How To Flag: An Important Climbing Move


Once you start venturing into intermediate and advanced rock climbing routes, you will often find yourself forced into awkward body positions. This could be because there is no climbing hold around or because your movement is easier when you leave 1 foot off. 

Flagging climbing – an advanced climbing technique – allows the climber to use his/her free-hanging foot as a counterbalance to gain more reach, prevent the barndoor swing, or simply make the next move. The climbing flagging technique is ideal for all angles and types of climbing routes. To help you become a smoother rock climber, we will take you through the climbing flagging process. 

Basics of Flagging Climbing

Flagging is generally specific to the quality and location of climbing holds and the movement direction. While these details determine how exactly your flag, there is a general guideline that one can follow: 

Picture a vertical line running through your body’s center, and your goal is to maintain your body weight balanced on both sides of the line. Having a right handhold and a left foothold can create balance. However, imagine having a right handhold and right foothold; once you start moving upward, the left foot will swing out, pulling off – this is known as the barndoor swing. Flag your left foot behind the right foot (a rear flag) to move your weight to the right, more in line with the supporting hand and foot, keeping the body from swinging and shifting the center of gravity. 

Climbing flagging makes use of pure body positioning – instead of endurance, strength, or power – to statically make your next climbing move. This improves your overall climbing technique, uses less energy on the climbing wall, and reduces dynamic movement. This means less stabbing and throwing at holds and more time simply stepping up and latching into the holds. 

Flagging Climbing Techniques 

Rear Flag 

If you know you will encounter overhanging terrain after donning your climbing shorts and climbing shoes, understanding how to use the rear flag is extremely important. The flagging climbing technique puts your free leg behind and almost perpendicular to your standing leg. The technique is used when climbing holds are only available on one side of the body and you need to move in the opposite direction. 

Let’s assume that your left hand and left foot are on and you need to move right. A rear flag with the right foot behind and to the left should shift the center of gravity farther to the left, thus more in line with the supporting foot and hand. 

This body position will be more stable. Funneling upward power from the left foot into the hips becomes easier, giving you a big range of motion to latch a hold when moving right. 

Side Flag 

With your free leg out to its respective side – that is, right leg out to the right – press against the wall with the instep of that foot. Instead of pushing an individual hold for the climbing flagging foot, think of the whole wall as something you can push against. 

The harder you press, the more leverage you will have to move upward. For this reason, keep the leg straight and focus on really pushing with the foot.

Let’s take a common side flag scenario where your left hand and right foot are on 2 holds that are aligned vertically, with the right hip turned into the climbing wall, and your left foot flagging to the left side. The supporting right foot will drive you up and to the right while your left leg will maintain balance on the left side. 

If you are moving left, stand up on your right foot and twist the right hip into the wall; the flagging foot will help keep the body from swinging out. 

Tips to Keep in Mind When Flagging 

  • In general, you will need to flag when you have good holds for only 1 side of your body, particularly when back-stepping is not as efficient because the foothold is too far or too high for your back-stepping foot.
  • When flagging on steep climbs, you should think of sinking deep into your flag by hanging low off your supporting foot and hand while activating your flagging foot and keeping the feet, calves, hamstrings, quads, and butt engaged. This should allow you to maximize your position and even offer some quality rest. 
  • With both the rear and side flags, keeping your flag leg as engaged and as straight as possible is important. A loosely hanging limb can pull you out of position. 
  • Try to locate a body position that minimizes the body moves. Meaning, you will just need to reach up for the hold instead of jumping for it. While jumping may be effective, it increases the chances of a climbing fall – even if you are wearing a climbing helmet and your climbing harness is safely attached to your climbing rope, you must try to avoid falls. 



Q: What is Flagging in Climbing?


Flagging is a climbing technique that allows the climber to use their free-hanging foot as a counterbalance to make their next move, prevent the barndoor swing, or gain more reach. Although it is ideal for all types of routes and angles, rock climbers tend to use it when they find themselves in awkward body positions.

Q: How Do You Practice Flagging?


To practice flagging in the gym, you will need to find a part of a climbing wall that positions holds only on one side of the body. To practice the rear flag, you will need to move to the opposite side while on the holds. For the side flag, you will need to have a free leg on its respective side – for example, the left leg out on the left side. By following the instructions in this article, you should be able to get both the rear and side flags right.

Globo Surf Overview 

Climbing flagging is extremely important when you need to reach holds off to the side without falling off the wall or losing balance. It allows you to maintain a good center of gravity and reduces the energy you need to reach tricky holds. By following the tips and instructions in this article, mastering flagging climbing should be easy for you. 

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!