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Relative Contributions of Handgrip and Individual Finger Strength on Climbing Performance in a Bouldering Competition

Riley R. Stefan, Clayton L. Camic, Garrett F. Miles, Attila J. Kovacs, Andrew R. Jagim, and Christopher M. Hill

Purpose: To determine the relative contributions of handgrip and individual finger strength for the prediction of climbing performance in a bouldering competition. A secondary aim was to examine the influence of body size, bouldering experience, and training habits. Methods: Sixty-seven boulderers (mean [SD], age = 21.1 [4.0] y; body mass = 69.5 [9.8] kg) volunteered for this study. Data collection occurred immediately before an indoor bouldering competition and involved the assessment of handgrip and individual finger maximal force production using an electronic handheld dynamometer. The bouldering competition consisted of 70 routes graded V0 to V8, with higher point values awarded for completing more difficult routes. Stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to examine the relative contributions of handgrip and individual finger strengths, body mass, height, bouldering experience, and bouldering frequency to the prediction of performance scores in the competition. Results: Ring finger pinch strength, bouldering experience, and bouldering frequency significantly (P < .05) contributed to the model (R 2 = .373), whereas body mass; height; full handgrip strength, as well as index, middle, and little finger pinch strengths did not. The β weights showed that ring finger pinch strength (β = .430) was the most significant contributor, followed by bouldering experience (β = .331) and bouldering frequency (β = .244). Conclusions: The current findings indicated that trainable factors contributed to the prediction of bouldering performance. These results suggest greater bouldering frequency and experience likely contribute to greater isolated individual finger strength, thereby optimizing preparation for the diverse handholds in competitive rock climbing.