Research > Experimental Training > Converting Research to Practice > Learning and Exploratory Movement Behavior Should Be Promoted

“Exploring” and “Performing” are two-sides of a coin, and neither should end down. On the one hand, we want to minimize “exploratory” behavior since it can be inefficient, but on the other hand, exploratory behavior is important to learning and expanding a climber’s movement behavior and skill.  Encouraging creative and adaptive movement behavior could increase performance by changing the parameters under which climbers try to achieve the goal, such as manipulating the distance or direction to the hold, or encouraging “spontaneous exploration” of movement writ large.[i]  Suggestions:

  1. [Don’t] Change My Grip Yo: Encourage instability in movement to promote “alternative motor solutions” by manipulating certain actions. What does this mean? Subtly vary route design from a previous configuration (e.g. turn a hold), or use multiple grip options (and subtle movements) to encourage exploration of a “fall-back” option to a more stable pattern.[ii]
    1. This should be done at “the edges of [the climbers] behavioral repertoire.”[iii]
  2. EXPLORE vs. CONTROL: Promote exploration of new, creative movement in addition to, and as distinct from, control of new creative movement.[iv] EXPLORE should focus on multiple joint angle, Center-of-Mass (CoM) and limb location changes to create a new move, while CONTROL focuses on changing a single joint angle within the context of an already-created move to increase the efficacy of the new movement.
  3. New Perspectives: “Promote” learning by increasing the ability of athletes to visually search their environment.  For example, the research shows that visual search is associated with finger strength.[v] Additionally, we “perceive” differently from different locations, both visually[vi] and through haptic (touch) feedback.[vii]  See this link for a climbing case study.

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


[ii] and

[iii] Author’s conversation with Researcher D. Orth

[iv] “Creative Motor Actions as Emerging from Movement Variability” by D. Orth, J. van der Kamp, D. Memmert and GJP Savelsbergh


[vi] See Gibson’s work on “optical-flow patterns” (1966) or read the Schmidt & Lee synopsis in “Motor Control and Learning” (2011), p. 63.

[vii] Too many references to count, but specifically see Schmidt & Lee’s (2011) discussion of research by Abbs & Winstein (1990) and Latash (2008), p. 153.