Biomechanics of rock climbing technique
Rock climbing routes have become increasingly difficult over the last twenty years. In rock climbing manuals and articles, specific techniques for making arm movements on steep, overhanging routes are suggested as offering the climber noticeable performance benefits. The techniques recommended generally depend on the orientation of the ipsilateral foot. Decisions on technique are important, as the results are cumulative and can impact on the overall performance of the climber on the route. The overall purpose of this research is to evaluate the impact of different ipsilateral foot orientations on reaching tasks in overhanging rock climbing situations. As the research base for technique analysis is limited in rock climbing, a qualitative study was initially conducted to confirm the existence of the different techniques and to provide a base from which to ascertain the performance variables for technique comparison. Comparison Study 1 involved a 3D kinematic study, modelling the climber as a 14-segment rigid body model, comparing the techniques in terms of centre of mass displacement and velocity as well as joint angular changes. Comparison Study 2 compared the techniques in terms of the identified performance measures of postural demand, trajectory efficiency and work/power. Statistically significant differences were found in centre of mass characteristics and body geometry, with differing orientations of the ipsilateral foot. Variations in complexity and in strategies of joint angular change were demonstrated, but the coordination in the reaching arm and the final arm posture were found to be invariant with technique. The postural demands within each technique varied significantly, however, in terms of trajectory efficiency and bioenergetics; differences between the techniques were small. The overall conclusion was that, although reaching arm movements are not affected by foot orientation, the overall technique and performance of a reaching task is. The study has practical and theoretical implications for rock climbing as well as for theories of grasping.