you might be surprised how much height can be gained.
Know your strengths– Legs = strong. Arms = weak. Arms are there to direct your body more precisely. If you can, keep them straight. This will save energy and allow you to pivot around your hand holds, pulling your hips over your feet to generate the maximum and most efficient movement.
P.S. If it’s too far, try harder. If still too far then try pulling with your arms a bit too.
Maintain contact– with your feet for as long as possible, when grabbing the next hold. This can allow you to lessen any swing out from the rock and save vital energy using your core.
Lessen any swing– by pulling in with your arms if possible as soon as you grab the hold. Tense your core as much as possible and plant your feet firmly back on the wall to regain control.
P.S. not required if comfortably showing off!
It’s all in your head
A big dyno requires a lot of commitment to really throw everything at it, especially outdoors. It often takes a bit of trial and error. Where do the crash pads need to be? What position is best for me to launch from? Which are the best footholds… they all look tiny and polished!? What part of the hold am I aiming for? If you’re bouldering, a simple bit of practice and scouting out holds is easily done. However if you’re going for an on sight attempt of any route you just have to assess as best you can and trust your instincts.
The first thing you have to do is commit. This is easier said than done, but the mind has to lead the body. Be confident, don’t hesitate too much and just do it! I normally do one small bounce or swing to build mental and physical momentum. Any more than that and I tend to stutter and start to second guess myself.
A bit of trial and error is normally required. This is normal to figure out how much power you need to generate and start to build up the muscle memory and the co-ordination required for full confidence. Over time and practice it will become easier to do things first time with full vigor.
Hints and Tips
Psyched or relaxed?– This follows for climbing in general. You always need to be pretty relaxed to perform well. How pumped you are on top of this in order to perform big moves can be a personal preference and worth experimenting with.
LOOK AT THE HOLD– This may sound obvious but not watching your feet can take some courage! Spot where you are going before you start the jump. Watch it all the way if you can to improve accuracy. Tick marks are great but remember to brush them off.
Which hand?– Sometimes just changing which hand you use to try to grab the hold can make all the difference.
PRACTISE– Dynos are harder than they look and confidence requires constant upkeep. The co-ordination need to do a smooth dyno can take a lot of (less smooth-looking) practice before something clicks. All the pushing and pulling while controlling momentum can take time for the brain to process.
Extra foot holds– Sometimes you have to start jumping, spot a higher foot hold, and while mid-jump perform a secondary push to gain extra height. This takes an extra level of co-ordination to place the foot right, but is a fun challenge!
Check out plyometric training if you want to check out how to improve some dyno strength.