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Climbing Research
Anthropometric profiles of elite male and female competitive sport rock climbers

Source: Journal of Sports Sciences. 11(2):113-7, 1993 Apr.
Authors: Watts PB. Martin DT. Durtschi S.
Institution: Exercise Science Laboratory, Northern Michigan University, Marquette 49855.

OBJECTIVES: Over the past few years, competitive rock climbing--for a long time a popular sport in Europe--has increased in popularity in North America. An annual international World Cup competition circuit was started in 1988 which has shown growing success and a definite elite group of athletes has emerged. 

Descriptive anthropometric profiles of elite climbers have been unavailable. In order to fill this information void, 39 world-class climbers (21 males, 18 females) were assessed immediately prior to competition at an international World Cup sport climbing championship. 

METHODS: All of the subjects tested were competition semi-finalists and, among these, seven males and six females advanced to the finals. The variables measured included age, years of climbing experience, height, body mass, height-weight ratio, sum of seven skinfolds, % body fat, fat-free mass, hand and arm volumes via plethysmography, average of right and left grip strengths, grip strength to body mass ratio (SMR), and climbing ability defined as the most difficult route climbed on lead. 

RESULTS: The results indicated that elite sport climbers are of small to moderate stature and exhibit very low % fat, moderate grip strength and high SMR when compared with other athletic groups. 

Values for the height-weight ratio and sum of seven skinfolds in the female finalists were very near those of the male finalists, which may indicate that reduction of body mass and % fat are primary adaptations in these female athletes. 

CONCLUSIONS: Climbing ability was predictable from SMR and % fat, though the R2 was low.

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