What Is A Gaston In Climbing? Powerful Moves for Beginners

If you’ve been reading a climbing magazine or hear some recommendations from fellow climbers to “gaston” you may be wondering what that means. I heard this a lot when I first started climbing and it took a few climbers to explain what it is before I understood what it was.

A gaston in climbing is using your arms/palms to push in an outward motion instead of the usual pulling toward your body movement to hold your body up. It is most commonly associated with putting your palms facing out while your thumbs are pointed down.

For example, if you are wedging your body between to handholds that have the positive edge facing you, you may need to create tension by pushing against the handhold instead of pulling on it. To do this technique, you would place your thumbs in a downward position with your finger pads facing away from you.

The gaston movement is becoming increasingly popular and more necessary the harder the route is, especially in bouldering. Because of this, climbers need to be more aware of what a gaston is and to train for them.

How to Identify A Gaston

Gastons are relatively easy to spot if you look at the “positive” edge of a handhold. For example, if the part of the hold that is sticking out (where you place your fingertips) is facing you, then it is likely a gaston.

If you see a climber with their elbows wider than where their hand is in relation to the center of gravity, then it is probably a gaston.

If the movement either makes you move your hand in a downward position so your thumbs are pointing down, it is probably a gaston.

If you are pressing your thumb and palm against the hold and your fingers are resting on the outside of the hold while not weight-bearing, it is probably a gaston too.

Why Is It Called Gaston?

The story goes that a French alpinist named Gaston was getting photographed while climbing. One of the pictures showed him performing this move and ever since then, other climbers started to call it Gaston’s move or The Gaston. Now, years later, it is simply known as gaston, gastoning or gaston climbing.

When Should You Gaston?

Gaston is a muscle intensive movement and climbing technique that is known for draining energy. With that being the case, it is more ideal to avoid it or move your body into a position that allows for pulling instead of pushing. However, there are some situations that Gastons are unavoidable or just the best move. 

  1. If your body weight and position allow you to put most of your weight in your feet, and a gaston is only used for balance until you are able to make the next move.
  2. If the climb doesn’t have any place for you to maneuver your feet in a way that would make the next movement a pulling movement so a gaston is the only way you can get to the next move.
  3. If the gaston is the easiest and least energy-consuming move.

As you can see, a gaston isn’t the best way to spend your energy and you should avoid it if possible. However, some routes are built with gastons that are unavoidable or easier to get through than going around. If it isn’t avoidable, then do it.

Since it isn’t always avoidable, however, you should consider training for gastons. You may surprise yourself and be better at it than you expected.

How To Avoid Gastons

A lot of times climbers will look at a climb, identify the intended beta and then execute or try to execute the intended beta. However, climbing is one of those amazing sports that allows you to do things your own way. If you’ve ever seen a climbing competition (especially bouldering) then you will see pretty quickly that everyone does the climb a little different and a lot of times it works. This all goes to show that you can avoid gastoning, though in most cases a gaston is inevitable.

To avoid a gaston, you will either need to go around that move, or more commonly, get your body position to the side of it so that you can maintain a pulling position to get through that part of the climb. 

  1. The first step to turning a gaston into a pulling position is by identifying where your body needs to be to turn the move into a pulling motion. For example, placing your right foot in-line below the handhold while placing your left foot out wide or high should move your body weight to be to the side of the hold, making it so that you can pull on the handhold instead of push on it.
  2. The second step is to actually move your body into that position. Keep in mind what the next move is so that you place your body on the side that will help you reach the next hold easier.
  3. Sometimes when you come across a gaston, moving your body and feet to a more suitable position will actually take more effort than actually doing the gaston move. In this case, just gaston.

What Muscles Are Used In A Gaston

If you are working on a climb that has a gaston and you haven’t been able to finish it, you may be trying to figure out what muscles you need to build to make that move and utilize the climbing technique. The gaston move in climbing primarily uses your shoulder, tricep and pec muscles. 

If you want to strengthen your ability to gaston, building the shoulder, tricep and pectoral muscles. With any strength training, however, be sure to also include practicing the gaston movement by finding climbs at the gym with gastons in the problem.

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