top of page

Whats the Difference between Climbing Skill Training & Physical Development Training ?




As a Climbing Physiotherapists I am often confronted with recreational climbers that become patients because they do not clearly understand the difference between training and practice. Climbing is a skill based sport, but unlike other sports requiring a high degree of skill, climbing technique is not emphasised to beginners. Many novice climbers can just turn up to a wall and just climb which is the accepted norm. However, it would not be acceptable to turn up at a motor cross course having never ridden a motor bike and to just be left to get on with it. The same principle applies to physical training. In other sports there is guidance provided to help develop of the novice participant.


Now, back to the title of this article



Injury prevention and performance are one and the same! If you prevent injury or reduce the risk of injury, then you will improve performance because you are able to guarantee un-interrupted training and so progression in your recreational sport. A fundamental component of injury prevention is movement efficiency and skill development.


However .....“Skill development is Not Training “



Movement efficiency on the one hand is sparing of your muscles, ligament’s, joints and soft tissues because it is defined as the conservation of effort and movement with maximum efficency. On the other hand, it allows the capacity to conserve the energy of those soft tissues( especially muscles) so that when required you have the physical reserve to generate high forces. For example, when you need the physical reserve to lock off or mantel on a problem or the endurance to keep going to get through a demanding crux.







“To Improve movement efficiency you have to engage in Practice “



A key factor for skill development and movement efficiency is the need to engage in the practice of climbing skills. Recreational climbers don’t always value skill development as much as other skill based recreational athletes see their development. Recreational gymnasts or ballet dancers often talk of going to class or practice to develop mastery of their technical skills to improve performance. However, Climbers often talk of going climbing or training from the perspective of physical development and not the mastery of fundamental skills.



Physical Training develops the bodies physiological systems



Training is about developing the bodies physiological systems to improve the rate of force development, strength, flexibility or to reduce fatigue after several bouts of physically demanding exercises. In fact, training in many cases may not have any relationship to the actual sport that it is intended to improve because it refers to the physical components of that activity.



Practice develops the skill of climbing



However, on the other hand, practice is all about developing the skill of climbing. It is about muscle memory and training your senses and nervous system to be smart. This can only be achieved through very focused isolated practice of skills which are so close to climbing; you are actually climbing! It is repetitive with feedback and analysis of your performance from a critical friend or coach. This is where practice which must be perfect, becomes routine. This is where the brain and nervous system get smart with good skill based training and your climbing improves.


So how is this injury prevention?






Many climbers that I see with chronic overuse injuries or those suffering from under performance exhibit either dynamic movement efficiency flaws or static postural flaws. This is normally both on and off the wall. Many of them either just climb and tackle problems obsessed with increasing their grade with little or no regard for improving skill development. Or on the other hand are those climbers that specifically climb to improve their physiological development and isolated physical performance on finger boards and campus boards with little regard for skill development. Both situations are focused on the process of training and not practice or skill development.


One Session a week should be devoted to skill development



So, next time you go to the wall just have a think about how you approach your climbing. Do you emphasise skill development or are you just interested in getting through problems, churning out the reps and pushing grades? Then, pose another question to yourself, how much would your climbing improve and injury risk reduce if you added one skill development session each week?


Your injury risk and climbing performance is in your hands!

Uzo Ehiogu

2 views0 comments


bottom of page