Improving our Climbing Technique and Movement feels really hard and ‘haphazard’ as it seems initially like you cant measure or structure the training of technique like you can with hangboarding for example, but it is in fact very much trainable.
How to improve climbing technique? Improving your Technique requires a specific focus and consistent practice just as strength training does. You need to decide exactly what your going to practice (pacing for example) and spend at least 15 minutes working on this element of climbing movement for about 8 sessions. Like strength training there are conditions you need to create for the most effective learning of these skills.
Technique will always be more important than strength as a beginner to interermediate climber and it can be honed much faster and easier than gaining extra strength in your forearms for example, and will make you climb ‘Better’.
Before we get into the stages of perfecting your climbing movement im going to briefly explain ‘Motor Learning’.
Motor learning is the process of learning skills, and it applies to every skill or technique you aquire.
You begin with stage one; cognitive.
This is where the skill is new to you and you need to conciously talk yourself through the skill, think about your first time tying in.
You will not be able to employ the technique in a wide range of scenarios, and there is a high chance you will revert back to old, previously engrained movement patterns when things get tough.
In a high pressure situation or hard redpoint for example you wont have the mental capacity free to conciously think about applying the technique well, and will likely not be able to use the skills in this stage of motor learning.
Next is the Diversification stage.
This is where your more more competent in the application of the skill but still not completely ‘in control’ of the technique / skill.
This means you will still miss some oppertunities to apply the technique and you might reform to bad habits when you are in a high pressure situation.
Techniques and skills in this stage can be applied with less and less concious effort and you will be able to begin applying them in more and more intense situations, without the skills falling apart.
Lastly, the autonomous stage.
Your completely fluent in whatever technique reaches this stage, meaning you can unconciously impliment the techniques in high stress situations and rarely miss an oppertunity to employ the skill.
In high pressure situations like a competition, you will be able to rely on the techniques in the Autonomous stage and apply them well.
This stage doesnt have an end though… you can never ‘finish’ learning a skill, there is always some way to improve.
1. New skills
Learning new skills and refining the movement you have takes Concious practice.
This is the first stage of learning movement: Cognitive. You have to conciously think about the skill and what your trying to do better when a skill is new.
Because this stage requires a lot of thought you need to practice on SUB-MAXIMAL climbing.
This means a good few grades below your maximum, it should feel like 20 to 40% effort,
So you have the mental capacity remaining to focus on the technique at hand and actively think about the key points that will improve that technique.
As soon as your on something too demanding for effective practice you will loose the ability to conciously think about what your doing in a calm and collected manor, and the QUALITY of your practice will decline rapidly.
As soon as you are trying hard you will revert back to your old movement or technique habits as you have crossed the line from practice to performance and will rely on your already developed movement patterns.
This makes the climbing you do as a warmup perfect for practicing movement techniques.
It is easier climbing so you can really concentrate on the key points that will improve your chosen technique or movement.
Choose your biggest technical or movement weakness and make it your focus for the month… it could be how close you keep your hips to the wall or how much you pull with your arms.
For 8 sessions or around a month, you will warmup on easy climbs and focus on the key points that will improve your chosen technique.
At the end of the month you will see massive improvement and applying that technique will require less and less effort.
2. Diversification stage
The second stage of motor learning is the ‘Diversification stage’
Your chosen technique will be around this stage after the first month of practice, and its probably where most of your movement sits.
In this stage the technique you chose (Heel hook for example) will start becoming more fluent and youll see more and more oppertunities to use it in your climbing.
Your chosen technique will need much less concious effort to perform as it becomes a unconcious movement, but some oppertunities will still be unseen by you.
In this stage you want to focus on completing LOTS of HIGH QUALITY movements to engrain the good technique into your movement.
You can begin incorperating the technique into some higher intensity climbs and you will notice its much easier and takes less concentration.
you will be able to spot more heel hooks and they will be much higher quality than before the month of practice.
You still wont have complete control over the technique, and may still miss them in high stress scenarios like competitions or onsights.
This stage of your learning will last from a couple months to a couple years depending on the quality and time you spend practicing the skill.
If you carry on practicing a specific technique on all your warmups you can get through this stage in a couple months!
3. Autonomous stage
The final stage of your movement aquisition is the ability to use your technique autonomously or automatically.
Once a skill has reached this level it will become availible for you in high pressure situations like for an onsight attempt or competition.
This is partly why the Professional Competitiors look so fluid untill they suddenly fall off, there movement skills are all developed to a high level of autonomy.
This means its not taking a lot of concious effort to perform and the fluidity in there movement comes from the body already knowing what its going to do for each move.
Once a skill is in this stage you will be able to apply it in number of situations you would never have considered or even seen when the technique was in the earlier stages of its development.
The key is to practice the technique in LOTS of different environments to build up your experience and familiarity with it.
Dynamic drills plan
I previosly wrote a post on climbing more dynamically, and it includes a handfull of movements you can begin practicing in your warmups.
It has a Training Plan in the post, so you can begin training your movement as you warm up!
If you really want to improve your climbing movement and techniques spend a months focussing on one aspect at a time with HIGH QUALITY attention.
Progress through a wide number of techniques and keep going untill they are available to you in any circumstance, high intensity or novel situations alike.
Heres the key points from the whole post:
- Begin with training techniques on EASY climbs
- Spend 8 sessions warmups focussing on one technique
- Once a technique is getting comfortable begin using it on a MASSIVE amount of moves, keeping the quality high.
- Finally, after around a year on a technique it could be near the autonomous stage, and you can continue refining it with hard climbing and bouldering.
I hope you got some value from this post, it was fun to make!
If you want to read more of this kind of content, Check out my other posts or visit the YouTube!
And special thanks to Dan V. For proofreading and helping me correct all my grammatical errors haha.