Rock climbing performance assessment: Introduction

The following is an example of a real rock climbing performance assessment of a highly advanced climber, who currently can project 5.13c (8a+) sport routes. The climber’s goal is to break into 5.14 grades (8b+). Below is the Climbing Performance Assessment Table.

Table 1: Rock climbing level assessment summary.

 Current Result (2020) Target Result (2021)
Lead level5.13c (8a+)5.14a (8b+)
Bouldering LevelV8 (7B)V10 (7C+)
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]97110
Body weight [kg]6262
MVC-7 (20 mm) [%BW]157%177%
CF [%MVC-7]39%48%
CF [%BW]62%86%
Pull-ups: 5RM [kg]9595

Bouldering performance assessment

Your current bouldering level is ok, but not very high, something around 7B. Your pull-up strength is very good for your grade, so you don’t have to develop it further right now. Just do some pull-ups and scapular pull-ups from time to time, so that you maintain it at this level. For now, instead of training pull-ups and lock-offs, focus on strengthening your rotator cuff. But your finger strength is a bit low, so I believe that hangboard training and limit bouldering should be a critical part of your program.

Regarding campus training, I generally advise against it, at least not to do it on small rungs. Unless you have a specific goal, it makes more sense to train finger strength and explosive strength separately for now, and possibly introduce campus training during the later stages of your strength training cycle. 

Sport climbing performance assessment

Let’s first look at your results and compare them with some benchmarks. I would say that based on the outcome of your repeated half crimp test, your climbing level is a solid 8a+. The first characteristic that we can examine is your endurance in the function of %MVC-7. Climber 1 and Climber 2 are benchmark results. Climber 1 has a similar characteristic to yours – a powerful 5.13d (8b) climber with good strength endurance, but average aerobic endurance (CF about 41% MVC-7). On the other hand, Climber 2 is a typical endurance climber, with decent strength endurance and very high CF relative to their MVC-7 (above 55%).

Your Critical Force is 39% of your MVC-7, and this is the low end for sport climbers. A typical sport climber has a CF at a level of at least 40 – 45%, but the best ones are over 55%, so you can see that there is a lot of room for improvement here! Your strength endurance is fine, and from your characteristics, I can also see that you still have a lot of potential to convert strength-endurance into aerobic endurance.

High Level Climbing Assessment MVC-7 Endurance Curve

Figure 1: High-level sport climber’s maximum voluntary contraction endurance curve.

Now let’s take a look at your critical force in relation to your body weight, which is shown in the plot below. To me, this is the more interesting plot, and here the differences are more significant. Your result is 62%, and the result of Climber 2 is 91%. This means that Climber 2 could do the 20-minute test with only 5 kg of pulley assistance! Of course, you are much stronger, and you have better strength endurance. Besides, you don’t need to match that profile to reach 8b+, but this is just to show you what’s possible.

Sport Level Climbing Assessment body weight endurance curve

Figure 2: High-level sport climber’s bodyweight endurance curve.

Finger strength training goals

Currently, your finger strength is at 157% BW on a 20 mm edge. This is a pretty good result, and it gives you a solid base to work with, but I think it can still be improved. To achieve your goal of climbing 8b+, you need to add about 13 kg to your MVC-7 hangs. I think this is manageable within a year. It will, of course, help your bouldering too. 

Endurance training goals

It’s clear that you’re strong enough to climb high-level sport routes, and you need to focus on your endurance. Currently your endurance is 39% MVC-7, which is quite low for a sport climber. You may be able to climb bouldery routes, but you need time, and a good rest hold position to recover after each crux to keep going. You need to change this profile to 45% – 50%, which is totally manageable with a little bit of training, and you should be able to easily achieve it within a year.

Want to get your own personal climbing assessment?

If you would like to get an even more detailed personal rock climbing performance assessment, and a training program for the upcoming months, feel free to email me at [email protected]. I will look into your current finger strength and analyze your anaerobic and aerobic endurance profile. That will let me evaluate your current bouldering and sport climbing level by comparing your test results with the benchmark tests of other climbers – who knows, maybe you’re physically ready to try harder climbs, but you don’t even know it? 

Such a detailed analysis will make it possible to pinpoint your weak spots and estimate your potential for further improvement. Based on the test results, I can help you determine which exact facets of your performance you need to work on, set your training goals, and design a training program so that you can finally unlock your full climbing potential!