Influence of climbing style on physiological responses during indoor rock climbing on routes with the same difficulty


de Geus, B.; Villanueva O'Driscoll, Sán.; Meeusen, R.

European Journal of Applied Physiology 98(5): 489-496

2006


The objectives of this study were to (1) continuously assess oxygen uptake and heart rate; (2) quantify the extent to which maximal whole-body cardiorespiratory capacity is utilized during climbing on four routes with the same difficulty but different steepness and/or displacement. Fifteen expert climbers underwent a maximal graded exercise test (MT), on a treadmill, in order to assess their maximal physiological capacity. After MT, four sport routes, equal in difficulty rating but different in steepness and/or displacement, were climbed. Oxygen uptake and heart rate were continuously measured. Respiratory exchange ratio (RER) was calculated. Blood lactate concentration and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were taken before and directly after climbing. Data were expressed as peak values (HRpeak, VO(2)peak and RERpeak) and as averages over the entire climb (HRavg, VO(2)avg and RERavg). During climbing, higher HRpeak and HRavg were found in routes with a vertical upward displacement in comparison to traversing routes with a horizontal displacement. The average absolute and relative oxygen uptake was significantly lower in the traversing route in comparison with the three other routes. The traverse is done at a lower percent of the running maximum. Comparing four routes with the same difficulty but different steepness and/or displacement shows that (1) routes with an upward displacement causes the highest peak and average heart rate; (2) routes with a vertical displacement on overhanging wall is physiologically the most demanding; (3) the traverse is physiologically the less demanding.

Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
DOI
10.1007/s00421-006-0287-5
ORIGINAL
ARTICLE
Influence
of
climbing
style
on
physiological
responses
during
indoor
rock
climbing
on
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
Bas
de
Geus
Sean
Villanueva
O'Driscoll
Romain
Meeusen
Accepted:
28
July
2006
/
Published
online:
21
September
2006
©
Springer-Verlag
2006
Abstract
The
objectives
of
this
study
were
to
(1)
con-
tinuously
assess
oxygen
uptake
and
heart
rate;
(2)
quantify
the
extent
to
which
maximal
whole-body
car-
diorespiratory
capacity
is
utilized
during
climbing
on
four
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
but
different
steep-
ness
and/or
displacement.
Fifteen
expert
climbers
underwent
a
maximal
graded
exercise
test
(MT),
on
a
treadmill,
in
order
to
assess
their
maximal
physiologi-
cal
capacity.
After
MT,
four
sport
routes,
equal
in
diffi-
culty
rating
but
different
in
steepness
and/or
displacement,
were
climbed.
Oxygen
uptake
and
heart
rate
were
continuously
measured.
Respiratory
exchange
ratio
(RER)
was
calculated.
Blood
lactate
concentration
and
rating
of
perceived
exertion
(RPE)
were
taken
before
and
directly
after
climbing.
Data
were
expressed
as
peak
values
(HRpeak,
VO
2
peak
and
RERpeak)
and
as
averages
over
the
entire
climb
(HRavg,
VO
2
avg
and
RERavg).
During
climbing,
higher
HRpeak
and
HRavg
were
found
in
routes
with
a
vertical
upward
displacement
in
comparison
to
tra-
versing
routes
with
a
horizontal
displacement.
The
average
absolute
and
relative
oxygen
uptake
was
sig-
nificantly
lower
in
the
traversing
route
in
comparison
with
the
three
other
routes.
The
traverse
is
done
at
a
lower
percent
of
the
running
maximum.
Comparing
four
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
but
different
steep-
ness
and/or
displacement
shows
that
(1)
routes
with
an
upward
displacement
causes
the
highest
peak
and
aver-
age
heart
rate;
(2)
routes
with
a
vertical
displacement
B.
de
Geus
S.
Villanueva
O'Driscoll
R.
Meeusen
(21)
Faculteit
LK,
Dept.
Human
Physiology
and
Sports
Medicine,
Vrije
Universiteit
Brussel,
Pleinlaan
2,
1050
Brussels,
Belgium
e-mail:
on
overhanging
wall
is
physiologically
the
most
demanding;
(3)
the
traverse
is
physiologically
the
less
demanding.
Keywords
Steepness
Displacement
Heart
rate
Oxygen
uptake
Treadmill
Introduction
Rock
climbing
is
a
sport
with
a
rapid
growth
in
popularity
over
the
last
decades
both
as
a
recreational
physical
activ-
ity
and
as
an
international
competitive
sport
(Mermier
et
al.
1997;
Morgan
1998;
Sheel
2004).
Sport
climbing
is
the
branch
of
climbing
in
which
the
element
of
danger
is
reduced
by
pre-placing
protection
points
in
the
rock
or
indoor
wall.
Because
the
danger
element
is
largely
removed,
the
physical
difficulty
can
be
high,
which
allows
a
wide
range
of
climbing
styles
and
intensities.
The
recent
surge
of
interest
in
rock
climbing
has
generated
questions
regarding
how
to
maximize
climb-
ing
performance
through
the
design
of
specific
physical
training
and
conditioning
plans
(Watts
et
al.
2000).
Knowledge
of
the
metabolic
and
cardiovascular
responses
in
rock
climbing
is
useful
to
prescribe
exer-
cise,
give
guidelines
and
evaluate
training
methods.
Energy
expenditure
rate
is
of
value
in
the
design
of
climbing-specific
physical
training
programs
and
for
establishing
training
volumes.
The
contribution
of
the
physiological
components
may
vary
as
the
nature
and
difficulty
of
climbing
changes.
There
are
multiple
ele-
ments,
which
play
a
role
in
the
difficulty
of
a
climbing
route
such
as
the
size
of
hand
and
foot
holds,
distance
between
holds,
the
steepness
of
the
terrain
and
the
dis-
placement
(Sheel
2004).
it
Springer
490
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
Previous
studies
(Mermier
et
al.
1997;
Watts
and
Drobish
1998;
Sheel
et
al.
2003)
in
indoor
rock
climbing
investigated
the
effect
of
an
increasing
difficulty
on
physiological
responses.
Mermier
et
al.
(1997)
and
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998)
combined
a
higher
difficulty
of
climbing
with
climbing
on
steeper,
more
overhanging
terrain.
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998)
worked
with
a
fixed
route,
set
at
different
angles
of
steepness.
Mermier
et
al.
(1997)
increased
the
difficulty
by
setting
climbs
on
walls
with
steeper
angles
and
with
smaller
and
fewer
hand-
holds
and
footholds.
Their
results
showed
that
while
the
heart
rate
increased
with
climbing
angle
(increasing
difficulty),
V0
2
did
not
vary
significantly.
Sheel
et
al.
(2003)
used
two
climbing
routes
that
were
rated
as
"harder"
or
"easier"
based
on
the
climbers'
previous
best
climb.
The
angle
of
the
wall
was
consistent
for
each
climb;
only
the
positioning
and
size
of
the
holds
altered
the
difficulty
of
the
climb.
Sheel
et
al.
(2003)
showed
that
heart
rate
and
oxygen
consumption
were
signifi-
cantly
higher
during
harder
climbing,
compared
to
eas-
ier
climbing.
However,
these
three
authors
concluded
that
climbing
seems
to
cause
a
disproportional
rise
in
heart
rate
compared
with
oxygen
consumption
and
that
the
traditional
HR—V0
2
relationship
should
not
be
used
in
the
analysis
of
this
sport
or
for
prescribing
exercise
intensity
for
climbing
activities.
In
order
to
maximize
the
climbing
performance
and
to
prescribe
training
programmes,
the
physiological
demand
of
climbing
should
be
well
known.
As
a
conse-
quence,
the
physiological
nature
of
climbing
and
differ-
ent
climbing
styles
should
be
studied
on
different
routes,
during
a
whole
climb
and
not
only
at
the
end
of
a
route.
As
mentioned
above,
not
only
the
steepness
but
also
the
displacement
will
have
an
influence
during
climbing.
Vertical
and
overhanging
walls
represent
two
specific
situations,
associated
with
specific
postural
constraints
(Noe
et
al.
2001).
The
objective
in
this
study
was
to
assess
if
climbing
routes,
different
in
steepness
and/or
displacement,
but
not
in
difficulty,
would
affect
the
physiological
responses.
In
the
light
of
this
objective
the
same
expert
climbers
all
climbed
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
rating,
but
differ-
ent
in
steepness
and/or
displacement.
We
hypothesized
that
climbing
a
'traverse'
is
physiologically
less
demand-
ing
and
that
climbing
would
require
utilization
of
a
sig-
nificant
fraction
of
maximal
values
obtained
during
a
graded
exercise
test
to
exhaustion
on
treadmill.
Materials
and
methods
Fifteen
male
(21.4
±
4.3
years)
sport
climbers
with
the
ability
to
regularly
climb
without
preview
(on
sight,
a-vue)
with
the
range
of
7b-8a,
according
to
the
French
grad-
ing
system,
volunteered
to
participate
in
the
study.
Climbers
who
had
no
competitive
climbing
experience
in
the
last
year
prior
to
the
start
of
the
study
and/or
who
were
not
able
to
regularly
climb
a
7b
without
pre-
view
were
excluded
from
the
study.
All
participants
read
and
signed
an
informed
consent
statement,
prior
to
the
start
of
the
study.
The
study
protocol
was
approved
by
the
ethical
committee
of
the
Vrije
Univer-
siteit
Brussel.
The
physical
characteristics
and
climbing
level
of
the
participants
are
listed
in
Tables
1
and
2,
respectively.
Prior
to
participation,
all
participants
underwent
a
medical
examination
in
the
medical
department
of
our
laboratory.
Body
weight
and
body
composition
were
assessed
with
a
Tanita
Body
Composition
Analyser
(TBF
300,
Japan).
During
the
same
day
a
maximal
exercise
test
was
performed
on
a
treadmill
(Woodway
®
GmbH,
Ergo
ELG
55,
Weil
am
Rhein,
Germany)
in
order
to
measure
their
maximal
physiological
perfor-
mance.
At
least
1
week
after
the
maximal
exercise
test
in
the
laboratory,
the
climbers
had
to
come
twice
to
the
Table
1
Characteristics
and
baseline
data
of
the
15
subjects
Age
(years)
21.4
±
4.3
Height
(cm)
176.1
±
4.2
Weight
(kg)
64.1
±
7.9
BMI
20.7
±
2.1
Fat%
6.7
±
2.4
Fat
mass
(kg)
4.5
±
1.9
Free
fat
mass
(kg)
60.8
±
4.9
Experience
(years)
9.4
±
3.6
Training
(h
week
-1
)
13
+
4
Values
are
means
±
SD
Table
2
Climbing
level
of
the
participants
for
indoor
and
out-
door
(rock),
'on
sight'
(a-vue)
and
`redpoint'
(apres
travail)
in
overhanging
and
vertical
walls,
according
to
the
French
quoting
system
Modus
Median
Indoor
On
sight
Overhanging
wall
7c
(33%)
7c
Vertical
wall
7b
(47%)
7b
Redpoint
Overhanging
wall
8a
(40%)
8a
Vertical
wall
7c
(40%)
7c
Outdoor
On
sight
Overhanging
wall
7b,
7b
+,
8a
(27%)
7b
+
Vertical
wall
7b
(40%)
7b
+
Redpoint
Overhanging
wall
8a
(46%)
8a
Vertical
wall
8a
(33%)
8a
it
Springer
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
491
climbing
gym,
with
at
least
1
week
in
between.
On
each
day
the
climbers
had
to
climb
two
different
routes.
Between
the
two
climbs,
they
had
to
rest
30
min,
in
order
to
let
their
heart
rate
return
to
resting
heart
rate.
Subjects
were
asked
not
to
be
involved
in
any
physical
activity
the
day
prior
to
the
testing
days.
Maximal
exercise
test
Maximal
physical
performance
was
determined
by
a
maximal
graded
exercise
test
on
a
treadmill
with
a
starting
speed
of
5.4
km
11
-1
.
The
running
speed
was
increased
every
3
min
by
1.8
km
11
-1
.
The
participants
were
encouraged
to
exert
themselves
until
volitional
exhaustion.
The
decision
to
stop
was
based
on
signals
of
extreme
fatigue
and
was
confirmed
by
a
heart
rate
that
approximated
the
theoretical
maximal
heart
rate
(220-age).
Oxygen
uptake
(V0
2
),
carbon
dioxide
production
(CO
2
)
and
minute
ventilation
(VE)
were
measured
throughout
the
test
using
a
portable
cardiopulmonary
indirect
breath-by-breath
calorimetry
system
(Meta-
Max
®
3B,
Cortex
Biophysik,
Germany).
The
Meta-
Max
®
was
fixed
onto
a
chest
harness
worn
by
the
participant.
A
flexible
facemask
(Cortex
Adult
Face
Mask)
covered
the
subject's
mouth
and
nose.
Before
each
test,
gas
and
volume
calibration
took
place
with
a
31
syringe,
according
to
the
manufacturer's
guidelines.
The
oxygen
analyser
was
calibrated
with
known
gas
mixtures
of
18%
0
2
and
5%
CO
2
.
The
room
air
cali-
bration
was
automatically
run
before
each
test
to
update
the
CO
2
analyser
baseline
and
the
0
2
analyser
gain
so
that
they
coincided
with
atmospheric
values.
Data
were
averaged
using
a
moving
average
over
seven
breaths
(Robergs
and
Burnett
2003).
VO
2
peak
was
defined
as
the
highest
VO
2
attained
during
MT
over
a
time
interval
of
30
s
(Wasserman
et
al.
1999).
Respira-
tory
exchange
ratio
(RER)
was
calculated
by
dividing
the
measured
CO
2
by
the
measured
0
2
.
Heart
rate
was
recorded
through
the
MetaMax
®
via
a
Polar
®
X-
Trainer
Plus
(Polar
Electro
OY,
Kempele,
Finland)
measurement
system.
Maximal
heart
rate
(HRmax)
was
defined
as
the
highest
heart
rate
attained
during
the
test.
In
order
to
measure
the
lactate
concentration
blood
samples
(20
µI)
were
drawn
from
an
arterialized
ear
lobe,
before
the
start
of
the
maximal
exercise
test
and
at
the
point
of
exhaustion.
Lactate
concentrations
were
determined
enzymatically
(EKF,
BIOSEN
5030,
Magdeburg,
Germany).
Participants
were
also
requested
to
state
their
rate
of
perceived
exertion
(RPE)
according
to
Borg
scale
(Borg
1962)
of
6-20
before
and
at
the
end
of
the
test.
Climbing
test
Climbing
tests
consisted
of
four
sport
routes
carried
out
on
two
separate
occasions
(two
routes
per
test
day)
on
an
artificial
wall
in
a
climbing
gym,
with
at
least
one
rest
week
between
the
first
and
second
test
day.
The
order
of
the
routes
was
randomly
attributed.
Prior
to
the
testing
days
subjects
were
asked
to
'work
out
the
moves'
on
the
testing
routes.
Four
tries
per
route
were
granted.
The
four
testing
routes
were
equal
in
difficulty
rating
(7c)
but
different
in
steepness
and/or
displacement.
A
professional
route
builder
constructed
the
testing
routes.
Every
route
had,
from
the
start
to
the
end,
the
same
difficulty,
meaning
that
easy
resting
spots
or
boul-
der
passages
were
minimized.
Six
independent
climb-
ers
who
did
not
participate
in
the
study
assessed
the
difficulty
of
the
routes.
The
evaluation
procedure
was
carried
out
so
that
the
six
climbers
did
not
influence
each
other.
If
necessary,
the
route
was
changed
to
obtain
four
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
rate.
Route
OR
was
a
climbing
route
with
a
vertical
displacement
on
an
overhanging
wall.
Route
VR
had
a
vertical
dis-
placement
on
a
vertical
wall.
Route
OT
was
an
almost
horizontal
overhanging
roof
with
horizontal
displace-
ment
(roof).
Route
VT
had
a
vertical displacement
on
a
vertical
wall
(traverse).
The
characteristics
and
sche-
matic
overview
of
the
four
routes
are
listed
in
Table
3
and
Fig.
1,
respectively.
Arrangements
were
made
with
the
climbing
gym
staff
to
refrain
from
moving
any
holds
on
the
four
routes
until
the
end
of
the
study.
On
the
day
of
testing
all
subjects
reported
to
the
climbing
gym
with
their
own
climbing
harness,
shoes
and
chalk
bag
and
refrained
from
exercising
at
least
12
h
before
testing,
and
eating
at
least
2
h
before
testing.
We
Table
3
Characteristics
of
the
four
sport
routes
Route
Difficulty
rating
Gradient
Length
(m)
Number
of
moves
Course
OR:
vertical
displacement
on
overhanging
wall
7c
120°-135°
17
33
C
VR:
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall
7c
90°
15.5
26
C
OT:
horizontal
displacement
on
horizontal
7c
135°-180°
16
26
->
Noverhanging
roof
VT:
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall
(traverse)
7c
90°
13
29
—>
it
Springer
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
00
a)
0
0
0
0
0 0
00
0
0
0
0
0
Route
1
4J
lt
Root.:
3
otitu
4
492
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
Fig.
1
Schematic
course
of
the
four
climbing
routes
on
a
three
dimensional
sketch
of
the
climbing
gym
did
not
dictate
the
speed
at
which
climbers
had
to
com-
plete
the
routes
as
we
wished
to
quantify
the
physiologi-
cal
response
to
climbing
in
a
"field"
setting.
Climbers
were
encouraged
to
climb
continuously
and
pauses
for
rest
were
not
to
last
longer
than
5
s
and
only
used
in
order
to
put
chalk
on
their
hands.
They
all
followed
the
same
warm
up
with
10
min
rest
between
the
three
warm
up
routes
(rating:
6a,
6b+,
7a).
They
had
to
rest
30
min
between
the
last
warm
up
route
(7a)
and
the
first
testing
route
and
another
30
min
between
the
first
and
the
sec-
ond
testing
route.
The
time
spent
on
each
testing
route
was
measured
from
the
moment
the
subject
had
the
first
grip
in
his
hand
until
he
finished
the
route.
If
a
fall
occurred
during
climbing,
the
subject
was
instructed
to
immediately
remount
the
climbing
wall
and
continue
climbing.
Top
ropes
were
used
for
safety
reasons;
how-
ever,
subjects
climbed
without
aid
from
any
rope
tension
and
resting
on
the
rope
was
not
allowed.
Only
two
falls
were
allowed
per
testing
route.
If
a
third
fall
occurred,
then
the
test
was
immediately
terminated
and
the
sub-
ject
had
to
try
later
on
after
a
rest
period
of
30
min.
Resting
heart
rate
was
determined
when
arriving
in
the
climbing
gym.
Heart
rate
and
gas
exchange
were
continuously
measured
with
the
same
equipment
as
used
during
the
maximal
exercise
test.
Volume
and
gas
calibration
were
conducted
in
the
same
way
as
described
above.
Before
each
individual
test,
an
ambi-
ent
air
measurement
was
performed
according
to
the
manufacturer's
prescriptions.
Before
averaging,
data
were
inspected
for
non-physiological
values
that
can
occur
with
breath-by-breath
data
collection.
Data
col-
lection
and
averaging
started
when
the
subject
left
the
ground
and
ended
when
the
end
of
the
route
was
reached.
By
dividing
VO
2
peak
by
the
VO
2
measured
during
the
climbing
tests,
the
relative
oxygen
consump-
tion
(%
V0
2
)
was
calculated.
The
same
method
was
used
for
calculating
the
%HR,
%RER,
%Lct
and
%RPE
(Spelman
et
al.
1993).
Five
blood
samples
were
taken
in
the
ear
lobe
in
order
to
determine
the
blood
lactate
concentration.
The
first
one
was
taken
before
warming
up
and
the
other
four
before
and
directly
after
the
two
testing
routes,
as
soon
as
the
climber
reached
the
ground.
Blood
samples
were
stored
in
a
cooling
box
and
analysed
the
same
day
and
with
the
same
equipment.
RPE
was
asked
before
and
after
each
testing
route.
Statistical
analysis
Data
analysis
was
carried
out
using
the
Statistical
Pack-
age
for
the
Social
Sciences
(SPSS,
13.0,
Inc.,
Chicago,
IL,
USA).
The
one-sample
Kolmogorov—Smirnov
goodness
of
fit
test
was
used
to
test
whether
the
outcome
variables
had
a
normal
distribution.
Results
showed
that
the
dis-
tribution
was
normal.
The
values
were
averaged
among
the
subjects
to
obtain
group
means
SD).
Repeated
measures
ANOVA
for
parametric
data
was
used
to
test
for
differences
between
climbing
routes.
When
significant
F
ratios
were
found
(P
<
0.05),
paired
sample
t
tests
with
Bonferroni
correction
were
carried
out
to
indicate
between
which
routes
differences
existed.
For
the
RPE
a
Friedman
test
for
non-paramet-
ric
data
was
used
to
test
for
differences
between
the
four
climbing
routes.
To
calculate
the
relative
intensity,
a
percent
differ-
ence
was
calculated
between
the
individual
values
measured
during
their
maximal
exercise
test
and
the
peak
values
and
mean
values
measured
during
the
climbing.
Results
The
results
of
the
maximal
exercise
test
on
the
tread-
mill
are
presented
in
Table
4.
Springer
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
493
Table
4
Results
of
the
maximal
exercise
test
on
treadmill
HRmax
(beats
min
-1
)
192
+
13
VO
2
max
(1
min
-1
)
3.321
±
0.510
VO
2
max
kg
-1
(ml
kg
-1
min
-1
)
52.20
±
5.06
VE
(1
min
-1
)
123.9
±
21.1
RERmax
1.16
+
0.13
Lactate
(mmol
1
-1
)
10.27
±
2.10
RPE
18
+
1
Values
are
means
±
SD
Table
5
shows
the
time,
speed
and
the
peak
heart
rate,
oxygen
uptake,
RER,
lactate
and
RPE
measured
during
the
climbing
routes.
The
HRpeak
measured
during
VT
(traverse)
was
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
lower
than
during
OR
and
VR.
The
highest
RER
val-
ues
measured
during
OT
was
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
higher
than
the
RER
values
measured
during
VT.
Lac-
tate
concentrations
measured
at
the
end
of
OR
were
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
higher
than
at
the
end
of
VT.
No
statistical
difference
could
be
found
among
the
four
climbing
routes
for
the
peak
V0
2
,
VO
2
kg
-1
and
RPE.
Climbers
spent
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
more
time
on
route
VR
in
comparison
with
route
OR
and
VT
and
climbed
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
faster
in
routes
OR
and
OT
in
comparison
with
routes
VR
and
VT.
The
climbers
indicated
to
be
equally
fatigued
after
having
climbed
the
four
routes.
The
average
heart
rate,
oxygen
uptake,
RER
and
energy
expenditure
are
listed
in
Table
6.
The
results
indicate
that
the
HRavg
was
significantly
(P
<
0.0083)
higher
in
the
routes
with
a
vertical
upward
displace-
ment
(OR
and
VR),
compared
to
traversing
routes
with
horizontal
displacement
(OT
and
VT).
The
abso-
lute
(VO
2
avg)
and
relative
(V0
2
kg
-l
avg)
oxygen
uptake
capacity
for
VT
was
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
lower
than
in
the
three
other
routes.
No
statistical
difference
could
be
found
between
the
four
routes
for
RERavg
values.
The
relative
intensity
of
climbing
is
shown
in
Table
7.
The
average
absolute
and
relative
%
V0
2
val-
ues
measured
during
traverse
(VT)
were
attained
at
a
significantly
(P
<
0.016)
lower
percentage
of
the
maxi-
mal
values
measured
during
the
treadmill
test
in
com-
parison
with
the
three
other
routes.
The
average
%HR
measured
during
the
routes
with
vertical
displacement
(OR
and
VR)
is
a
significantly
(P
<
0.0083)
higher
per-
centage
of
the
maximal
values
measured
during
the
treadmill
test
in
comparison
with
the
routes
with
Table
5
Time,
speed,
peak
heart
rate
(HR),
peak
oxygen
consumption
(V0
2
),
lactate
(Lct)
and
RPE
values
measured
in
the
four
climb-
ing
routes
Route
Time
(s)
Speed
(m
min
-1
)
HRpeak
(beats
min
-1
)
VO
2
peak
(1
min
-1
)
VO
2
peak
(ml
kg
-1
min
-1
)
RERpeak
Lct
(mmol
1
-1
)
RPE
OR
189
+
25
bb
5.5
±
0.7
175.1
±
13.9
2.602
+
0.429
41.62
+
4.19
1.15
+
0.17
6.19±
1.61
16.7
+
2.3
VR
244
+
38
3.9
+
0.6a
173.8
+
8.8
2.716
+
0.547
44.10
+
5.82
1.12
+
0.13 5.95
+
1.80
14.7
+
2.6
OT
190
+
68
5.6
+
1.8
1673
+
9.9
2.575
+
0.417
40.50
+
4.36
1.12
+
0.09
5.55
+
1.66
15.9
+
2.0
VT
195
±
47
bb
4.2
±
1.0
aa
'
c
164.5
±
10.5aa'
b
2.451
±
0.333
39.14
±
5.38
1.01
±
0.12'
4.84
±
1.30
aa
15.0
±
2.3
Mean
202
±
51
4.4
+
1.4
170.0
+
11.7
2.576
+
0.429
41.34
+
4.90
1.10
+
0.13
5.63
+
1.59
15.5
+
2.3
Values
are
means
±
SD
OR
vertical
displacement
on
overhanging
wall,
VR
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall,
OT
horizontal
overhanging
roof
with
horizon-
tal
displacement
(roof),
VT
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall
(traverse),
Mean
mean
value
of
the
four
routes
a
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
OR;
b
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
VR;
C
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
OT;
d
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
VT
aa
P
<
0.016
vs
route
OR;
bb
P
<
0.016
vs
route
VR;
'
P
<
0.016
vs
route
OT;
dd
P
<
0.016
vs
route
VT
Table
6
Average
heart
rate
(HR),
oxygen
consumption
(V0
2
)
and
respiratory
exchange
ratio
(RER)
values
measured
in
the
four
climbing
routes
Route
HRavg
(beats
min
-1
)
VO
2
avg
(1
min
-1
)
VO
2
kg
-l
avg
(ml
kg
-1
min
-1
)
RERavg
OR
168.7
±
8.0
2.24
±
0.38
35.9
±
3.2
1.11
±
0.12
VR
167.5
±
9.5
2.19
±
0.40
35.9
±
3.6
1.05
±
0.10
OT
160.3
±
8.8
a
'
b
2.18
±
0.35
34.9
±
3.1
1.02
±
0.08
VT
161.8
±
8.4
a
'
b
1.98
±
0.28
a
'
bb
'
ec
32.0
±
3.8
aa
'
bb
'
ec
1.00
±
0.07
Mean
164.6
±
8.7
2.14
±
0.36
34.7
±
3.4
1.04
±
0.10
Values
are
means
±
SD
OR
vertical
displacement
on
overhanging
wall,
VR
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall,
0T
horizontal
overhanging
roof
with
horizon-
tal
displacement
(roof),
VT
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall
(traverse),
Mean
mean
value
of
the
four
routes
a
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
OR;
b
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
VR;
C
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
OT;
d
P
<
0.0083
vs
route
VT
aa
P
<
0.016
vs
route
OR;
bb
P
<
0.016
vs
route
VR;
'
P
<
0.016
vs
route
OT;
dd
P
<
0.016
vs
route
VT
it
Springer
494
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
Table
7
Physiological
parameters
expressed
as
percent
of
running
maximum
Peak
Average
%HR
%V0
2
%
VO
2
kg
-1
%RER
%Lct
%RPE
%HR
%V0
2
%V0
2
kg
-1
OR
91.2
+
5.5
81.4
+
10.2
81.1
+
9.9
98.5
+
10.9
63.0
+
19.1
97.0
+
12.7
88.2
+
7.1
70.3
±
8.0
69.6
±
7.3
VR
91.4
+
9.8
84.7
+
13.6
83.9
+
12.4
96.8
+
7.9
61.4
+
21.4
87.7
+
16.0
88.0
+
9.4
69.1
±
10.8
68.0
±
10.6
OT
88.0
+
7.4
78.0
+
11.4
77.7
+
11.6
97.8
+
8.7
53.4
+
10.4
89.2
+
13.3
83.9
+
7.5°'
67.2
±
9.3
65.9
±
9.9
VT
86.2
+
7.7
75.4
+
12.8
75.5
+
13.1
88.5
+
12.9
48.9
+
13.7
87.8
+
19.2
84.9
+
7.6°'
61.5
±
9.1
88
'
bb
'ec
60.8
±
9.8
88
'
bb
Mean
88.8
+
6.3
79.3
+
10.9
79.0
+
10.8
94.5
+
8.6
56.9
+
12.0
91.0
+
12.6
85.8
+
7.1
66.9
±
8.6
66.1
±
8.7
Values
are
means
±
SD
OR
vertical
displacement
on
overhanging
wall,
VR
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall,
0
T
horizontal
overhanging
roof
with
horizon-
tal
displacement
(roof),
VT
vertical
displacement
on
vertical
wall
(traverse),
Mean
mean
value
of
the
four
routes
a
P
<
0.05
vs
route
OR;
b
P
<
0.05
vs
route
VR;
C
P
<
0.05
vs
route
OT;
d
P
<
0.05
vs
route
VT
as
P
<
0.05
vs
route
OR;
bb
P
<
0.05
vs
route
VR;
'
P
<
0.05
vs
route
OT;
dd
P
<
0.05
vs
route
VT
horizontal
displacement
(OT
and
VT).
No
statistical
difference
could
be
found
for
the
peak
%
V0
2
,
%V0
2
kg
-
',
%RER
and
%RPE
between
the
four
routes.
Discussion
To
our
knowledge,
it
is
the
first
time
that
the
physio-
logical
responses
were
continuously
measured
on
four
climbing
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
rating,
but
different
in
displacement
and/or
steepness.
Given
the
climbing
level
of
the
climbers,
the
number
of
years
of
climbing
experience
and
the
similarity
with
subjects
in
previous
studies
(Mermier
et
al.
1997;
Watts
et
al.
2000;
Sheel
et
al.
2003)
we
can
state
that
this
sam-
ple
is
a
good
representation
of
expert
rock
climbers.
Looking
at
the
climbers'
previous
best
climb,
we
can
conclude
that
the
tests
were
carried
out
on
routes
that
were
near
to
their
maximal
performance.
The
VO
2
peak
of
our
sample
(52
±
5
ml
kg
-1-
min
-1-
)
is
similar
to
values
reported
in
previous
studies,
where
climbers
had
approximately
the
same
level
(7b):
55
±
5
ml
kg
-1-
min
-1-
(Billat
et
al.
1995),
55
±
4
ml
kg
-1-
min
-1-
(Wilkins
et
al.
1996),
51
±
7
ml
kg
-1-
min
-1-
(Watts
and
Drobish
1998).
Route
ascent
times
of
competition
style
routes
typi-
cally
range
from
2
to
7
min
(Watts
2004).
The
mean
climbing
time
was
3
min
and
22
s
and
the
climbers
spent
significantly
more
time
on
the
vertical
route
with
vertical
displacement
(VR)
in
comparison
with
the
tra-
verse
(VT)
and
the
vertical
displacement
on
overhang-
ing
wall
(OR).
We
found
significantly
faster
climbing
speeds
in
overhanging
routes
(OR
and
OT)
in
compar-
ison
with
the
routes
on
vertical
wall.
Watts
and
Dro-
bish
(1998)
examined
the
physiological
responses
to
climbing
at
different
angles.
Because
their
study
was
carried
out
with
a
climbing
treadmill
on
which
climbing
holds
were
not
changed,
difficulty
increased
with
steeper
angles.
They
found
that
subjects
climbed
slower
with
steeper
angles
and
therefore
on
walls
with
increasing
difficulty.
In
our
study
a
significantly
higher
peak
and
average
heart
rate
was
found
in
routes
with
a
vertical
upward
displacement
(OR
and
VR)
in
comparison
to
travers-
ing
routes
with
a
horizontal
displacement
(OT
and
VT),
although
there
was
no
significant
difference
between
OT
and
OR
for
the
peak
heart
rate.
This
could
be
the
result
of
the
average
movement
vector
for
the
climber's
centre
of
mass
(COM)
relative
to
gravity.
During
vertical
climbing,
the
COM
is
moving
directly
in
opposition
to
the
line
of
gravity,
whereas
during
tra-
verse
climbing
the
COM
is
moving
perpendicular
to
the
line
of
gravity.
Another
explanation
could
be
the
position
of
the
hands.
Astrand
et
al.
(1968)
had
earlier
found
that
the
HR
is
higher
in
activities
in
which
the
arms
perform
effort
above
the
heart.
During
ascending
routes,
it
is
more
likely
that
the
arms
are
extended
above
the
level
of
the
heart.
Lower
HR
in
the
almost
horizontal
overhanging
route
(OT)
could
be
a
result
of
the
horizontal
position
of
the
body
(Hauber
et
al.
1997).
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998)
and
Mermier
et
al.
(1997)
found
that
the
highest
HR
value,
observed
during
the
last
20
s
and
final
minute,
respectively,
increased
with
increasing
angle
and
by
this
mean
with
increasing
diffi-
culty.
It
seems
unlikely
that
HR
differences
are
due
to
psy-
chological
fear
of
heights
because
of
the
experience
of
the
climbers,
the
use
of
safety
ropes
and
the
fact
that
they
had
worked
out
the
routes
before
the
test.
The
values
for
VO
2
avg
and
VO
2
kg
-l
avg
were
sig-
nificantly
lower
in
the
traversing
route
(VT)
in
compar-
ison
with
the
three
other
routes.
We
found
no
significant
differences
for
VO
2
peak
and
VO
2
kg
-
'peak
between
the
four
routes.
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998),
Mermier
et
al.
(1997)
and
Billat
et
al.
(1995)
found
a
it
Springer
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
495
modest
increase
in
peak
VO
2
values
with
increasing
climbing
angle
and
increasing
difficulty.
The
increase
was
only
significantly
different
between
the
easy
90°
vertical
wall
and
the
difficult
horizontal
overhang
(151°)
(Mermier
et
al.
1997).
As
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998)
suggested,
this
could
be
due
to
the
fact
that
the
arm-specific
peak
VO
2
was
attained,
taking
into
consid-
eration
that
the
upper
body
is
the
primary
contributor
to
work
during
climbing.
Lactate
values
appeared
to
be
influenced
by
the
difficulty
of
the
climbing
and
the
style
of
climbing.
In
our
study,
the
lactate
concentration
was
lower
in
the
traversing
route
in
comparison
with
the
three
other
routes,
although
only
significantly
with
OR.
In
the
study
of
Watts
and
Drobish
(1998)
the
blood
lactate
did
not
begin
to
increase
until
the
angle
became
over-
hanging
and
increased
slightly
at
each
angle
above
90°
relative
to
vertical.
In
the
study
of
Mermier
et
al.
(1997)
blood
lactate
increased
with
increasing
angle.
When
comparing
the
intensity
of
climbing
with
a
maximal
test
on
a
treadmill,
it
was
found
that
climbing
a
7c
route,
according
to
the
French
grading
system,
was
performed
at
a
relative
peak
heart
rate
of
86-91%
and
a
relative
average
heart
rate
of
84-88%
of
the
maximal
heart
rate
measured
during
the
treadmill
test.
These
results
are
in
accordance
with
the
findings
of
Billat
et
al.
(1995).
The
relative
average
heart
rate
of
the
two
upward
going
routes
(OR
and
VR)
was
significantly
higher
than
the
relative
average
heart
rate
of
the
two
traversing
routes
(OT
and
VT).
This
means
the
relative
heart
rate
is
dependent
on
the
displacement
and
on
the
difficulty
of
the
climbing
(Sheel
et
al.
2003).
The
same
calculations
were
done
for
the
V0
2
.
In
our
study,
the
peak
VO
2
was
attained
between
75
and
85%
of
running
VO
2
peak
and
the
average
VO
2
was
attained
between
62
and
70%
of
running
VO
2
peak.
The
abso-
lute
and
relative
average
%
V0
2
measured
during
the
traverse
was
significantly
lower
in
comparison
with
the
three
other
routes.
In
the
study
of
Sheel
et
al.
(2003)
subjects
climbed
at
51
and
45%
of
cycling
maximum,
depending
on
whether
they
were
climbing
a
harder
or
easier
route,
respectively.
These
findings
indicate
that
indoor
sport
climbing
requires
a
significant
contribu-
tion
of
the
aerobic
metabolism,
as
previously
men-
tioned
by
Sheel
et
al.
(2003).
Climbing
seems
to
cause
a
disproportionate
rise
in
heart
rate
compared
with
V0
2
.
As
other
authors
(Billat
et
al.
1995;
Watts
and
Drobish
1998;
Sheel
et
al.
2003)
had
mentioned,
this
could
be
caused
by
the
repetitive
isometric
contractions
of
the
forearm
musculature.
These
isometric
contractions
stimulate
the
metabore-
flex,
which
in
turn
is
responsible
for
the
dissociation
between
heart
rate
and
VO
2
(Sheel
et
al.
2003).
The
mean
lactate
concentration
measured
directly
after
the
climbing
was
only
between
49
and
63%
of
the
maximal
values
measured
during
the
maximal
exercise
test,
with
the
lowest
values
for
the
traverse,
although
there
was
no
significant
difference
between
the
four
routes.
Therefore,
we
can
conclude
that
the
relative
inten-
sity
is
influenced
by
the
climbing
style
and
by
the
diffi-
culty
of
climbing
and
that
the
traverse
was
done
at
a
significantly
lower
percent
than
the
three
other
routes.
A
potential
problem
of
this
study
was
the
fact
that
the
climbers
had
to
carry
the
portable
calorimetry
sys-
tem
of
weight
2.1
kg.
No
attempt
was
made
to
measure
if
the
extra
weight
had
any
influence
on
the
perfor-
mance.
The
choice
to
make
them
carry
the
equipment
was
made
in
order
to
be
able
to
measure
the
oxygen
uptake
capacity
from
the
beginning
of
the
climbs
to
the
end.
Conclusion
This
study
is
unique
because
it
is,
to
our
knowledge,
the
first
time
that
the
physiological
responses
were
measured
on
four
climbing
routes
with
the
same
diffi-
culty
rating,
but
different
in
displacement
and/or
steep-
ness.
On
the
other
hand,
it
is
only
the
second
time
that
the
oxygen
consumption
and
heart
rate
were
continu-
ously
measured
during
difficult
rock
climbing
with
expert
climbers,
which
allowed
us
to
calculate
the
aver-
age
values
over
a
whole
route.
In
summary,
our
results
indicate
that
climbing
on
four
routes
with
the
same
difficulty
but
different
steepness
and/or
displacement
leads
to
a
significantly
higher
peak
and
mean
heart
rate
in
routes
with
an
upward
displace-
ment.
The
route
with
a
vertical
displacement
on
over-
hanging
wall
was
physiologically
the
most
demanding.
Heart
rate,
oxygen
uptake,
RER
and
lactate
concentra-
tions
were
significantly
lower
in
traversing
routes.
These
conclusions
are
the
same
when
the
percent
difference
between
the
values
measured
during
a
maximal
test
on
a
treadmill
and
the
values
measured
during
climbing
was
calculated.
The
traverse
was
physiologically
(aerobically
and
anaerobically)
less
demanding
than
the
other
routes.
Possibly
this
is
a
result
of
the
type
of
muscle
contraction,
more
demanding
technique
and/or
better
relative
resting
positions
as
a
result
of
the
vertical
angle
of
the
wall
and
because
the
body
moved
in
a
horizontal
direction.
Acknowledgment
The
authors
wish
to
acknowledge
the
whole
team
of
Stone
Age
(Brussels,
Belgium)
for
their
aid
in
this
study.
No
benefit
in
any
form
has
been
directly
received
or
will
be
re-
ceived
from
a
commercial
party
related
directly
or
indirectly
to
the
subjects
of
this
study.
it
Springer
496
Eur
J
Appl
Physiol
(2006)
98:489-496
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