Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 5 (EASY-HARD)


Learning a Climbing Technique – The Basic Process, Part II

Of course, it’s to be expected that you’ll at times have some panicked moments that can easily lead to technical devolution; I call these reverting to “default mode.” In other words, most climbers (unless they’re total beginners) have a technique or two that they developed initially, for better or for worse – something that worked in troubled situations almost right out of the gate for them, even if it’s no longer the smartest way to handle most sketchy situations.

For some people, it’s to dyno wildly for the next hold whenever the pump goggles go on; for others, it’s to high step to the highest hold possible, regardless of the consequences…and so forth. However, part of developing better technique is learning to discern when these ingrained solutions are and are not the most appropriate solution for the given circumstance – to stay in control of the body enough and to broaden the technical repertoire enough so that you have many options at your disposal in high-stress, do-or-die situations instead of just one or two go-to solutions from your beginner days.

Remember that it’s always harder to unlearn a less-efficient technique than it is to learn a technique correctly and efficiently from the get-go. Once your body has movement patterns ingrained, unlearning those automatic processes takes dedication and fortitude, especially because sometimes, the “right” way of doing something (more technically efficient) may actually feel harder or “wrong” at first. In this situation, it’s worth asking a couple of questions – again, through observation, you can look to see if the majority of strong climbers utilize the technique in question – if so, you can soundly assume that this technical approach is most likely more efficient than yours.

However, you may find that due to your own strengths and weaknesses that your slightly or even radically different technical approach to certain moves right now – and possibly always – is more technically efficient for your body. In other words, some folks will almost always prefer a higher foot to a lower one, regardless of what most people do (for example). We often refer to these individual variations in technical execution (along with tactical choices and resultant climbing terrain preferences) as a person’s “climbing style.” (Perhaps they would be better termed a person’s “climbing strength”?)

Such individuation of technical and tactical maneuvers generally becomes more evident in the slight differences in each climber’s execution of more complex, advanced techniques (not so much the basics outlined in the next few entries, which are more accepted as standards of technical efficiency for most climbers). So the easier the terrain for the climber in question, the more likely he or she is to follow a sort of standard technical protocol for climbing the route – but on a harder route, all of an individual’s strengths need to work together, and this can often lead to technical and tactical choices that showcase those strengths and help to overcome weaknesses.

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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