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An Analysis on the Comprehensive Needs of a Rock Climbing Athlete

0 May 15 2016, 08:21 in Science Essays

An Analysis on the Comprehensive Needs of a Rock Climbing Athlete

Rock climbing is a sport is very diverse as it encompasses different types of activities with their own styles. The different types include sport climbing, traditional climbing, and bouldering and differ only in the styles used (Robinson, 2013, p.3). At the root of it all, rock climbing means involving both the upper and lower limbs in ascending steep environment such as large boulders, rock faces, cliffs, frozen waterfalls and entire mountains (Seifert et al., 2015).

Several biomechanics studies done on rock climbing show that it involves a simplistic situation: the removing of either a hand or a foot during ascent causes a shift in the body position of a climber which further causes a reorganization of forces (Quaine et al., 1997). The upper limbs stabilize body position through contact forces, while the lower limbs serve as support for the body weight through vertical forces (Quaine et al., 1997). As such, muscles in the shoulders, forearms (flexor carpis ulnaris, palmaris longus, flexor carpi radialis, brachioradialis), upper arms (biceps, triceps, deltoids), legs (quadriceps), calf (gastrocnemius, soleus), and back muscles (latissimus dorsi) all work together during action in rock climbing (Ackland et al., 2003). Some of the exercises that can be done which target the different muscles are calisthenics and weight training. Calisthenics such as pull ups and dips target the arms, shoulders, and back muscles. On the other hand, squats and lunges can be done to target the leg muscles (Green and Spencer-Green, 2010, p.32). Also, weight training is also important as it works the muscles from different angles, although, the use of heavy weights is not advisable. Weight training also helps in making the joints and tendons strong enough to prevent injury. Furthermore, the abdominal muscles are trained by doing crunches and leg lifts which additionally improves balance (Green and Spencer-Green, 2010, p.32).

The physiological demands of rock climbing emphasizes on the strength that can be developed with the eccentric/concentric coupling action. Mechanical tension brought about by high intensities of movement increases the rate of metabolic stress and induces muscle hypertrophy by stimulating subcellular pathway involved in protein synthesis such as the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway (Hedayatpour and Falla, 2015). According to the literature source, an increase in muscle strength can also be observed through eccentric exercises because of its preference to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers which leads to increase mechanical tension. A consequence of this is even greater force production (Hedayatpour and Falla, 2015). Another strength of the body that can be developed with rock climbing is its endurance. Climbing forces the body to maintain a high power output through several short bursts of high intensity climbing with frequent and short rests by making use of the body’s anaerobic system as the source of energy (Horst, 2010,74). Eventually, the body’s tolerance to lactic acid increases and this helps in developing body endurance. For beginners, the priority would be for them to develop strength to be able to climb and endurance to be able to stay more efficient while climbing. On the other hand, for experienced climbers, power must be developed for them to be able to produce more force with reduced time.

When conducting test protocols, names and ages must first be recorded as well as other information such as climbing experience, body height, body weight, arm span, calf circumference, and forearm circumference although there haven’t been any clear correlation with these and an individual’s capacity to partake in rock climbing. The maximal handgrip strength and endurance are assessed with the use of a dynamometer. Muscular endurance can be assessed using the bent arm hang, and pull ups (Sheel, 2004). As presented by Draper et al., the Grant foot raise and lateral foot reach can both be used together to assess flexibility measures (2011). Powerslap, a sport-specific measure of power is presented by Draper et al, includes the climber initiating an explosive pull up movement with subsequently releasing one hand to slap as high as possible on a scaled board continuously (2011, p.420).

According to the literature sources, injuries in rock climbing commonly occur in the upper extremities such as the hands and elbows because they are more sensitive to the effects of mechanical stress (Maitland, 1992). On the other hand, traumatic injuries such as falls affect the ankles and knees (Maitland, 1992). The most common hand injury types are abrasions on the hands, flexor tendon injuries, pulleys, ligament injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome among others (Jebson and Steyers, 1997). The second annular pulley injury (A2 pulley) occur when the flexor tendon pulleys that support the tendons in the finger joints rupture due to excessive stress during a cling grip (Jebson and Steyers, 1997).

Injuries can be prevented by performing warm up and cool down exercises before engaging in climbing activities. Climbing an easier route to increase the core temperature of the body is a good way of warming up. Most importantly, proper training must be followed before performing any climbing activities. To prevent tendon and ligament injuries, more time and gradual increase in intensity in training must be employed for beginners to accustom the tissue to the application of that certain amount of force. Abrasions on the hands can be prevented by using thin rubber pads or sleeves for protection (Jebson and Steyers, 1997).

Works cited:

Cha, K., Lee, E., Heo, M., Shin, K., Son, J., Kim, D. (2015). Analysis of climbing postures

and movements in sport climbing for realistic 3D climbing animations.

Procedia Engineering, 112, 52-57.

Seifert, L., Dovgalecs, V., Boulanger, J., Orth, D., Herault, R., Davids, K. (2015). Full-body

Movement pattern recognition in climbing. Sports Technology, 7, 1-8.

Draper, N., Dickson, T., Fryer, S., Ellis, G. (2011). Sport-specific power assessment for rock climbing. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 51, 417-425.

Draper, N., Brent, S., Hodgson, C., Blackwell, G. (2009). Flexibility assessment and the role of

flexibility as a determinant of performance in rock climbing. International Journal of

Performance Analysis in Sport, 9, 67-89.

Quaine, F., Martin, L., Blanchi, J. (1997). The effect of body position and number of supports

on wall reaction forces in rock climbing. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 13, 14-23.

Sheel, A.W. (2004). Physiology of sport rock climbing. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38,


Balas, J., Panackova, M., Strejcova, B., et al. (2014). The Relationship between Climbing Ability

and Physiological Responses to Rock Climbing. The Scientific World Journal, 2014,1-7.

Maitland, M. (1992). Injuries associated with rock climbing. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports

Physical Therapy, 16, 68-73.

Robinson, V. (2013). Rock Climbing: The Ultimate Guide. USA: Greenwood.

Ackland, T.R., Elliott, B.C. & Bloomfield, J. (2003). Applied Anatomy and Biomechanics in

Sport.USA: Blackwell Publishing.

Jebson, P.J.L. & Steyers, C.M. (1997). Hand Injuries in Rock Climbing: Reaching the Right

Treatment. The Physician and Sports Medicine, 25

Hedayatpour, N. and Falla, D. (2015). Physiological and Neural Adaptations to Eccentric

Exercise: Mechanisms and Considerations for Training. Biomed Research

Internation, 2015.

Horst, E. (2010). Maximum Climbing: Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal

Experience.China: Falcon Guides.

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