Mental training for climbing 1

Using your non-dominant hand

Apr 4, 2020 12:26:00 PM / by Naomi Hatto

Over the last year or so I have had the odd arm/hand injury, the latest being some sort of nerve irritation in my right arm - this is particularly irksome right now for two reasons. Firstly I’m desperate to use this time to get fitter, stronger, healthier and generally to just try and be in a better place and my arm hurts so press-ups, along with most other exercises that are appealing right now are a no go. And secondly - I’m right-handed. 


Oh how I wish I was either left-handed or ambidextrous!


Over the last couple of years for various reasons (usually because I’ve read on facebook and someone, somewhere said something about it being good for my brain, or something like that!) I have tried occasionally to use my left instead of my right hand but now with actual real pain in moving in certain directions I’m really trying and it’s super hard! 


Have you ever actually tried to clean your teeth with the opposite hand?? I nearly had toothpaste in my eye last night!

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Thing is, it is actually pretty good to challenge your brain from time to time - it’s amazing how much harder I find mental maths now than when I was doing A-level maths and there was a non-calculator paper, I still try to work things out in my head but it’s harder now because I’ve not been practising over the last 10ish years.


Ok, what does using your non-dominant hand and mental maths have to do with climbing?


Well, in my experience climbing requires you to use both sides of your body as equally as possible as you never know whether you’ll need to rock over on the right or left, take that undercut with your right or left hand or dyno towards the right or left. It’s pretty tricky to change habits built up over your entire life but I think that the challenge is probably quite good for our brains - it doesn’t have to be everything but maybe it’s good practice to try and clean our teeth with the non-dominant hand or pick cups of tea up with the opposite hand. Maybe you can try throwing and catching with opposite hands, swapping hands so you throw with one and catch with the other? I quite like the feeling of having to work out how to do something again - it feels like that moment when your brain knows what you should be doing but you just can’t quite make your limbs do that...I’m sure you’ve all had experiences at the wall when you know how someone would do the move but you can’t persuade your limbs to do that! 


I often find that it’s quite pleasant to practise something on the side that feels more natural and it can be quite hard work to then learn that same skill on the opposite side. There will always be the dominant side - that just seems to be how our brains work but I wonder if challenging our brains and trying to use the other side might be helpful in climbing…


As I’m sure most of you are aware - we’re in the process of adding a training room to our facility and one of the training boards we are hoping to include is a systems board. For those of you who don’t know what this is: it’s a board that is symmetrical in its holds (placement and angle) so that it is possible to train each side the same. You can practice problems in both their left and right handed variations.


These sorts of boards are great to try and reduce the difference of strength and coordination for each side. With this in mind I am going to try and do some small things around the house with the opposite hands - I might wait until I’ve got teeth-cleaning with my left-hand nailed until I start wielding a sharp knife and chopping vegetables with my left..!

Tags: COVID-19

Naomi Hatto

Written by Naomi Hatto