Climbing Practice Design for Injury Prevention
How to not get injured as a climber?
Often so called compensatory or adjunct exercises are prescribed to balance out the load of climbing. The idea is, that our locomotor system is trained by a wide variety of vectors — in angle, tempo and load!
If we train so that there is balance across each joint, all movements will surely be available to our bodies, right?
Well, theoretically yes, but in real life this concept of reducing injury risk just by compensatory or adjunct exercises is limited:
* First of all, these exercises would need to be done with the same intensity as your climbing to have the desired effect.
* Since most climbers want to climb, and not do abstract, out of context exercises, they are often done half-assed before they are neglected and ultimately forgotten.
an Ecological Approach to Climbing Injury
I want to propose a different approach to injury free climbing here, that has been proven in many other sports to be very effective in preventing injuries — an Ecological Approach to Sports Injury.
Ecological in so far, as this approach considers the environment and our perception of it — and not only our physical bodies.
Injuries are prevented through movement exploration and increasing body awareness, rather than trying to prepare just our tissues through sets of exercises.
Our environment and our perception of it — We know that better climbers show faster anticipatory postural adjustments before athletic maneuvers.
Sharper senses allow you to “pre-program” muscle activation patterns, so that you can safely perform dynamic maneuvers with cognitive, temporal and spatial constraints.
This way you not only cut down dramatically on your injury risk, but also become a more competent climber.
If this sounds interesting to you, check out my Climbing Practice design for injury prevention course that I re-recorded after presenting it November 2021 at the Second International Symposium on Climber Health.
Below is a rough overview of what you’ll find in my presentation:
Where do we come from? What makes climbing unique?
(Variability is an Injury Prevention Mechanism)
Variability in training is important for several reasons. First, we obviously need to use some variability to avoid monotonous loading of the same tissues, which may lead to injuries when repeated over a longer time period. Further, according to the law of diminishing returns, the effectiveness of training will decrease when we repeat the same stimulus multiple times because our body will adapt and therefore be better prepared for this stimulus.
An Ecological Approach to Sports Injury (Context, Context, Context)
There is strong evidence in support of the coaching methods aimed at promoting self-organization.
Understanding the principles of specificity and transfer of training.
(Overload vs Specifity) The key problem in both training and sports rehabilitation is to identify the specificity of exercises and so to determine how the training stimulus transfers to positive adaptation. This problem is nowhere bigger than in open skills.
Work x Recovery = Training Effect (Quantifying Recovery etc.)
As coaches, we need to start celebrating greater efforts in recovery with the same enthusiasm that we celebrate greater effort in training.
One of my fave athlete comments celebrating recovery:
“Seeing this change (in #HRV) has motivated me to give up alcohol completely if it means it’s affecting my programming for the week.”
When you make training load contingent on good recovery, athletes are motivated to recover well.
Brains and Sprains (The Brain’s Role in Injuries)
More and more anecdotal, theoretical, and clinical research evidence for the brain’s role in maintaining joint stability and neuropsychological factors that may render individuals injury prone.
General tau theory deals with the guidance of bodily movements. It was developed from work on J. J. Gibson’s notion of ecological invariants in the visual flow-field during a perception-in-action event, and subsequently generalised by David N. Lee in the late 1990s to an amodal theory of perceptuomotor control.
We know that better climbers show faster anticipatory postural adjustments before athletic maneuvers.
Bach et al and Nigg and Liu suggested that we continuously adjust the viscoelastic properties of muscle depending on the anticipated functional demands.
INJURIES AT THE SPEED OF THOUGHT (Sensory Integration, Neurocognitive Aspects etc.)
Rapid visual-spatial processing is integral to feedforward neuromuscular control (the ability to “pre-program” muscle activation patterns).
This allows a climber to safely perform dynamic maneuvers with many constraints (cognitive + temporal + spatial).
Small mental errors in judgment or coordination at ill-timed phases of movement planning could lead to the rapid, premature onset of large joint forces during climbing. If these loads are not fully anticipated, then preprogrammed muscle contractions may be insufficient for stiffness levels to provide dynamic restraint, regardless.