“Because muscular strength affects technical proficiency, the coach should determine whether the athlete has sufficient strength to undertake the technical elements required by the sport.” (from “Periodization-5th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training“, by Tudor O. Bompa and G. Gregory Haff)
Don’t worry; I’m not going to go off on another huge strength-training tangent here. I’m limiting the strength talk to one entry in this series, as I’ve already said too many times to count that building climbing-specific strength through means external to rock climbing (a targeted resistance-training program) can yield incredible results on the rock, given enough time for such a program to manifest the desired results (as a part of a well-constructed yearly program of training/climbing, ideally undertaken for many years). The key takeaway point here is one that I’ve experienced repeatedly myself through my past few years of training to effect changes in my own body – that being stronger can both open up new techniques and allow for the refinement and perfection of techniques you already know as well.
This makes sense, since climbing technique is about efficiency of movement – minimizing any waste of energy in order to maximize performance. The stronger and fitter a person is in climbing-relevant areas (i.e. power and high-intensity exercise endurance), the more control he or she potentially has over the entire body in every movement. The coordination of each individual movement therefore should be easier, as should the repetitive demand of coordinating and executing a complex series of movements like those involved in climbing for lengthy sequences while battling accumulating fatigue.
Even more irritating to some folks is the fact that the stronger climber may not even need to execute each movement with near-perfect technique, though it’s true that he or she would likely attain an even higher level of climbing if he/she worked to refine their technique and reduce energy wastage even further. But as it stands, he or she can “get away” with more sloppy movements and still succeed on a climb that a not-as-strong but more technically proficient climber cannot climb, or can only climb with the most perfect technical execution of each movement possible.
In other words, strength trumps technique. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Amazing technique is an awesome thing to have, for sure – but being stronger in climbing-relevant ways (including a high fitness level for high-intensity exercise endurance) wins in the performance department, if all other things are equal – and even sometimes, as in the above example, if the stronger climber has poorer technique than the weaker.
This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.
One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!