Research > Research Inventory > Kinesiology: Anthropometry — Measuring the Climber

The role of physique, strength and endurance in the achievements of elite climbers

Author: M. Ozimek, et al. | Year: 2017
Summary/Results: The authors looked at anthropometric as well as strength and endurance differences for both fingers and arms between a group of elite climbers (8c) and a group of advanced climbers (8a).  Finger strength and endurance, as well as arm pulling endurance, were statistically different between the two groups.  Arm strength was not.  The only statistically significant anthropometric differences between the two groups was calf size.
Reference: PLoS One. 2017 Aug 3;12(8):e0182026

Analysis of tests evaluating sport climbers’ strength and isometric endurance

AUTHORS: M. Ozimek, R. Staszkiewicz, R. Rokowski, A. Stanula | Year: 2016
SUMMARY/RESULTS: The researchers tested 16 variables broken up into physical variables (mass only), strength variables, and endurance variables.  The aim of the study was to test different ways of measuring climbing characteristics and see which were associated with climbing performance.  Finger strength test and muscle endurance tests were found to correlate with climbing performance.  The authors were surprised to find that the maximum strength on a pull-up bar did not appear associated with performance.
REFERENCE: J Hum Kinet. 2016 Dec 1; 53: 249–260.

A physiological model for rock climbing: the first 2000 years

AUTHOR: P.B. Watts | Year: 2016
SUMMARY/RESULTS: In a keynote address at the 3rd Rock Climbing Research Congress Watts looked at historical information for climbing, including how the world’s most difficult route ascent has changed between 1960 and 2014, how research has evolved over the years, and how published research via Pubmed has changed between 1960 and 2015. A relatively steady increase in climbing ability has been seen with a possible plateau starting around 2010; performance physiology, biomechanics and sport psychology have become more pronounced research topics recently; and the pubmed search found 187 published studies, and 71% of which have been published since 2000. Beta-Angel note: At 50+ articles being published over the last two four year cycles, the Beta Angel team has indicated concern over an ability to keep the inventory up to date. The lead researcher, who foresees handing off inventory duties to unpaid interns, has indicated no such concerns.
REFERENCE: 3rd Rock Climbing Research Congress. Proceedings 2016, Telluride, CO 

Sport rock climbing: as a means to improve health-related physical fitness parameters

AUTHORS: D. Aras, C. Akalan | Year: 2016
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers looked at 19 adults to understand the effect of climbing on oxygen consumption, body composition, muscle strength, and muscle endurance by comparing a group that climbed and a group that did no physical training over the course of eight weeks. There was a significant difference between pre and post-tests in the percent of body fat, mass of body fat, maximum oxygen consumption, muscle strength, and muscle endurance.
REFERENCE: J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016 Nov;56(11):1304-1310.

Determinant factors in climbing ability: Influence of strength, anthropometry, and neuromuscular fatigue

AUTHORS: G. Laffaye, G. Levernier, JM Collin | Year: 2016
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers assessed physical differences between three levels of climbers (notice, skilled, elite) to predict climbing ability while also assessing general and specific strengths through a series of tests. Researchers found that climbing appears to be more related to specific rather than general strength and that trainable variables explained 46% of the total variance in climbing ability, whereas the studied variables associated with body composition and muscle characteristics explain fewer than 4%.
REFERENCE: Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2016 Oct;26(10):1151-9.

The influence of strength abilities on sports performance in climbing

AUTHORS: J. Dosla, J. Mesko | Year: 2015
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers tested forty-six males (performance climbers ; recreational climbers; non-climbers) using two motor tests (maximum isometric finger strength and pull-up hang tests) and captured physical characteristics including height, weight, body fat percentage and characteristics associated with a body-type categorization system called somatotyping. Researchers found statistically significant differences in the pull-up hang and body fat percentage but not with any others, climbers were generally above-average height, below average body weight, and lower body fat percentage, while the average somatotype corresponds to ectomorphic mesomorph. Beta Angel note: See “The influence of somatotype components on success in sport climbing” for another take on somatotyping.
REFERENCE: 10th INSHS International Christmas Sport Scientific Conference, 2015.

The influence of somatotype components on success in sport climbing.

AUTHORS: M. Puletic, D. Stankovic | Year: 2014
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers looked at 31 male sport climbers, taking ten measurements in order to determine whether a body-type categorization system known as somatotyping has a correlation with successful rock climbing. Results showed that the “endomorph” had a negative influence on success, while the mesomorph and ectomorph had no influence.   Beta Angel note: See “the influence of strength abilities on sports performance in climbing” for another take on somatotyping.
REFERENCE: Physical Education and Sport Vol. 12, 2, (2014) 105 – 111

The structure of performance of a sport rock climber

AUTHORS: A. Magiera, R. Roczniok, A. Maszczyk, M. Czuba, J. Kantyka, P. Kurek | Year: 2013
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers used thirty experienced sport climbers to assess forty-three variables and categorized those variables into physical, technical, and mental buckets – they then looked at the ability of those buckets to predict climbing performance and also how well those buckets complemented one another. Researchers found that each bucket of variables explained the structure of climbing performance similarly, but unequally: 38% (physical), 33% (technical) and 25% (mental). Beta Angel note: check out “Biometric model and classification functions in sport climbing” for more.
REFERENCE: J Hum Kinet. 2013 Mar; 36: 107–117.

Somatic Profile of Competitive Sport Climbers

AUTHORS: Paweł Tomaszewski, Jan Gajewski, Joanna Lewandowska | Year: 2011
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers measured the body height, weight, arm span length and circumference of limbs, shoulder and pelvis widths, and % body fat in 21 male climbers with abilities ranging from 5.10d to 5.14b. Climbers exhibited significantly lower pelvis-to-shoulder ratio, longer lower extremities, and greater arm length and arm span compared to untrained students. Researchers do not believe results support the view that climbers are small in stature and of low body mass – they suggest that the differences in body size between trained and untrained climbers may be over-exaggerated and that the differences may be in specific body proportions. Beta-Angel note: Luckily Amazon has a good return policy for my shrinking pills.
REFERENCE: Journal of Human Kinetics volume 29/2011, 107‐113

Biometric model and classification functions in sport climbing

AUTHORS: A. Magiera, I. Rygula | Year: 2007
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers created a model of rock climbing using 44 different variables assessed of 30 climbers in an attempt to understand which best explain performance as well as variability in rock climbing. The variables explain 93% of the performance, of which 9 variables are identified as best describing it while 10 variables best differentiate amongst climbers. Beta-Angel note: My kingdom for Magiera’s “Determinants of contestant development performance in sport climbing”!!! Also, check out “the structure of performance of a sport rock climber” for more.
REFERENCE: Journal of Human Kinetics vol. 18, 2007, 87-98

The Physiology of Rock Climbing

AUTHORS: Giles LV, Rhodes EC, Taunton JE. | Year: 2006
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers reviewed the state of climbing research to date with respect to physiology. In summary, the researchers conclude that success in climbing does not appear to be related to individual physiological variables but is the result of a complex interaction of physiological and psychological factors. Beta-Angel note: highly recommended to read the abstract as a very quick overview.
REFERENCE: Sports Med. 2006;36(6): 529-45

Prediction of Indoor Climbing Performance in Women Rock Climbers

AUTHORS: CB wall, JE Starek, SJ Fleck, WC Byrnes | Year: 2004
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers measured multiple variables associated with muscular strength in three ability-based groups of six female climbers each on 2 climbing performance tests. Wall et al. found that hand strength and one arm lock-off strength correlated well with tested performance as well as a survey of past best performance, while climbing specific flexibility as well as anthropometric measurements did not.
REFERENCE: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004, 18(1), 77–83

Physiology of difficult rock climbing

AUTHOR: Watts | Year: 2004
SUMMARY/RESULTS: This paper was strictly a review of other studies which described high-level climbing performance at or above the 5.11 grade. The author took this research and created a model of optimal performance by understanding an athlete’s profile based on anthropometry (human body measurement), muscular strength, power, and endurance, and aerobic (oxygen-based) and anaerobic (non-oxygen based) power and capacity, in addition to understanding activity analysis which includes: bioenergetic (production and use of energy at the cellular level) systems, energy expenditure, oxygen uptake requirement, and neuromuscular (related to nerves and muscles) recruitment.
REFERENCE: Eur J Appl Physiol (2004) 91: 361–372

Physiology of Sport Rock Climbing

AUTHOR: A W Sheel | Year: 2004
Summary/Results: Authors describe the research into specific physiological effects of climbing including oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood pressure, blood lactate (a byproduct of the body’s use of simple sugars formed in association with muscular fatigue, often associated with being “pumped”), and muscular fatigue. Authors come to the conclusion that climbing utilizes a significant portion of whole body oxygen energy capacity, that there is an increased reliance on anaerobic (non-oxygen) energy pathways with greater difficulty, and that the determinants of climbing, while not clear, may be attributed to trainable variables rather than specific human body characteristics. Beta-Angel note: Yes! Take that mom and dad!
REFERENCE: Br J Sports Med. 2004 Jun; 38(3): 355–359.

Differences in strength between male and female competitive rock climbers

AUTHORS: D.M. Binney, T. Cochrane | Year: 2002
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Binney and Cochrane set out to investigate whether the difference between male and female strength is associated with a performance difference when body weight is taken into account. Researchers found that relative to body weight there were significant differences in elbow flexion, pull-up and arm adduction. However, there was no significant difference on any of the measured characteristics when controlling for % body fat (i.e. lean body mass) – supporting evidence that there may be a relationship between % body fat and performance. Beta-Angel note: It’s unclear based on the available abstract how differences in strength are being compared to performance – does anyone have this? That being said, the authors of the study do want to stress that their conclusions have potential health implications for female climbers, which is why this note is included in italics by the Beta-Angel team.
REFERENCE: Binney DM, Rolf CG. 2nd Int Conf Sci Tech Climbing & Mountaineering, April 2002.

A comparison of the anthropometric, strength, endurance and flexibility characteristics of female elite and recreational climbers and non-climbers

AUTHORS: Grant S1Hasler TDavies CAitchison TCWilson JWhittaker A. | Year: 2001
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Study compared three groups of females: Elite rock climbers, recreational rock climbers, and physically active non-climbers, based on a battery of tests associated with six categories: finger strength, flexibility, bent-arm hang, and pull-ups. Researchers also looked at the influence of body mass, leg length, height, and age. Results suggest elite climbers have greater finger strength (four finger climbing-specific grip) than recreational climbers and non-climbers, and greater grip strength (non-climbing) than recreational climbers only.
REFERENCE: J Sports Sci. 2001 Jul;19(7):499-505.

Physiological and anthropometric determinants of sport climbing performance

AUTHORS: Mermier CM1Janot JMParker DLSwan JG. | Year: 2000
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Forty-four climbers (24 men, 20 women) with varying skill and experience climbed two routes on separate days to assess performance. Researchers measured anthropometric (height, weight, leg length, arm span, % body fat), demographic (climbing rating, years’ experience, hours training), and physiological (knee and shoulder extension, knee flexion, grip, and finger pincer strength, bent arm hang, grip endurance, hip and shoulder flexibility, and upper and lower body anaerobic power). Measures were indexed into a series of three components: training, anthropometric, and flexibility. Results indicate training component explained 58.9% of total climbing performance variance, while anthropometric and flexibility components explained .3% and 1.8% respectively.
REFERENCE: Br J Sports Med. 2000 Oct;34(5):359-65; discussion 366.

Competitive rock climbing: physiological and anthropometric attributes

AUTHORS: D.M. Binney, T. Cochrane | Year: 1999
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers used four measures to assess success of ten males and 8 females in British climbing competitions. Four measures are: maximum isometric crimp grip strength to body mass ratio, sustained crimp grip endurance at 60 and 40 percent of maximum voluntary contraction, climbing specific forearm endurance and body composition. Climbing specific forearm endurance is a key predictor of climbing performance in elite male and female rock climbers. Additionally, % body fat was inversely correlated with the success of elite female rock climbers. The other measures were not significantly related.
REFERENCE: Binney DM, Cochrane T. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1999; Vol 17(1): 11-12.

Physiological responses to simulated rock climbing at different angles

AUTHORS: Watts; Drobish | Year: 1998
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers attempted to understand the physiological response of the body to rock climbing at different angles. Heart rate, the climber’s rate of perceived exertion and blood lactate (a byproduct of the body’s use of simple sugars formed in association with muscular fatigue, often associated with being “pumped”) increase with climbing angle, but oxygen consumption does not, and grip strength decreases. Beta-Angel note: Damn it, the kids I teach already hate me for the heart rate drills on a vertical wall – they’re going to love me when I put them on overhang!
REFERENCE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 30(7):1118-22 · August 1998

Anthropometric, strength, endurance and flexibility characteristics of elite and recreational climbers

AUTHORS: Grant S1Hynes VWhittaker AAitchison T. | Year: 1996
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Study compared three groups of males: Elite rock climbers, recreational rock climbers, and physically active non-climbers, based on a battery of tests associated with six categories: finger strength, body dimensions, body composition, flexibility, arm strength and endurance, and abdominal endurance. The greatest distinction was found in the bent arm hang and pull-ups. Additionally, significant differences (when looking at the influence on body mass and length) were obtained for: finger strength with four fingers (climbing), grip strength (non-climbing), pincer strength (climbing), and leg span. Results suggest that to attain “elite” status, climbers should consider training their finger strength, shoulder girdle strength and endurance, and hip flexibility.
REFERENCE: J Sports Sci. 1996 Aug;14(4):301-9.

Anthropometric profiles of elite male and female competitive sport rock climbers

AUTHORS: Phillip B. Watts David T. Martin Shirley Durtschi | Year: 1993
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers assessed 39 world-class climbers prior to an international World Cup Sport climbing championship for age, years of climbing experience, height, weight, height-weight ratio, % body fat, fat-free mass, hand and arm volumes, grip strength, grip strength, grip strength to body mass ratio, and climbing ability. Results indicate elite sport climbers are of small to moderate statute, very low % body fat, moderate grip strength, and high body mass ratio. Body mass and % fat may be primary adaptations in female athletes. Beta-Angel note: Who doesn’t dream of subjecting 39 specimens of awesome to a battery of tests?
REFERENCE: Journal of Sport Sciences, Volume 11, Issue 2, 1993