There are two major categories of climbing technique: static and dynamic movement. Both have their own pros, cons, and applications depending on the type of climb. Understanding what they both are and when to use them can help you progress as a climber.
Static climbing involves moving in a slow and controlled manner, where you shift your center of gravity before making your next move. Dynamic climbing is a faster, more powerful style that often involves swinging through multiple moves quickly and can require taking both hands (and potentially both feet) off the wall at once.
In this article, we’ll look more in-depth at the definitions of both climbing styles, the pros and cons of each, and the differences between static and dynamic climbing styles and dynamic and static ropes, as the words have different meanings in each context.
Static Climbing Technique
Using the static climbing technique, climbers will move each limb one at a time to the next hold. This allows you to test the next hold before you fully commit, which can make it safer and less scary especially when climbing outdoors. It allows you to move precisely and in a very controlled fashion, and it typically requires a lower level of exertion over a longer period of time when compared to dynamic climbing.
One of the most common moves associated with static climbing is flagging, which is when a climber extends one leg as a counterbalance and to help prevent them from barndooring off the wall. Flagging allows you to situate your center of gravity so that you can reach for the next hold in a controlled way, rather than tipping towards it or having to jump for it.
Static climbing is commonly used for all kinds of outdoor climbing and indoor sport climbing. It is essentially the only way to climb slabby routes that have tiny holds and rely more on balance than strength.
Dynamic Climbing Technique
Dynamic climbing involves much faster movement with more swinging of the body. It is more similar to the style of movement you would associate with doing the monkey bars, where the momentum of your body helps propel you to the next bar or hold. Dynamic climbing can be more efficient than static climbing, and it can allow you to reach holds that wouldn’t be accessible statically. It can involve jumping to another hold while taking both hands and both feet off the wall (dyno-ing), or simply using powerful, explosive moves to skip holds as you move up the wall.
Dynamic climbing can be challenging since you are effectively jumping blind and hoping that you will catch the next hold, that it will be a favorable enough hold that you can actually hang on, and that your momentum doesn’t carry you past the hold and to the ground. It requires shorter bursts of power and strength, although it has less of a focus on technique overall. However, learning to dyno effectively is definitely a skill, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right.
The dynamic climbing technique is most commonly used in bouldering gyms, where the stakes are low for falls. However, there are certainly some outdoor climbs (both bouldering problems and sport/trad routes) where one or more dynamic moves are required to complete the climb. Some climbers simply favor the dynamic climbing technique and use it whenever possible.
Which Climbing Style is Better?
Both climbing styles have their own merits, and it honestly comes down to personal preference as well as the type of climbing you are doing. It can be beneficial to train in both styles of climbing to maximize your technique as well as your strength, though most climbers find that they prefer one over the other. And, again, many climbers will adopt a more aggressive dynamic climbing style while in the gym and a more conservative static technique when climbing outdoors.
Static Ropes vs. Dynamic Ropes
It’s important to note here that the words ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ are also used to describe different types of rope, which can be a bit confusing. Here’s the difference:
- Static ropes: have very little stretch to them, and they are not designed for climbing use. However, static ropes can be used to haul gear bags when you are climbing, for using ascenders, lowering an injured person, and some other climbing-related scenarios. However, they generally should never be used for belaying a top roper and certainly not for belaying a lead climber. The impact of a fall on static rope that has very little stretch can cause serious injury (hello, whiplash) or even death.
- Dynamic ropes: stretch quite a bit, typically elongating anywhere from 10-40% with the force of a fall. The greater the elongation, the gentler the catch. But, too much elongation increases the risk of a climber hitting the ground, a ledge, or another obstacle in the course of their fall. Dynamic ropes are meant specifically for climbing and they are the only type of rope that should be used for belaying climbers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mountain Climbing Dynamic or Static?
It can be either, depending on your climbing style and the exact moves involved in the route. Most climbers primarily use a static technique when climbing outdoors, though not always.
Is Static Rope for Climbing?
No, static rope should essentially never be used for climbing—at least for belaying a climber. Static rope can be used to haul gear, for use with ascenders, and for lowering an injured climber. But, the impact of falling on a static rope while climbing can cause serious injury.