Aggregating Speed Climbing resources: a helpful graphic and the research to date

Research > Science and Community > “Speed Research and Graphic”

Two events happened recently which caused me to do a small write-up about speed climbing. First, I recently went to Japan and was politely asked by Japan’s national speed climbing coach to brief on the “state” of speed climbing research. There isn’t a lot of speed climbing research, but these researchers have done some interesting work! The methods span from 3-D modeling to drones to analysis of different speed-related attributes.

Second, the author of “The Short Beta” read my write-up on my time in Japan and asked me if I had a simple graphic to help depict the different phases in speed climbing first suggested by Pierre Legreneur and his research team (2018). The Short Beta, if you’re unfamiliar, is a website dedicated to kids and competition. I’m only too happy to help communities.

Speed Climbing Phases and Potential Challenges

It’s REALLY important to note that the following image only includes information from two climbers using the same beta. As a result, this image should be used as a reference only – not a generalization of all speed climbing challenges and paths. See the caption for details about the graphic.


Hold Notes: This is not the typical numbering for these holds. Due to the fact that there are multiple numbering options in existence for the holds, I decided to stick with the researcher’s own numbering system.
General Notes: The first column has notes based on research of a single climber by Reveret et al (2018). The climber is world cup champion speed climber Anouk Jaubert. Please note that “perpendicular hips” means that Anouk’s hips had a tendency (when compared to vertical movement) to move away from the wall. “Lateral hips” means the tendency (again, compared to vertical movement) was more to the side. The third column represents a “hip path” of a second female climber (youth continental champion) who has the same beta as Anouk but runs ~approx. 2 seconds slower. Even though the picture of the hips is not perfectly to scale, I included the image to show the rough path of the hips.
The phases were identified in the Legreneur et al (2018) paper. While these areas may be generally slower than the others, every climber will likely need a different emphasis. It should be noted that three “unloved” holds (not used by the climber in Legreneur’s research) are labeled A, B, and C.

Speed Climbing Research and Practical Implication

  • “Interpretation of hip mechanical energy in official speed climbing route” by Legreneur, Quaine, Chapelle, and Reveret (2018)
    • Practical implication: highlights 8 phases to the speed climbing route and identifies potential phases of reduced energy.
      • See above image
      • Energy reduction during three phases: the turn, 1st and 2nd dynos.
  • “3D Motion Analysis of Speed Climbing Performance” by Reveret, Chapelle, Quaine, and Legreneur (2018)
    • Practical implication: identifies whether slow downs in speed are associated with “lateral” hip movement or “perpendicular” hip movement outward from the wall.
      • Spikes in lateral velocity at the expense of the vertical occur near the top of the first and second accelerations
      • Spikes in perpendicular, outward velocity at the expense of the vertical occur at the 1st dyno and last three holds.
  • “Model characteristics of athletes – climbers specializing in speed climbing” by Shulga (2014)
    • Practical implication: associates height with the number of “leg pushes” of a speed climber.
      • may provide some limited information on how to identify a “model” to pattern movement from.
  • “Value of select displays of strength and speed abilities in speed climbing at the highest sport level – analysis of cases” by Marcin, Mariusz, and Robert (2015)
    • Practical implication: a standing long jump test can be used as a way of selecting potential speed climbers.
  • “Role of Lower and Upper Limbs in Dyno Maneuver” by Legreneur, Thevenet, and Bels (2018)
    • Note: Easter egg, this is not specific to speed climbing but is specific to quick movement.
    • Practical Implication: the role of each limb in relation to one another should be considered as you attempt to “articulate” them simultaneously. The research found:
      • Relative to one another, the lower joints propel while the upper joints both increase initial center of mass velocity and, with respect to the elbow and wrist, control the perpendicular distance of the center of mass from the wall.
      • Re: lower limbs – Extension of hip precedes knee which precedes ankle.
      • Re: upper limbs – extension of shoulder precedes elbows, with no wrist displacement, and elbow flexion occurs before extension – suggests to authors that only shoulder helps with power, and that this is inefficient.

Other Resources

  • Climbing-specific research into power-related questions may be of use, for example, research and protocols associated with: the “power slap” climbing test (Nick et al, 2011), “learning” of dynamic and/or plyometric movement (Phillips and Jensen, 2014), and the use of “complex” exercises involving the effect of a resistance workout on a power workout (Sas-nowosielski et al, 2018).
  • Video analysis algorithms can provide insight into speed climbing “lag points” such as this write-up and collaboration I did with a friend.
Image 1 – Taylor in Tokyo Japan briefing the Russian and Japanese National Teams on the “state of speed climbing research.”

Strategic Questions I am interested in

  • For a discussion of some strategic perspectives on training for speed climbing, I encourage you to read the following write-up I submitted to Rock and Ice Magazine. I’d be very interested to add the Indonesian and French perspectives to this analysis.
  • Speaking of the French, a discussion with Sylvain Chapelle, France’s National Speed Coach, suggested to me that the relationship of muscular strength and joint angles is incredibly important. To my knowledge, only the Legreneur research has looked at joint angles during a power exercise but I welcome being corrected.
    • The location of the center of mass, and the extent and interplay of different joint angles, at the time of hold contact and/or muscular engagement is an area I’m particularly interested in as well.
  • I’d like to know the extent to which individual, unique body morphology and choice of “beta” affects “lateral” (x-axis) and “perpendicular or outward (z-axis) movement beyond the model (Anouk Jaubert) used in Reveret et al (2018). Is there a practical way for practitioners to do this type of analysis similar to video analysis of lag points?
  • Is it possible to improve power transfer from the upper body by improving the “chain” of movements from the shoulder, through the elbow, and even into the wrist?
  • How can you balance learning “new” beta and becoming “more consistent” on your existing beta during a season based on existing motor control and learning research.

Contact me if I got something wrong or if you think you have something to add to this write-up.