The Gravity of the Tomoa Skip

If you watched the competition in Moscow last weekend you may have heard some talk about the new starting beta that was, according to the announcers, made popular at the international level by Tomoa Narasaki last year at the combined championships.

Dubbed the Tomoa Skip by uncreative people who don't understand the need for alliteration when naming special moves (as such I will be calling it the Narasaki Null), this beta involves skipping the third hold to take a more vertical route up the wall.

Two things.

First: skipping the third hold is nothing new. Reza Alipour's beta has gradually shifted to skipping the the third hold, with video of him doing it more than a year ago in competition.

Second: beta will always be fluid between different athletes when it comes to speed climbing. Yes, this is the exact opposite of what pro boulderers and sport climbers say. That's ok. They don't understand the nuance of speed, just like many high level distance runners don't necessarily understand the nuance of the sprint start.

As humans have yet to learn how to levitate or solve for the
problem of gravity, when we are mid air gravity is the sole
force acting on us
When looking at skipping holds, you have to assess two things about the athlete to see if it makes sense. The first is to look at how skipping the hold affects acceleration. Speed climbing is vertical, obviously, so we have a constant 9.8m/s force acting against us that we need to overcome in order to accelerate upwards.

When you have zero points of contact with the wall you are slowing down. Always. So when assessing if skipping a hold is the correct path you need to separate what feels fast from what is actually fast. If skipping the hold leads to excess air time then that is time spent not accelerating. Time not accelerating, even if it is spent on a more linear path to the top, might not be the most advantageous.

Second, we have to look at the contact position of the hands and feet of the climber as they reach the holds. The human body does not produce the same power at all ranges of motion, and muscles most certainly have specific lengths at which they produce the highest force. An easy example is to think about a full ass-to-grass squat. You are remarkably stronger in the initial degrees, but as you drop to parallel and below you have extended beyond the range of maximal force production. Skipping a hold may feel faster, but if it get you to the next hold in a position where force production is not optimal due to having to extend beyond the range of optimal force production, you very well may end up slower.

So in short, when we assess what is the proper beta for a speed climber we need to take into account gravity and muscle specific peak power output in regard to the length of the muscle, aka how hard are you reaching to get to that next hold.

Do not sacrifice your speed in the middle section of the route just to skip a hold.

You will know you are ready to skip a hold when flight time is minimized due to speed, and you are able to reach the desired hold at or close to the range of motion that produces the highest force in order to continually accelerate.

Curious as how to measure if you are faster in a specific section? Check out this article on various timing methods for speed climbing.

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