Technique Descriptors

Creative obstacles can force athletes to maneuver their body into many different ways, directions and forms. In this section will introduce some common terminology that help coaches describe the various movements seen by obstacle athletes.

Body Orientation

Body orientation describes the relative position of the athlete compared to the direction they are moving. This relative positioning is important because different techniques can be easier or harder depending on the athletes body orientation.


Forward is one of the most straight forward body orientations. Athletes are moving forward and facing forward in this orientation.


In reverse orientation, athletes are moving the opposite direction they are facing! This orientation is often used while an athlete is traversing and can make it easier to reach up and behind the athlete.


Athletes sometimes need to move side to side when attempting an obstacle. This sideways movement where the hips are 45 degrees from the direction of movement is commonly seen on ledge traverses and some laches.

Elevation Change

Athletes are often moving up and down as they traverse obstacles. Here we will review a few simple terms to help describe the changes in height that athletes experience when going through obstacles.


Techniques that require the athletes to neither ascend or descend are referred to as level. These techniques have little to know change in height as the athlete executes the technique.


Ascending techniques will take the athlete higher as they attempt the technique. The increase is relative to their starting position. Depending on the flooring, the athlete may or may not see an increase in distance between them and the flooring.


Descending techniques will bring the athlete lower as they attempt the technique. This decrease is relative to their starting position. Descending techniques can sometimes be more challenging because the athlete may have more time to accelerate as they fall.

Distance Traveled

The distance athletes need to travel on an obstacle can greatly impact the difficulty of the technique. For example, an easy monkey bar setup can become increasingly difficult the further an athlete needs to travel on the monkey bars. It is important coaches an athletes understand this relationship. Using the wrong technique can wear an athlete down.


Using a technique to travel a short distance is generally easier then using the same technique to travel greater distances.


Techniques that require athletes to travel longer distances are often more challenging then the same to travel a short distance.

Time on Obstacles

Techniques typically can become more challenging the more time athletes spend executing them.


Techniques executed for a short time tend to be easier then techniques executed for an extended period of time.


The same technique executed for an extended period of time will tax the athlete more then that technique executed faster.


In this section we covered a lot of terms used to describe different techniques. Understanding the terminology here will establish a base for the rest of this training. After completing this section you should be familiar with the following:

  • The different body orientations and how they relate to an athletes movement.
  • How to describe different changes in elevation as the athlete traverses up and down on obstacles.
  • How to describe the distance athletes travel on obstacles and the impact distance has on athlete fatigue.
  • How to discuss the time athletes spend on obstacles and the impact longer or short times have on an athlete’s fatigue.