strength, endurance and flexibility characteristics of elite and recreational
Source: Journal of
Sports Sciences. 14(4):301-9, 1996 Aug.
Authors: Grant S. Hynes V. Whittaker A. Aitchison T.
Institution: Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow,
OBJECTIVES: There has been
remarkable development in the scope and quality of rock climbing in recent years.
However, there are scant data on the anthropometry, strength, endurance and
flexibility of rock climbers. The aim of this study was to compare these characteristics
in three groups of subjects-elite rock climbers, recreational climbers and non-climbers.
METHODS: The 30 male subjects
were aged 28.8 +/- 8.1 (mean +/- S.D.) years. Group 1 (n = 10) comprised elite
rock climbers who had led a climb of a minimum standard of 'E1' (E1-E9 are the
highest climbing grades) within the previous 12 months; Group 2 (n = 10) comprised
rock climbers who had achieved a standard no better than leading a climb considered
'severe' (a low climbing grade category); and Group 3 (n = 10) comprised physically
active individuals who had not previously done any rock climbing.
The test battery included
tests of finger strength [grip strength, pincer (i.e. thumb and forefinger)
strength, finger strength measured on climbing-specific apparatus], body dimensions,
body composition, flexibility, arm strength and endurance, and abdominal endurance.
RESULTS: The tests which
resulted in significant differences (P < 0.05) between the three groups included
the bent arm hang (elite 53.1 +/- 1.32 s; recreational 31.4 +/- 9.0 s; non-climbers
32.6 +/- 15.0 s) and pull-ups (elite 16.2 +/- 7.2 repetitions; recreational
3.0 +/- 4.0 reps; non-climbers 3.0 +/- 3.9 reps); for both tests, the elite
climbers performed significantly better than the recreational climbers and non-climbers.
Regression procedures (i.e.
analysis of covariance) were used to examine the influence of body mass and
length. Using adjusted means (i.e. for body mass and leg length), significant
differences were obtained for the following: (1) finger strength, grip 1, four
fingers (right hand) (elite 447 +/- 30 N; recreational 359 +/- 29 N; non-climbers
309 +/- 30 N), (2) grip strength (left hand) (elite 526 +/- 21 N; recreational
445 +/- 21 N; non-climbers 440 +/- 21 N), (3) pincer strength (right hand) (elite
95 +/- 5 N; recreational 69 +/- 5 N; non-climbers 70 +/- 5 N) and (4) leg span
(elite 139 +/- 4 cm; recreational 122 +/- 4 cm; non-climbers 124 +/- 4 cm).
For tests 3 and 4, the
elite climbers performed significantly better than the recreational climbers
and non-climbers for any variable. These results demonstrate that elite climbers
have greater shoulder girdle endurance, finger strength and hip flexibility
than recreational climbers and non-climbers.
CONCLUSIONS: Those who aspire
to lead 'E1' standard climbs or above should consider training programmes to
enhance their finger strength, shoulder girdle strength and endurance, and hip