The maximum time an athlete is able to continue climbing to exhaustion may be the only determinant of his/her performance. A new European study, led by researchers from the University of Granada, the objective of which is to help trainers and climbers design training programmes for this type of sport, shows this to be the case.
Until now, performance indicators for climbing have been low body fat percentage and grip strength. Furthermore, existing research was based on the comparison of amateur and expert climbers. Now, a new study carried out with 16 high-level climbers breaks with this approach and reveals that the time it takes for an athlete to become exhausted is the only indicator of his/her performance.
Vanesa España Romero, the main author of the work and researcher at the University of Granada explains to SINC how “these findings could help trainers or athletes in the design of sport climbing training programmes so that Spain can continue to lead the way in this sporting activity throughout the world”.
The study, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, analyses the physiological parameters that determine performance in this sport at its highest level. The participants, eight women with an average rating of 7a (the scale of difficulty of a climbing route is graded from 5 to 9, with sub-grades of a, b and c) and eight men with an average rating of 8a, were divided into an “expert group” and an “elite group”.
The researchers assessed the climbers with body composition tests (weight, height, body mass index, body fat %, bone mineral density, and bone mineral content), kinanthropometry (length of arms, hands and fingers, bone mineral density and bone mineral content of the forearm), and physical fitness tests (flexibility, strength of the upper and lower body and aerobic capacity measured at a climbing centre).
The results show there to be no significant differences between expert and elite climbers in any of the tests performed, except in climbing time to exhaustion and in bone mineral density, both of which were higher in the elite group. “Therefore, the maximum climbing time to exhaustion of an athlete is the sole determinant of performance”, the researcher confirms.