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Motion capture removes the guesswork from coaching in the high-stakes sport of climbing

“At the University of Derby we’re all about applied research,” explains James Mitchell, Program Leader for BSc Performance Analysis and Coaching Science at the university. “The beauty of Vicon is the ability to translate research into practice. It’s an amazing tool to help us really understand climbing movement from a scientific point of view, and then actually translate that understanding into practice.”

To help bridge the gap between research and practical application, the university has partnered with Lattice Training, an organization that provides assessment, coaching and training plans for climbers. Lattice, which has worked with elite climbers such as Alex Honnold, Emily Harrington and Tommy Caldwell, helped put together the university’s climbing systems and equipment.

“Traditionally, climbing has been analyzed using just a video camera or purely through the subjective experience of coaches,” expands Simon Briley, Lecturer in Sport & Exercise Science. “What we’re trying to do is take that guesswork out and provide really detailed, objective data for coaches and athletes.”

The result is a volume equipped with a climbing wall, 12 Vantage cameras and a number of Blue Trident IMUs, all running alongside Nexus in the Vicon life sciences ecosystem.

Take a look at the video below to see how it was done.

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The detail of the project...

“Vicon offers amazing tools to really develop our understanding of climbing performance, of how to improve it, and how to reduce injury. What’s been amazing throughout this research is the connectivity between the Vicon cameras, the IMUs, and Nexus. It’s just really seamlessly integrated, which means I can pass on all that data straight to coaches and athletes,” says Mitchell. Combining the optical motion capture and the IMU data has been really valuable to better understand these techniques.

“From a coaching point of view, you can look at what an athlete is doing in comparison to stronger climbers, or to climbers who can do things that they can’t do,” says Ian Cooper, a Climbing Coach and Trainer with Lattice Climbing. “And from a research point of view, you can look at performance trends in the differences between very good climbers and less proficient climbers.”

Movement analysis is providing the university and Lattice with unprecedented new insights into climbing performance.

“Motion capture potentially answers a lot of questions that we’ve not been able to answer using previous techniques,” says Mitchell. “It provides a new level of detail to help improve climbing movements. Vicon is constantly coming up with new and better ways to help us measure and improve performance. And it’s really exciting that we’re now able to take these technologies into real-world environments. We’ve got less constraints, and it makes the information a lot easier to translate to coaches and athletes.”

“The endpoint in terms of data capture and performance is giving coaches a set of tools based on all our detailed kinematics and all the data that we collect with the Vicon system,” says Briley. “We can say that if we want this athlete to be at the top level in the next few years, this is exactly what they need to work on.”

For more information on the University of Derby visit https://www.derby.ac.uk/

For more information on Lattice Training visit https://latticetraining.com/

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