Knee Bars: The Coolest Move in Climbing

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Our next skill we are going to cover is also one of the coolest moves in the sport. The principle of a knee bar is similar to that of a heel toe cam, but generally provides much greater support.

The Basics of a Knee Bar

Place your foot on a foothold (inside or outside edge).

 

Wedge your knee behind a larger hold so that there is tension between your toe and the top of your knee.

 

Being careful to maintain that tension, let you weight sink slowly into the knee bar, using gravity to help maintain tension on the wedge between your knee and your toe.

Rarely Used

Of course, in practice, knee bars are rarely so simple. A large number of factors come into play when using this skill.

 

Some examples of this are the distance between the foothold and the placement of your knee, the size and shape of the hold for the knee, angle of the route, etc.

 

Sadly, despite how cool knee bars are, they are quite rare because of the fact that there is a narrow range of circumstances under which they are possible, much less effective. Developing a feel for good knee bars is quite critical, and requires much practice and experimentation.

Great for Resting on Harder Moves

When you develop and eye for them, and a feel for how to get into them quickly and effectively, they open up a great number of possibilities both for rests and for harder moves.

 

In roofs, knee bars are an excellent means for controlling you swing and isolating your weight in a similar fashion to good weight shifting at lower angles.

 

A solid knee bar on a horizontal roof can isolate enough weight to allow you to use holds that you wouldn’t even consider for decent feet at that angle.

Great for Resting on Harder Moves

Much like using double dynos to gain a good feel for “easier” dynos, the best way to develop an initial feel for knee bars is to find a double knee bar, which is just what it sounds–both legs in a knee bar position.

 

The easiest way to demonstrate this position is to find a small shelf to stand on, with a flat mini-roof about 18 to 30 inches above it. Standing on the shelf, wedge both your knees under the roof. Then, pushing up on your toes to keep tension on your knees, slowly lower yourself backward, allowing your weight to aid in creating the tension against your knees. If you do this properly, at a certain point you will be able to rest your entire weight on the knee bars and…viola, you have a no hands rest!

 

Executed properly, I have seen double knee bars used as no hands rests in horizontal roofs, with climbers literally hanging upside down to shake out!

 

 

How’s that for cool?

 All material is reprinted with the permission of the author. Copyright 2022 David H. Rowland. All rights reserved.

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