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Physiological responses to simulated rock climbing at different angles


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 1998 - Volume 30 - Issue 7 - p 1118-1122
Applied Sciences: Physical Fitness And Performance

Physiological responses to simulated rock climbing at different angles. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 7, pp. 1118-1122, 1998.

Purpose: Although rock climbing has increased in popularity as a recreational activity and competitive sport, few studies have assessed the physiological demands of the activity. To describe the physiological responses to rock climbing at different angles.

Methods: Sixteen experienced climbers (age = 26 ± 8 yr) attempted intermittent climbing bouts at different angles on a special rock climbing treadmill (Brewer's Ledge Treadwall™). Heart rate (HR) was monitored continuously, and V˙O2 was determined at 20-s intervals during each climbing bout. Immediately after each bout, the subject provided a rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and an average of right and left handgrip force (HG) was obtained. Blood was collected via fingerprick after each bout and analyzed for lactate (BL). On a separate day, each subject completed a steady-state treadmill running bout at a HR equal to that obtained at an 86° angle during the climbing test. This test was followed by a progression to exhaustion to determine peak HR and V˙O2 responses.

Results: While HR increased with climbing angle, V˙O2 did not significantly vary. BL began to significantly increase as the angle exceeded vertical (91°) and continued to increase with successive angles. HG decreased with increasing angle and was negatively correlated with BL (r = −0.96). Scores for RPE increased with steeper angles. The comparison of steady-state work at the same HR for climbing versus treadmill running revealed a higher V˙O2 during running with no differences in BL and RPE.

Conclusions: Based upon these results, it was concluded that continuous rock climbing over terrain steepness of 80° to 102° presents a "very heavy" work challenge, averaging 8.4-9.0 metabolic equivalents, regardless of angle. Despite similar RPE and BL, the relative exercise intensity elicited from simulated rock climbing is lower than that of running at the same HR.

Exercise Science Laboratory, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI 49855

Submitted for publication December 1995.

Accepted for publication January 1998.

The authors wish to acknowledge Mr. Conant Brewer, of Brewer's Ledge, Inc., for providing a Brewer's Ledge Treadwall™ for use in this study.

The authors do not hold any professional relationship with the Brewer's Ledge company or the Treadwall™ instrument. The results of the present study do not constitute, by the authors or ACSM, endorsement of the Brewer's Ledge Treadwall™.

Address correspondence to: Phillip B. Watts, Ph.D., HPER Department, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle, Marquette, MI 49855. E-mail:

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.