A Sport-Specific Upper-Body Ergometer Test for Evaluating Submaximal and Maximal Parameters in Elite Rock Climbers

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Traditional treadmill or bicycle ergometry neglects the upper-body musculature that predominantly limits or terminates rock-climbing performance (ie, the inability to continually pull up one’s body mass or “hang on”).

Purpose:

To develop an incremental maximal upper-body ergometer test (UBT) to evaluate climbers’ aerobic fitness and sport-specific work capacity and to compare these results with a traditional treadmill protocol.

Methods:

Eleven elite sport climbers (best redpoint grade Fr.8b) performed a UBT on a vertically mounted rowing ergometer and, on a separate occasion, performed a maximal incremental treadmill test (TMT). Cardiorespiratory parameters were measured continuously. Lactate (La) samples were collected.

Results:

Peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) and heart rate in UBT and TMT were 34.1 ± 4.1 vs 58.3 ± 2.6 mL · min−1 · kg−1 and 185 ± 8 vs 197 ± 8 beats/min, respectively, and both variables were of significantly lower magnitude during UBT (P < .001). End-of-test La levels for UBT (11.9 ± 1.7 mmol/L) and TMT (12.3 ± 2.5 mmol/L) were similar (P = .554). Treadmill VO2peak was not correlated with either upper-body (UB) VO2peak (P = .854) or redpoint and on-sight climbing grade ability (P > .05). UB VO2peak and peak power output per kg body mass were both strongly correlated (P < .05) with climbing grade ability. The highest correlation coefficient was calculated between current on-sight grade and UB VO2peak (r = .85, P = .001).

Conclusion:

UBT aerobic- and work-capacity results were strongly correlated to climbing-performance variables and reflected sport-specific fatigue, and TMT results were not. UBT is preferred to TMT to test and monitor dedicated and elite rock climbers’ training status.

Michailov is with the Dept of Theory and Methodology of Sports Training, National Sports Academy, Sofia, Bulgaria. Morrison is with the Medical Commission of the International Union of Associations of Alpinism (UIAA MedCom), Bern, Switzerland. Ketenliev and Pentcheva are with the Directorate of Control and Management of Sports Preparation, Ministry of Physical Education and Sports in Bulgaria, Sofia, Bulgaria. Address author correspondence to Michail Michailov at michailovi@hotmail.com.