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The increased popularity of sport climbing has prompted many researchers to investigate climbing performance. Many of these investigations have been focused on the mechanisms that contribute to the enhancement of performance. One mechanism that has been widely used as a technique to improve performance within a variety of sports is external visualization (EV). PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of EV on indoor sport climbing performance. METHODS: Thirty-four healthy climbers (nm = 23, nf = 11, ages 18-50 yr old; minimum indoor climbing ability 5.9a) were recruited for participation. Each participant completed two top-rope routes that were rated approximately two grades below his/her self-reported highest grade of climbing. Participants were required to attend two test sessions (separated by at least 24 hrs), each of which included completion of one route in combination with a randomly assigned test condition. In one session, participants climbed without the use of any pre-performance visualization (NV) techniques. In the other session, participants performed EV by studying an image of the assigned route for five minutes prior to climbing. The participants climbed a different route of the same grade for each test session to limit the influence of route familiarization on the test results. Participants warmed-up on routes that were considered easy for their skill level for five minutes before each test session and were allowed to climb at a comfortable pace during the test sessions. Participants were instructed to avoid excessive exercise on assigned test days. Post-climb heart rate (HR), blood lactate accumulation (LA), self-efficacy (SE) and climb time were measured. Paired t-tests were used to determine statistical significance (p ≤ 0.05) between the conditions for each dependent variable. RESULTS: Between conditions, no significant differences were found (p > 0.05) for LA (EV: 4.43 ± 1.38 mmol/dL, NV: 5.06 ± 1.96 mmol/dL), HR (EV: 166.88 ± 17.05 bpm, NV: 169.18 ± 16.48 bpm), climb time (EV: 81.54 ± 41.59 s, NV: 82.39 ± 30.88 s), and SE (EV: 525.32 ± 61.36 points NV: 537.77 ± 55.60 points). CONCLUSION: Under the present research conditions, EV had no effect on climbing performance. A primary explanation for these results was the varied terrain of the routes between test conditions. Though rated the same, some routes included a section of overhanging wall while others were on more vertical terrain, which required less contribution of upper body musculature and more footwork to complete. Future researchers should give more consideration to route terrain consistency and consider adaptations to the EV procedures used for rock climbing.

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