Research > Research Inventory > Biomechanics: Limbs

The effects of high resistance-few repetitions and low resistance-high repetitions resistance training on climbing performance

Author: E. Hermans, V. Andersen, AH Saeterbakken | Year: 2016
Summary/Results: Researchers tested the impact of two protocols: a high-resistance, low-repetition protocol vs. a low-resistance, high-repetition protocol vs. a “just-climbing” group.  The protocols were tested in 30 low- and intermediate-grade climbers over the course of ten weeks.  The exercises included pull-down, bench press, rowing, shoulder press, biceps curl, forearm press and forearm curl.  Tests for performance as a result of the intervention included: climbing performance on a route, time of a 90° bent-arm hang, time of a 25 mm deadhang, and a 12 repetition pull down on a machine. While both protocols suggested improvement in climbing performance in spite of a 50% reduction in climbing, the improvement was not statistically significant.  It may be more accurate to say that they “maintained” climbing performance in spite of a drop in climbing volume.  Interestingly, improvement was significant for the deadhang tests across both experimental groups (however, this effect was mitigated by a post-test analysis that controls for statistical errors). Beta-Angel note: UPDATE!  Received the paper!  Psyched!  And thanks to Espen Hermans for taking a look.  Refer to my write-up for a little context behind the research as well as my own personal process for developing the summaries:
Reference: Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 May;17(4):378-385.

Effect of maximal- and local muscular endurance strength training on climbing performance and climbing-specific strength in recreational climbers: a randomized controlled trial

AUTHOR: Espen Hermans | Year: 2016
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Beta-Angel Note: UPDATED!  This is a conference summary for the above paper: “The effects of high resistance-few repetitions and low resistance-high repetitions resistance training on climbing performance”. Refer to that paper for the details for the training interventions.
REFERENCE: 3rd Rock Climbing Research Congress. Proceedings 2016, Telluride, CO

A comparison of upper body strength between rock climbing and resistance trained men

AUTHORS: KM Macias, LE Brown, JW Coburn, DD Chen  |  Year: 2015
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers compared anthropometric variables, such as body fat, and measures of upper body strength, including push-ups and pull ups to failure, grip strength, and pinch strength, of 15 rock climbers and 15 resistance trained men. Resistance training was defined as including squats, deadlifts, bench press, and pull-ups. Rock climbers had greater scores on many of the measures, but not push-ups or absolute grip strength (as opposed to grip strength relative to body weight), suggesting that rock climbing can promote increased upper body strength (relative to body weight) even in the absence of traditional resistance training.
REFERENCE: Sports 2015, 3(3), 178-187

The strength structure of sport climbers

AUTHORS: Stankovic, Ignjatovic, Rakovic, Hodzic | Year: 2014
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers conducted a study on 32 sport climbing competitors competing at the national and international level using 18 measuring instruments in order to evaluate strength specifically.   The study identified three “action criteria” (factors) affecting strength which were then tested in both a general, non-specific way as well as a climbing-specific way. These factors are static strength (e.g. non-climbing: wide-grip hangs, climbing: Block (?) under a 90 degree angle), repetitive strength (e.g. non-climbing: regular pull-ups, climbing: pull-ups with two fingers), and explosive strength (e.g. non-climbing: push-ups, climbing: maximal reach with the left hand). Beta-Angel note: for the general tests check out Kurelic et al. (1975) and for the specific-tests check out Stankovic et al. (2009). Unfortunately, the details of each test is in Stankovic’s unpublished doctoral dissertation. Anyone have access to this or at least know what the “Block” test refers to?
REFERENCE: Physical Education and Sport Vol. 12, N 1, 2014, pp. 11 – 18

Static stretching does not impair sport specific measures of upper-limb force and power in rock climbing

AUTHORS: M.A. Kilgas, K.C Phillips, P.B. Watts  |  Year: 2014
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers sought out answers to whether past research suggesting an impairment to muscular performance from static stretching in some non-climbing sports also holds for climbing-related activity. Researchers could not find impairments in any of the variables they measured, and suggest that because static stretching increases range of motion, and since range of motion may improve rock climbing performance, static stretching may be beneficial to climbing.
REFERENCE: 2nd International Rock Climbing Research Congress, Sep 2014

The role of arm position during finger flexor strength measurement in sport climbers

AUTHORS: J. Balas, M. Panackova, J. Kodejska, JD Cochrane, JA Martin  |  Year: 2014
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers studied the relationship between different arm positions, finger strength, and climbing ability. They found that straight or slightly bent arms, above the head, were the best ways to measure finger strength in climbers if the purpose is to relate it to climbing ability. Beta-Angel note: see the effect of arm and grip position during finger flexor strength measurement in sport climbers for more.
REFERENCE: International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, Vol 14, 2 (2014)

Activity and functions of the human gluteal muscles in walking, running, sprinting, and climbing

AUTHORS: JL Bartlett, B Sumner, RG Ellis, R Kram  |  Year: 2014
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers measured muscle electrical activity in the gluteus maximus muscles during walking, running, sprinting and climbing. While the authors hypothesized that this electrical activity would be greatest in sprinting and climbing, it turned out to be greatest in sprinting and similar between running and climbing.
REFERENCE: Am J Phys Anthropol. 2014 Jan;153(1):124-31

Flexibility Assessment and the role of flexibility as a determinant of performance in rock climbing

Authors: N. Draper, C. Hodgson, G. Blackwell  |  Year: 2009
Summary/Results: The authors built a custom-made wall (Climbaflex) designed to test climbing-specific flexibility, which included different tests for the hip joint.  They tested 46 male and female climbers, ranging from beginner to elite level, on two different high-step tests to measure hip flexion, a lateral foot reach test to measure hip abduction and external rotation, and a dynamic test to measure the ability to rock-up and over and over a high foot.  Scores for 1 high-step test, the lateral reach test, and the dynamic rock-up test increased with climbing performance level.  The dynamic rock-up test showed the most specificity and reproducibility but requires specific set-up, the altered high-step test was found to be valid but with poor repeatability and the foot reach was repeatable but not found to be valid unless height was taken into account, but both are considered “field” measures able to used at will.  The sit-and-reach was not climbing specific.  Beta-Angel note: high-stepping is good, but getting your weight up over your foot is better.
Reference: Int’l Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 9, 2009, 67-89

Metric characteristics of the specific strength sports climbers tests

AUTHORS: D. Stankovic, A. Joksimovic, A. Rakovic, M. Michailov, D. Pirsl | Year: 2009
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers tested 9 climbing-specific tests on 14 national level climbers of explosive, repetitive, and static strength on 14 climbers based on the amount to which the results vary from one another. While researchers believe that all the tests are acceptable as an estimation of climbing strength, they found that the explosive tests vary the least across the results, that the repetitive strength tests vary very little, and that the results of the static strength tests vary the most. Beta-Angel note: see the “strength structure of sport climbers” for more.
REFERENCE: Physical education and sport vol. 7, No 2, 2009 pp. 161-169

The Human Gluteus Maximus and its Role in Running

AUTHORS: D.E. Liberman, DA Raichlen, H. Pontzer, DM Bramble, E. Cutright-Smith  |  Year: 2006
SUMMARY/RESULTS: This research looks at the human butt and its role in running. However, it also discusses the distinction between the human butt and the ape butt, specifically with respect to evolutionary design and purpose – potentially the increased leverage of the butt during extension (movement of the leg in a backward direction, such as a backward leg raise), control/stabilization of flexion of the trunk (bending over or curling into a ball), and running. Beta-Angel Note: Even though this article wasn’t specific to rock climbing, it is one of the few Easter eggs I’ve hidden throughout this inventory designed to push us into what one of my colleagues refers to as “adjacent spaces” of research. Of particular enjoyment here are the evolutionary reasons behind the “enlarged GM” or butt.
REFERENCE: Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 2143-2155, 2006

Muscle volume is a major determinant of joint torque in humans

AUTHORS: Fukunaga T1Miyatani MTachi MKouzaki MKawakami YKanehisa H.   |  Year: 2001
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers looked at the relationship of muscle volume, measured by cross-sectional area using MRI, pennation angle, and ultrasonography, and joint torque, defined as ‘maximal force multiplied by the moment arm (a function of distance from the lever’s fulcrum)’ on elbow flexor and extensor muscles. Researchers found that muscle volume of the upper arm is a major determinant of joint torque, regardless of athletic training, as compared to joint torque’s reliance on fiber length.
Beta-Angel note: May have implications for hypertrophic training.
REFERENCE: Acta Physiol Scand. 2001 Aug;172(4):249-55.

Biomechanical analysis of vertical climbing in the spider monkey and the Japanese macaque

AUTHORS: E. Hirasaki, H. Kumakura, S. Matano  |  Year: 2000
SUMMARY/RESULTS: Researchers attempted to understand the differences in climbing styles between two types of primates: the spider monkey and the Japanese macaque. Researchers found that the spider monkey uses its forelimbs to keep the body close to the object it is climbing, while the forelimbs of the Japanese macaque likely contribute to propulsion up the wall. Beta-Angel note: Another ‘adjacent space’ article. We’re on a role today with non-human primates. As a general note, this is a rabbit hole that should probably be saved for later once the “primary” articles are identified.
REFERENCE: Am J Phys Anthropol. 2000 Dec;113(4):455-72.

An electromyographic study of arm muscles during climbing

AUTHORS: Koukoubis TD1Cooper LWGlisson RRSeaber AVFeagin JA Jr. |  Year: 1995
SUMMARY/RESULTS: The researchers measured electrical activity in the spreading muscles of the hand (first interosseous), two different forearm muscles (brachioradialis and flexor digitorum superficialis), and an upper arm muscle (biceps brachii) during a hang, pull-up, and lowering movement. The authors suggest that the high activation of the brachioradialis (during pulling and lowering) and flexor digitorum superficialis (throughout hanging, pulling, and lowering), in combination with their elevated incident of injury during climbing, should be targeted for emphasized conditioning.
REFERENCE: Knee surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 1995;3(2): 121-4