“The Strong and the Fast”

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French Research Team Experimental Training Protocol

DANGER: this is a protocol described in a research experiment. Extreme care should be taken before choosing to follow this protocol.

Below is an experimental training protocol developed by French researchers and the French National Team’s coach.  For reference, the study is:

  • “Four weeks of finger grip training increases the rate of force development and the maximal force in elite and top world-ranking climbers” by G. Levernier and G. Laffaye
Taylor’s picture of the author’s (Levernier) presentation at Chamonix, France

Context: The study (2017) was on 14 French males who climb harder than V10, have five years of training experience, no injuries within the past year, and who take part in national and international bouldering competitions.  All were in the top 20 climbers in France and 6 were in the top 20-world ranking.  The researchers wanted to see whether a control group or the test group increased the rate (RFD) at which they are able to increase their force.  Tests included: Maximal force and RFD on three holds: open hand, half crimp and full crimp.

Result: The training only improved maximal force in the open hand grip (on one hand) but researchers noted an evolution in improvement.  More importantly, the training improved RFD in all grips, including (perhaps surprisingly) the full crimp grip which was not part of the training regimen.

Experimental Training

  1. Ensure you’re properly warmed up.
    • Warm-up was 10 minutes followed by 30 minutes of progressive intensity. Climbers warmed up their upper body on a large degree of gripping that were easier than those used in training.
  2. Use the open hand grip and the half crimp on a variable edge between 25mm and 6mm.
    • The edge appears to have been individually chosen to ensure a challenge within the 4-6 second time frame.
  3. 2 series of 6 sets of 4-to-6 second hangs with 3-minute rests, three times a week for 4 weeks.
    • Each series ran: (1) Open Hand; (2) Half; (3) Half; (4) Open Hand; (5) Half; (6) Half
    • participants were told to “hold the device as strongly as you can and as fast as possible.”
    • The training appears to be done at the “test” angle of 90° between at the elbow joint and was stopped if the climber’s elbow dropped to more than 120°.
    • Training lasted about 45 minutes
  4. 30-minute cool-down between above training and other workouts.
  5. Note: these were climbers who averaged higher than a V10 climbing ability, had five years of training experience, no injuries within the past year, and who took part in national and international bouldering competitions.  If any pain was felt, training was stopped.

Fun anecdotal note: at the Chamonix conference, the researchers related how one of the weakest climbers to test was also one of the best climbers on the French team.

Note1: Due to the level of the climbers in this study, it’s hard to recommend this particular protocol.

Note2: The authors have a second study entitled “The rate of force development: a new biomechanical key factor in climbing” which they presented at the Chamonix conference.  Additionally, a separate study by V. Vereide et al looked at different measurements of RFD and found a moderate- to strong-relationship with climbing performance.