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Relationship Between Anthropometric Characteristics of Indoor Rock Climbers and Top Roped Climbing Performance

Mitchell, A, C1; Bowhay, A1; Pitts, J2

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: March 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue - p S94-95
doi: 10.1097/01.JSC.0000395728.22365.7d
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RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ANTHROPOMETRIC CHARACTERISTICS OF INDOOR ROCK CLIMBERS AND TOP ROPED CLIMBING PERFORMANCE. Andrew C.S. Mitchell, Anjuna Bowhay and Joe Pitts. Biomechanics Research Group, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. Historically, climbing was a sport dominated by males but in recent years the percentage of female climbers at indoor climbing facilities has risen to around 40%. Anthropometric comparisons between elite and recreational climbers have been carried out but few studies have compared male and female climbers and as such there is still debate as to which anthropometric factors are associated with climbing performance. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to see if a relationship existed between male and female climbers' anthropometric and physiological characteristics and performance in a top-roped climbing trial. METHODS: Human subject approval was granted by the institutional ethics committee and 10 male (age 20.7 years ± 3.0, height 176.4cm ± 8.8, mass 67.7kg ± 9.6) and 10 female (age 23.2 years ± 3.8, height 165.3cm ± 5.2, mass 56.0kg ± 5.7) UK grade 6a/US grade 5.10b advanced level sports climbers were recruited. The following anthropometric data were collected: height (cm), arm span (cm), mass (kg), BMI, then chest, axilla, triceps, subscapular, thigh, suprailliac and abdominal skin folds (mm) were measured three times using skinfold callipers. Ape index was calculated by dividing arm span by height. Dominant hand pinch, crimp and hand grip strength were measured three times using a handgrip dynamometer and grip ratios were calculated by dividing mean grip measurements by mass. Subjects then undertook three grade 6a top-roped climbs, which were timed and a mean calculated. Climbs including falls were excluded and re-tested. RESULTS: Independent samples T-tests showed that female climbers exhibited significantly greater skin fold measurements than the males at the triceps (p = 0.001), thigh (p = 0.001) and in the sum of skinfolds (p = 0.007). The females also had significantly greater estimated bodyfat% than the males (p = 0.001). Males exhibited significantly greater arm span (p = 0.001), ape index (p = 0.003), pinch grip (p = 0.002), crimp grip (p = 0.005) and hand grip (p = 0.001) compared to females. Males also exhibited significantly greater pinch grip (p = 0.03), crimp grip (p = 0.043) and hand grip ratios (p = 0.005) compared to females. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients showed a strong, negative correlation between male top-roped climb time and pinch grip (r = −.937, p = 0.001), crimp grip (r = −.795, p = 0.006) and hand grip ratios (r = -.962, p = 0.001). A strong negative correlation was also found between female top-roped climb time and pinch grip (r = −.774, p = 0.009), crimp grip (r = −.870, p = 0.001) and hand grip ratios (r = −.875, p = 0.001). No significant differences were found between male and female top-roped climb times (p>0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that despite having similar BMI, male and female climbers had dissimilar body composition, with females exhibiting greater estimated bodyfat%, triceps and thigh skinfolds and sum of skin folds. We believe that this study is the first of its kind to calculate pinch and crimp grip ratios and more research is required in this area in order to establish if these variables are associated with performance in bouldering and in more varied groups of climbers. Further research should examine strength measures for upper body pulling muscles or lower body pushing muscles that may also influence climbing performance. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Whilst some anthropometric measurements associated with climbing performance cannot be modified, variables such as pinch, crimp and hand grip ratios are trainable and grip strengthening should be included in a climbing specific resistance training programme.

1Biomechanics Research Group, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UNITED KINGDOM; and 2Kennessaw State University, Kennessaw, GA

Copyright © 2011 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.