Flagging is one of the most underused techniques in beginners. It is a crucial technique to grasp in order to make climbing look effortless and smooth. The best way to initial understand why flagging is so important is to stand on one leg with the other leg straight and reach out as far as you can to either side. Your trailing leg will move out in the opposite direction as a counter balance, maintaining your centre of gravity over your standing foot. This same principle is applied on the wall when one foot is pushing off of the wall and the other leg acts a stabiliser. It can be a tricky transition from two footed pushes to only one footed positions for beginners. Part of the trick with progressing in climbing, especially on steep terrain is in utilisation of the ‘spare’ leg for balance and body tension. Your flagging foot does a few things-
Maintaining balance– Your spare foot maintains balance by stabilising and directing your centre of gravity. The flagging foot touches the wall to create stable tripod and prevent ‘barn-dooring’. The foot extension doesn’t have to be too dramatic as long as it is past your centre of gravity, but exaggerating the move is good to practice and gauge effective balance points.
Leverage– smearing on the wall while flagging can help to push you in the right direction and save arm strength.
Perpendicular hips and hands– flagging can naturally put your hips in the best position to be able to move in the right direction and maximise your reach. It also can help maintain pressure on the hand hold in an optimum direction
Core stability – even light contact on the wall allows you to engage you whole core and maintain body stability.
There are several different ways in which you can use flagging, creating different shapes in different situations to make life easier. Take a look at my video for some examples…
Flagging allows you to move more statically, fluidly and in control between holds. Maintaining balance while making moves means you can utilise holds for much longer than expected. As well as this it conserves energy in the arms and forearms thanks to the natural coupling with favourable hip orientation in relation to holds. This also reduces contact stress when reaching for next hold and allows you more time to find the best grip.
You should hopefully see the difference between square movement’s vs flagging (and twisting the hips). If you haven’t already, the best way to see how useful flagging is, is to try it.