Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 3 (EASY-HARD)


Despite the previous entry’s stress on the value of improving your climbing-relevant strength in order to improve your technique and your overall ability, both, the value of developing the best technique you can at your current level of physical prowess shouldn’t be underrated or overlooked. Perfecting your technique – your efficiency of movement – will allow you to make the most of the strength and fitness you possess right now. The less energy you waste in each movement you make, the harder you’ll be able to climb.

And, while building up enough more strength to see a significant change in your climbing ability takes time and dedication, improving technical flaws can often take much less time in the big picture. Of course, like all things training, how much this will help you improve at climbing depends on how much time you’ve put into technical work already. But if you put in the time to learn and develop solid technique, you’ll find that as you get stronger or if you get stronger that integrating and utilizing new techniques will likely come easier for you. It’s easier to cultivate an efficient technique from the start rather than to unlearn a sloppy technique once it’s ingrained. And a body/being trained to integrate new techniques with an open mind will find this learning process much easier down the road, too.

Keep in mind throughout your technical development process that individual differences in technical choices (and tactical choices, too – the topic of the next blog series after this one) sometimes stem from one person’s “better” technique, sure, but other times, these different technical decisions about how to perform a climbing move don’t reflect a “better” or “worse” (i.e. a more efficient or less efficient) technical solution – they reflect differences in each climber’s current physical strengths and weaknesses as well as his or her unmovable physical parameters, such as height, wingspan, and even muscle composition.

An example of this that happens frequently is that one climber will choose to do a big move bypassing four smaller holds, while another may choose to tick-tack up those four holds instead of doing the big move. For the first climber, perhaps small holds are a weakness and big-muscle powerful pulling is a strength; for the latter climber, the opposite may be true. In this situation, each climber has likely chosen the most efficient technique for him/her, given their current strengths and weaknesses. Neither one is right or wrong; they’re choosing what works best for them.

That being said, it’s worth being open to always trying another climber’s technical method if it looks solid and smooth every time they execute it; maybe you’ll have your eyes opened up to a new technique or another approach that you haven’t considered before. Keep a soft and open mind about technical solutions to climbing moves and sequences. Don’t be attached to using others’ beta or the approved beta, but don’t be opposed to it, either. It’s good to be flexible and to experiment with different technical approaches – and if you do strength train and you do get stronger, to be prepared to modify and adjust your technical repertoire accordingly as you learn to apply your newly developed strengths.

Last thought for today’s entry – though you will almost certainly develop individual twists and variations on standard climbing techniques based on your own strengths and weaknesses, there are certain basic technical aspects for promoting efficiency of movement that will hold true for all or virtually all sport climbers. If you feel an argument rising in yourself against a certain technical parameter that you’ve been instructed to work on by a partner, coach or trainer, I suggest that you observe at least 10 climbers
who are clearly better at climbing than yourself, looking for how they themselves employ (or don’t employ) this technical element.

If the majority of these climbers perform this technique as you’ve been instructed, it’s almost a sure bet that this is, in fact, a technically sound and efficient choice for you as well, even if it feels awkward and cumbersome and draining right now. Your best bet is to analyze why this might be so (i.e., are you actually not physically capable of performing this technique properly – and if so, why not? What needs work? Or are you resistant because it feels uncomfortable and difficult right now, not like second nature or because you have to unlearn a previously ingrained but less-efficient technique?), and then to work on rectifying the situation so that you, too, can take advantage of this clearly more efficient approach to climbing.

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!

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