Climb Bytes #2: Kinesthetic Differentiation in Climbers

Climb Bytes is a series and regular newsletter where we briefly summarize scientific research on rock climbing in plain terms so that anyone can learn diverse topics in climbing science. We believe that science and climbing should be accessible to all.

Research Article Information

Title: Kinesthetic differentiation, kinematic and dynamic parameters in sports climbing competitors of varying ability levels

Authors: Gąsior

Year: 2020


Study Report

Kinesthetic differentiation refers to the ability to fine-tune muscular force and tension to achieve a desired movement.

This study investigated the kinesthetic differentiation of competitive climbers with different skills levels as well as kinematic and dynamic properties.

30 male competitive climbers participated in the study and were divided into 3 groups: amateur (climb up to 7A), intermediate (climb 7A-C), and advanced (climb above 7C). A countermovement jump was used to test relative strength, power, and speed of the lower limbs while a pull-up bar chin-up test was used to test relative strength, power, and speed of the upper limbs. For both tests, an accelerometer was used to measure kinematic and dynamic parameters.

To measure motor coordination ability, a double-plate stabilographic platform was used. This device can measure the locations and forces of contact points on the plates (i.e. hands or feet). Climbers had two tasks for the upper and lower limbs. The tasks involved first learning and then replicating by feel. The first task was to learn and replicate and 50/50 load distribution and the second was a 70/30 load distribution on their preferred side.

The pull-up bar test confirmed that advanced climbers have greater relative upper limb strength, power, and speed compared to climbers of lower abilities. Interestingly, the countermovement jump test showed an reverse relationship between climbing ability and lower limb relative strength, power, and speed.

The kinesthetic differentiation tasks were in favor of climbers of greater ability. Advanced climbers were better at quickly learning how to adjust their perceived load distribution through posture — especially for the 50/50 distribution of the lower limbs and 70/30 distribution of the upper limbs.

No research study is without limitations. Some from this study include the fact that the tests used were not directly related to climbing tasks but more athletic ability and profile. It is also often good to be skeptical of articles written by one author because they are not working with a team who can help fact check their work. Still, the article was an interesting study and hopefully more work on this topic will be continued in the future.

“Taking into consideration the appearance of publications and manuals which stress the role of stabilization and coordination exercises in the training of sport climbers and alpinists [5,14,20], together with the results of the present study, training measures which improve coordination skills, including kinesthetic sensation, are to be recommended.”

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