16. Opposition vs. Compression

Climbers use the forces of opposition and compression to their advantage. These forces turn seemingly impossible holds or positions into usable, climbable surfaces.  


Examples of using compression forces to your advantage include the action of climbing an “arete” (i.e. corner), or other features involving the squeezing or compressing of the rock.

Think of an arete corner system as a thin blade, or fin, of rock. Climbing just one side of an arete might seem impossible. However, once you have hands and feet on BOTH sides of the protruding corner, this feature becomes surprisingly climbable via compression with your arms and legs.  

When climbing a compression route, think of holds in pairs, or having relationships. For instance, a right hand side-pull feels much better if you also have a left hand side-pull. Oftentimes a heel-hook or toe-hook is also used to help balance full-body compression forces, and to help the climber progress up the climb.  

Compression techniques are also used with steeper climbing, such as roof moves. Imagine a steep overhang scenario, when both hands pull downwards while using double toe-hooks in opposition. This opposition of the hands and toes (along with core strength) allows the climber to accomplish an upside down, full-body cling move. A different example for steep climbing uses the foot technique known as a “bicycle”. Both feet are placed on a single foot-hold, or perhaps two holds close together, but the key is to squeeze the two feet in opposite directions. One toe is hooking and pulling up, while the other toe is pushing down. This movement, which looks a bit like pedaling on a bicycle, gives the climber a point-of-contact that essentially acts as a hand hold!


Opposition forces are also crucial.Think of opposition climbing as pushing out equally on two surfaces. This allows climbers to climb up chimneys, off-widths, and dihedrals.  

An advanced consideration of this move would be a deep drop-knee. This allows the climber to sink into a balanced footwork scenario, typically with the use of “backstepping” one of the feet. With the feet both pressing outwards, the climber gains advantage and control. 

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!

Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.