Every climbing instructor and coach will at some point stress the importance of straight arms, but what do they mean and do they even know what they mean?
The idea is that a bent arm is burning more energy and a straight arm less energy. Simple.
So we try and climb with straight arms, paying particular attention to having a straight arm when resting, clipping or placing gear.
“Hang using your skeleton, uses less muscle power!”
The human body did not evolve with hanging in mind, so if we hang on straight arms without engaging our muscles we risk damaging our shoulders which are a complex joint that take massive forces when climbing.
What we actually need to do is straighten our arms, whilst still engaging our muscles, to protect the soft tissues that connect our bones, and reduce the chance of damaging them.
In the picture you’ll see three hangs.
Muscles not engaged, you can see the shoulders are up by my ears. Poor form.
Muscles are now engaged, shoulders lower and better protected. Better.
Muscles engaged, and in a subtle but important difference, the shoulder blades are brought closer together – imaging trying to hold a ball between them. Better again.
We must consider shoulder form when training, to form the habit and have it become ingrained in our climbing. How we translate straight arms in to movement and efficient resting is another blog!