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Move of the Moment - The Toe Hook

So far, we've covered a lot of movements that involve pushing through your feet, so today we're going to learn on of the "pull" techniques with our feet - the Toe Hook. Other methods, which we'll cover in future blogs, include the toe-in and the heel hook.

You may have noticed that a lot of climbing shoes, especially high performance ones, have an abundance of rubber over the top of the toes and forefoot. Today, we'll be showing you how to put that rubber to good use!

Toe hooks are usually utilised to keep the body close to the wall while unloading the arm/shoulder on the same side of the body. They are especially effective when attempting to move out of a wide, stable position, through an unstable movement. We'll be getting a demonstration from Phil today, using a fantastic purple climb on the Block.

In image 1 we can see Phil has completed the first move of the climb, putting his body in a compression position. The blue arrows show the direction of force applied through pulling (currently through Phil's arms), and the yellow circle shows us his centre of gravity, pulling straight down from that point. We can see from the photo that his centre of gravity is roughly in the middle of both arms, and both feet - this means both arms are loaded equally, ensuring he is unable to release either hand. This position is stable, but moving a hand would make it instantly unstable.

In images 2 and 3, above, we can see Phil replacing one of his hands with a toe hook. By pulling with his leg, he is able to replicate the compression force that was previously generated by his arm. We can see in image 4 below, this enables Phil to take his hand off the starting hold and move it to the next position.

In all these images, we can see Phil's toe hooking foot is around 90 degrees to his leg, further demonstrated in image 5 below. To properly engage a toe hook, the foot should be as close to 90 degrees to the leg as possible, and all the force is generated by pulling the knee towards the body. His non-dominant leg (the one standing, rather than pulling) is also as close to being under his centre of gravity as possible. The closer this foot goes towards the toe hook, the more difficult the toe hook becomes.

The most difficult part of any toe hook is now waiting for Phil - the release! There are two ways to help with the inevitable shift of bodyweight when releasing a toe hook:

  1. Move the non-dominant leg as far away in the opposite direction from the body as the toe hook, this helps create counterweight to slow down any swing

  2. Jump into a slightly raised position - bent arms and shoulders help to keep tension through the upper body

Both of these techniques work to slow down the swing, and combined are especially effective! In image 6 we can see Phil employing these techniques to slow the swing - but did he hold it?

Try out the toe hook gently when warming up - create your own body positions to test the limits of what you can achieve, and practice on both sides of the body, gradually increasing intensity. Look for places around the centre where a toe hook could be beneficial (this purple is a great start). Remember, make a 90 degree bend in the ankle and pull the knee towards your body.

Want to learn more about this move and others? Why not book on to one of our improver courses:

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