Climbing Phases, Qualitative Efficiency Measures, and Route Preview

Research > Experimental Training > Converting Research to Practice > Climbing Phases, Qualitative Efficiency Measures, and Route Preview

Synthesizing different research is hard, but here are three that can help you improve your efficiency. First, one approach which researchers have taken is classifying climbing into different “states” or “phases”: immobility, postural regulation, hold interaction (hip immobile, at least one limb moving), and hold traction (one limb moving, and hip moving).[i]  Hold interaction includes both hold changing (e.g. a transition of the use of the hold before moving) and hold exploration. Other more complex “phases” exist to improve efficiency, such as “chaining movements in succession.”

Second, researchers have studied the relationship between route preview strategies and climbing efficiency and found some strategies work better than others.[ii] Finally, an expert panel and group of coaches in the UK identified what they view as the best factors for “efficient technique.” [iii] Suggestions:

  1. Break-it-down to the Phase: Analysis of “phases” can help you break down efficiency during a given phase.  For example, how much hip jerkiness is going on during immobility?
  2. Route Preview in Blocks: teach climbers how to focus on relationships between holds in different sections or “blocks”, rather than simple ascending, fragmentary, or zigzagging reads.
  3. Give Me All the “Efficiency”: build exercises involving: (a) the accuracy and precision of (i) hands and (ii) the accuracy and precision of feet, (b) balance, (c) hip fluidity, (d) minimal use of exploratory movement, (e) sequencing, (f) lower body movement initiation, (g) extension / body tension, (h) skill selection is appropriate for move, (i) bent vs. straight arms, (j) pacing, (k) commitment, (l) resting (m) and clipping, and (n) maintenance of technical proficiency across route. 

See other practical options:

Safety note: As with all experimental training, attempt to implement these ideas at your own risk.


[i] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176306&type=printable

[ii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042814047296

[iii] “Establishing a Global Scale for Assessing Lead Climbing Performance by N. Taylor, D. Giles, and J. Mitchell