Speed Climbing vs Climbing at Speed?
The simplest way to introduce the feel of dynamic climbing is to start climbing “at speed.” It is likely that you have some passing familiarity with the sport of speed climbing. It’s a race to the top of the wall. Speed climbing as a sport is related to “normal” climbing, but actually requires a number of other special skills to complete. And while it is cool to watch, it’s not what we mean here by climbing at speed.
Poor Sequencing Leads to Poor Efficiency
Climbing at speed in our sense refers to removing hesitation and unnecessary pauses from a move or series of moves. The idea is in line with our notion of efficiency. Namely, completing each move in the minimum amount of time necessary to execute it effectively.
For example, when doing a back-step, if you pause after the lower body twist (for instance to look up for your next hold), you are wasting time. This translates into wasted energy while you hang out and look. The more efficient move is to seamlessly blend from the lower body twist into the upper body twist to complete the move with no pause or hesitation from start to finish.
The most common source of unnecessary pauses is poor sequencing. It is a common habit among newer climbers to have only a vague or incomplete notion of their sequence. This is true for a boulder problem or section of a route.
The result is that, when they go to send, they stop not only in between moves, but during them, to rearrange their feet or to verify several times where their next hold is, or how to grab it. Eliminating these sources of lost time will have an immediate impact on your energy reserves.
Rehearse Your Climbs to Get Faster
The best way to get a feel for this approach is to rehearse your routes or boulder problems. Once you have worked out a series of moves, run them a few times, aiming to reduce the total amount of time it takes from start to finish.
The goal is to know every handhold and every foothold you will use. And most importantly, how you will use them. This is so that you do not miss a single one, and you do each move precisely and without hesitation. Try this drill. I encourage you to use a stopwatch and time each run, aiming to reduce your time by a few seconds each time. Do this until you cannot go any faster without making a mistake.
A Note of Caution
Climbing quickly is an effective way of reducing fatigue. Climbing fatigue (getting pumped), is proportional to the time you are on the wall. But, sacrificing efficiency for speed is generally a losing proposition, as the energy saved by climbing quickly is often sucked out by poor technique.
You should focus first on mastering efficient movement, then try to execute such movement without hesitation. Focus on this rather than on trying to get to the top “as quickly as possible.” If you begin to feel “sloppy”, or start making mistakes, slow your pace to allow yourself to rehearse efficient movement. Then it is safe to gradually remove hesitations and increase speed.
Learning Dynamic Movements
Once you have tried this drill a few times and gotten the feel for it, you may notice that you are not always moving statically. In other words, if you miss a move, you can no longer recover gracefully (or, sometimes, at all).
Do not despair, this is not a bad thing. In fact, this is the beginning of a dynamic movement, one of the most efficient forms of climbing. In our next article, we are now ready to discuss the most common form of dynamic move: the deadpoint. Want to learn more about dynamic movements in climbing? Read about it here. Happy climbing!
All material is reprinted with the permission of the author. Copyright 2022 David H. Rowland. All rights reserved.