What are the advantages of being a short climber? You’ll probably have asked this question especially if you have just started climbing and you happen to be short. Let’s put things into context. According to Google’s top search result, to be considered short for men, you’ll have to be 1.65m and below. And for women, it’s 1.55m.
If you are still reading that means you are short. Welcome to the club. So are there any advantages to being a short climber?
When you are short, it means holds are farther away from you. You’ll need to reach higher, dyno further and a big move for most people means it’s an undoable move for you.
Fortunately for all the disadvantages, short climbers may face. Being a short climber does have some advantages over tall climbers.
Climbing is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, endurance, and mental fortitude. Many people believe that height is an advantage in climbing, as taller climbers have a longer reach and can often make moves more easily. However, being a short climber also has its advantages, and in this article, we will explore some of the benefits that come with being a shorter climber.
Low centre of gravity
One of the primary advantages of being a short climber is having a lower centre of gravity. This means that your body is closer to the ground and your weight is more evenly distributed. This can make it easier to maintain balance on the wall, especially when making moves that require precise footwork.
Moves that require you to stand on tiny footholds, sit in and rock over will be much easier if you are short. Short climbers will have an advantage over taller climbers on slab routes with little to no handholds. The only way to climb is to have great footwork and stay balanced. Hence having a lower centre of gravity allows the climber to maintain balance easier.
Being nimble is a great advantage to have in climbing. If you are short, you’ll have short limbs that go without saying. It is easier to execute certain moves without having long limbs that get in the way. Short climbers will find it easier to perform high steps, sit in, rock over and mantle.
Lower body weight (High strength to weight ratio)
Climbing requires a high strength-to-weight ratio, as you need to be able to support your body weight while making difficult moves. Short climbers often have an advantage in this area, as they typically have less body weight to support. Being strong is key to climbing well. However, if you need to pull an additional 10kg of body weight on every move you’ll get pumped much sooner. Strength generally increases with taller/heavier climbers. But an increase in strength is not proportional to an increase in weight. Thus taller climbers tend to have a lower strength-to-weight ratio.
For example, a climber who is 5’6” and weighs 120 pounds will have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than a climber who is 6’2” and weighs 180 pounds. This means that the shorter climber may be able to make moves that require a higher level of strength, even though they may not have as much reach.
Of course, regardless of your height, you’ll need to train to build up absolute strength. But lower body weight allows you to conserve more energy on every move.
Better at over-hanging routes
Being short has its advantage when it comes to climbing steep overhang routes. Short climbers have shorter levers. Thus it is easier to control a swing for shorter climbers when cutting loose on an overhanging move. Keeping your feet on an overhang route is also easier compared to climbers with long limbs.
Yes, reachy overhang moves will still be an issue for short climbers. But the advantages of having a lower body weight and better footwork more than offset the reach disadvantage.
Small holds feel big with small hands and fingers
Short climbers tend to have smaller hands and fingers (in most cases). Hence when it comes to climbing on small nasty crimps having small hands is a massive advantage. A small 5mm edge will be impossible for climbers with huge hands and sausagey fingers. Maybe this is one of the reasons why we regularly see kids sending hard climbs.
Footwork is a crucial component of climbing, as it allows you to transfer weight efficiently and maintain balance on the wall. Short climbers often have an advantage in this area, as they tend to have smaller feet that can fit onto smaller holds. For example, a shorter climber may be able to fit their foot into a tiny edge that a taller climber cannot. This can make it easier for them to maintain balance and move more gracefully on the wall. Short climbers also tend to be light on their feet, which can make it easier to shift weight and make precise foot placements.
Sport climbing requires a significant amount of endurance, as you need to be able to sustain effort over a 15 to 20 metres climb. Short climbers typically have a lower total body mass and therefore require less energy to support their weight. In addition, short climbers can often use their smaller stature to their advantage when climbing. For example, they may be able to fit into smaller rest spots on the wall, allowing them to recover more efficiently between difficult moves.
Flexibility is an important aspect of climbing, as it allows you to get to holds that are out of reach for less flexible climbers. Short climbers often have an advantage in this area, as they tend to be more flexible than taller climbers. Moves that require high heel hooks and high steps are generally more difficult for tall climbers to execute.
For example, a shorter climber may be able to stretch their leg up higher to reach a hold than taller climbers who are less flexible. This can make a significant difference when making a difficult move, as it can mean the difference between success and failure.
Better Body Positioning
When climbing, body positioning is crucial for maintaining balance and making efficient moves. Short climbers often have an advantage in this area, as they are better able to position their bodies in tight spaces. For example, when climbing in a narrow chimney, a shorter climber may be able to wedge their body into the space more easily than a taller climber. This can make it easier for them to move up the chimney, as they are better able to use their body as a wedge to gain upward momentum.
Better climbing technique
You are not doing much climbing if you can skip 2 or maybe even 3 holds to finish a boulder problem. This is the luxury of being tall. Although that is clearly an advantage. Unfortunately, you won’t improve your technique climbing this way. And climbing is not as fun if all you need to do is simply stretch out your hand and you’ll reach or even skip the next hold.
Short climbers often face different challenges on the wall than their taller counterparts, as they do not have the reach to make certain moves. This can actually be an advantage, as it forces short climbers to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. When climbing a reachy route where every move is just out of reach. Short climbers will need to be creative and develop good climbing techniques. This allows shorter climbers to practice and improve on different techniques and get maximum benefits from every climb.
While being a short climber may present certain challenges, it also comes with many advantages. Short climbers have a lower centre of gravity, higher strength-to-weight ratio, better body positioning, greater flexibility, improved problem-solving skills, improved footwork, and greater endurance. These advantages can help short climbers excel in climbing although there will be routes that are height biased your ability as a climber is not determined solely by your height. So, if you’re a short climber, don’t let your height hold you back – embrace it as an advantage and climb on!