woman climbing
Photo by Stefano Ghisolfi @steghiso

Have you ever been in a situation at the rock wall where there are no more holds you can reach with your hands, and there is no way to bring your feet higher? Don’t get me wrong, you can clearly see the next hold, barely out of reach, but no matter how much you stretch and extend your toes and fingers, it’s just too far away. 

It feels like you’re stuck in a point of no return – a dead end. Now, there are 2 main ways to get out of this situation: either by deadpointing or falling.

What Is Deadpointing?

apple photo in the air
A weightless apple at the peak of a throw.

Deadpointing is an advanced climbing technique where climbers utilize a controlled dynamic move in a way that allows them to get to a hold that they wouldn’t be able to reach statically. It differs from most other climbing techniques as it relies on the hips for motion.

The physics behind a deadpoint can be better understood by comparing it to throwing an object upwards. When you throw an object towards the sky, it will initially have a high speed, but when it reaches the very top of its trajectory, it will stay still for a brief moment with no downward or upward speed, as if dead in the air

This brief window is called a deadpoint. After that weightless instant passes and it starts falling, it will start coming down again at an increasing speed until it hits the ground.

A weightless apple at the peak of a throw.

However, if someone were to grab the object while it was at its highest point, they would feel no force or impact because the object would be static at that very moment. 

Now, this is precisely what we look for when performing a deadpoint, where we reach the next hold at the highest point of a controlled dynamic movement so that we get both increased reach and an impactless catch of the hold.

When Do You Use a Deadpoint?

Man climbing rock
@don.loro seemingly running out of options prior to pulling a deadpoint.

Technically speaking, a deadpoint is performed when the climber is in a position where it’s very difficult to reach the next hold or maintain stability while doing so, and where a false move would very likely result in a fall. 

At this moment, instead of succumbing to stress and gravity, the climber must push hard and reach for the next hold in an all-or-nothing dynamic hip motion.

How to Deadpoint?

Deadpointing is a crucial, yet hard-to-master technique, even for people that have been climbing for years. But once you learn how to use it effectively, you will learn to appreciate how it becomes essential to pushing your limits, reaching new heights (literally and figuratively), and improving as a climber.

Preparations for a deadpoint might vary from position to position, but in general, you must:

Place Your Feet Firmly

man climbing

Your feet are very important during a deadpoint because of two main factors. 

  1. They are your point of stability where you can push off from to generate force. If a foot were to slip while generating momentum for the motion, you would simply fall off. 
  2. You will need your feet to stay on the wall during and after the dynamic motion to avoid falling off due to being unable to maintain balance from a big swing or a sudden change of center of gravity.

So, when preparing for a deadpoint, make sure you are firmly grounded and keep them as stable as possible.

Turn Your Hips Inward

man climbing

The main purpose of a deadpoint is to generate enough momentum to reach the next hold dynamically. And, when in a constricted position, there aren’t many means to achieve this. 

However, moving the hips forward allows you to generate some momentum in both directions we care about: forward, to bring you and keep you close to the wall during the motion, and upward, to bring you closer to that hold which is unreachable statically.

What’s more, repositioning your hip effectively changes your center of gravity to make the force of your feet act more vertically so that any momentum generated by your legs is aimed towards the next hold and upwards instead of spitting you backward.

Reach for the Next Hold

Finally, by using the small window of time when your hips and feet generate some momentum and some weightlessness, reach towards the hold and aim to grab it just at the point where gravity would begin bringing you down to try and have the least impact possible and avoid recoil.

It is important to understand that this and the previous step are performed at the same time, not one after the other. They are interdependent. When moving your hips inward, you must do it in a way that lets you aim towards the next hold. 

So you aim, move your hips, and reach for the hold at the same time.

Watch Your Timing

Since we ideally want to reach the hold exactly at the moment of weightlessness — rather than when we’re still going upward or when we’re already going back down — timing is of the utmost importance

If you do not connect the previous steps into one fluid and precise motion, you might over-reach and miss the hold, making it harder and more strenuous to catch on your way down, or you might not reach it at all.

So timing is crucial. In this short clip, we can see the previous steps in motion.

How To Train Deadpointing

The best way to train deadpointing is certainly to practice doing it. 

So, even if you could solve a problem and reach the next hold statically, you can decide to skip holds and purposefully aim for one farther away, such that it would require a more dynamic motion to reach it. The video from the previous section was performed in this manner.

However, it is also possible to train specific components of the deadpoint. Some important points include:

Positioning Your Feet:

Determining where and how to position your feet is crucial for deadpointing, and it’s something you can practice. Big footholds are ideal, but more often than not, you will be on smaller footholds when you get stuck enough that you choose to deadpoint. 

So, practice positioning your feet for deadpoints of different lengths and in different directions in order to master stability and opposing forces.

Three Points of Stability:

stability / climbing gym

3 points of contact allow you to have 1 extremity with freedom of motion. 

Here’s a beginner tip for climbing that’s also very important in deadpointing. Practice having 3 points of stability as you climb, either 2 legs and 1 hand or 2 hands and 1 leg that’s always in contact with the wall. 

Deadpointing requires you to let go of at least 1 hand entirely, so you need to learn to depend on your other hand and your 2 feet for stability during the motion, as well as learn to depend on your catching hand and at least one foot at the moment of the grab to keep you on the wall.

Generate Momentum With Your Hips

Most dynamic moves get their power by pushing hard with the legs as if jumping. But when deadpointing, especially on steeper climbs, climbers generate most of their upward and forward momentum with their hips and not their feet. 

So, practicing at bringing your hips towards the wall on steeper climbs can help you master the use of hip repositioning for momentum generation.

Timing, Calculating, and Aim

Finally, timing and aim are probably the most crucial factors of the deadpoint. It is an all-or-nothing move, so if you miss or overshoot the hold, you’ll most likely go down. So, making your aim and estimation of the necessary force to reach a hold second nature will make your deadpoint climbing improve drastically.

One way to practice generating just the right force needed for a dynamic move involves clapping when indoor climbing.

climbing gym

Caption: Clapping drill from Catalyst Climbing

  • Pick a climb that you find easy in your climbing gym.
  • Clap your hands every time you move for a new hold, and clap exactly when you stop going up and will begin going back down.
    • Clap in front of your chest for the easy version of the drill.
    • Clap over your head for the intermediate version of the drill.
    • Clap behind your back for the harder version of the drill.
  • Every time you clap, only move one of your hands to a new hold and return the other to where it was.
  • If you start finding it too easy, go for more difficult routes.

This exercise will teach you how to measure and execute your motion precisely and develop accuracy to reach the point of weightlessness exactly where you want it.

Deadpointing Technique Tips

woman climbing
@luciaoseg reaching high with a deadpoint

When just beginning, most climbers will opt for a very static style for climbing, since it makes them feel more in control and helps them retain balance. However, sticking to static movement can limit us as we try to progress, and a more dynamic style can help us push our boundaries

We have an entire article dedicated to highlighting the differences between static and dynamic climbing, but some points that matter a lot when deadpointing include:

  • When performing the deadpoint, keep your center of gravity aligned between your stability foot and your target hold, in the same line. It will make you feel weightless and aid with deadpoint accuracy.
  • Keep your upper body tension. After catching a distant hold, you will require body tension to stick your body weight to the wall; losing your footing due to lack of body tension can make you swing and fall down.
  • Coordinate pulling with your hands and pushing with your hip at the same time.
  • Commit. Hesitating during a deadpoint is potentially the main cause of failure.
  • Use your hips not only to bring you closer to the wall but to direct your movement.

Common Deadpoint Mistakes to Avoid

Man climbing rock
@santiagobarrueta falling after missing a hold

Deadpointing is an advanced technique so there are many things one must carefully control, or it could go wrong. Some of the main mistakes we should avoid when deadpointing are:

  • Overshooting. When reaching far, we might intuitively push and pull as hard as we can, but this can lead to missing the hold or having to catch it on the way down, potentially resulting in a tendon injury.
  • Staying fixated on going up and staying tall. Sometimes we need to drop our hips down a bit to allow enough distance to generate the momentum required to propel us higher.
  • Losing body tension. Your core needs to remain straight and strong in order to transfer the energy from the legs and hips inwards into the upward body motion. Core strength is essential in keeping your whole body activated.

How to Move Your Hips While Deadpointing?

Climbers must move their hips while deadpointing, with their feet fixed in place. However, a climber is usually at full extension when a deadpoint is required, and it’s hard to generate forward motion when already at full extension.

 climbing gym
@melissa.ns4 coming down in preparation

So, before moving the hips in towards the wall and slightly in the direction of the hold you are aiming for, you should drop them slightly lower in preparation. 

Then, in a synchronized manner, you should use your feet to push you upward, use your hands to pull you towards the next hold, and bring your hip forward into the wall in the same direction of your motion in order to align your center of gravity and direct the momentum of your body.

@melissa.ns4 coming down in preparation
@melissa.ns4 aligning her hips in a forward motion

What Is a Dyno in Climbing and How Is It Different From a Dead Point?

Since a deadpoint is a controlled dynamic motion, one might wonder what is the difference between a Dyno and a deadpoint in rock climbing. 

The answer is simple. When performing a deadpoint, you keep your feet on the wall for stability after catching a hold, and when performing a dyno, you let go of your feet entirely to reach higher and catch a hold, usually with both hands to achieve stability.

Dynamic vs Static Climbing

It’s worth quickly mentioning the differences between dynamic vs static climbing. Static climbing is when the climber has full control of their body while moving. Dynamic climbing is when the climber is using his/her own body’s momentum to assist.

Most would consider deadpointing a “dynamic” movement, as you are using your inertial to help you reach further. To learn more about the differences, I would check out our full article on the subject.

Why Is Deadpoint Climbing Important?

First of all, when strength alone does not allow you to reach the next hold, deadpoint makes use of inertia to move your body into what seems like an impossible move when trying to reach statically. Deadpoint effectively increases our reach past what we would normally achieve in a slow, controlled motion.

Secondly, deadpointing lets us generate movement when we are already at our full extension or in a very constricted position by moving our hips rather than our legs. This happens increasingly often as we delve into harder climbs.

And last but not least, deadpoint climbing is crucial when climbing on steeper rock walls, where pushing with our feet usually means pushing away from the wall. Bringing our hips towards the wall is a very efficient way to generate motion and save energy and stamina in our legs and arms in order to continue climbing without draining our energy. (1)

Published by Alex "Don Loro" Casar

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