Energy specificity of rock climbing and aerobic capacity in competitive sport rock climbers

Billat, V.; Palleja, P.; Charlaix, T.; Rizzardo, P.; Janel, N.

Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 35(1): 20-24


Over the past few years, competitive rock climbing has experienced increased popularity world wide. In 1989, the first six-event World Cup competition was held with all events contested on artificial modular walls. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which oxidative metabolism is utilized in competitive rock climbing with regard to the climber's maximal O2 consumption (VO2max). VO2max--was measured with two direct triangular protocols: the first from running ("running" VO2max) and the second from pull offs performed with arms and before arms ("pulling" VO2). Moreover, VO2 was also before measured during two competitive climbing routes difficulty quantified 7b on the European numerical scale ranging from 5 to 9. However these routes had different profiles: route 1 was more complex from the informational aspect, holds being smaller and more difficult to see even though the second route was presumed harder from the physical point of view, the holds being bigger but the profile being steeper. The first and the second route involved only 45.6% and 37.7% of the "running" VO2max but 111.6% and 92.3% of the "pulling" VO2max. Heart rates (HR) were equal to 176 bpm and 159 bpm i.e. 85.5% and 77% of maximal HR respectively. Blood lactate collected three minutes after the end of the two ascents were 5.7 mmol.1(-1) and 4.3 mmol.1(-1). The paired "t" test indicated no significant differences in heart rates for the two exercises condition i.e. climbing route. These results suggest that the competitive rock climbing elicit particularly arms since heart rate is high for a relatively low value of VO2.