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How to test rock climbing finger endurance – simple guide

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Rock climbing endurance measurements - Introduction

While in bouldering, the most critical determinant of athletic level is finger and upper body strength, in lead climbing, endurance, or how long we can generate a given level of force with our fingers, plays an equally important role.

Although endurance measurements are common in other sports, such as cycling, in climbing, endurance has remained elusive and difficult to measure until recently. In 2019, David Giles, in collaboration with Lattice training, published an article proposing applying the concept of Critical Force to determine finger strength in climbing 1. Since then, Critical Force determined on a 20 mm edge has become the gold standard for estimating sport climbing level.

Interestingly, determining the Critical Force is relatively easy, and anyone can do it on their own using a fingerboard and a set of weights and pulleys. In this article, I would like to explain how to effectively carry out such a measurement, which will later serve as a reference point and help you evaluate your sport climbing level progression.

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Forearm endurance measurements for rock climbers - summary

In this article, I've explained how to perform endurance measurements with the traditional two-handed method on a fingerboard. In addition, endurance and CF measurements may be performed using load cell dynamometers, such as the Tindeq Progressor or the Exsurgo gStrength. I will cover alternative measurement methods at length in separate articles.

References

  1. Giles, D., Chidley, J.B., Taylor, N., Torr, O., Hadley, J., Randall, T., Fryer, S., 2019. The Determination of Finger-Flexor Critical Force in Rock Climbers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1–8. (link)[]
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2 thoughts on “How to test rock climbing finger endurance – simple guide”

  1. Hi Jędrzej,
    Great content.
    What is your opinion on repeaters work to rest ratio? Most used one is 7:3, but how should we approach variations outside of this 7:3 work:rest ratio and the rest time between repetitions? I was struggling to make sense of work to rest ratio for repeaters: 5:5, 6:4, 7:3, 7:5, 7:13, 10:5, 10:10,… Which one to use for which purpose?
    Found 5:5 to be the easiest for bigger load % from max hangs mvc7 and could easily hit 30sec TUT, but less rest dramatically decreases my ability to train for similar TUT.
    Is there any general rational for ranges
    e.g. to say up to 15 seconds rest is in one group and will work on specific system, 16-53 seconds would be in another, above the 53 seconds and beyond is max third category?
    Thank you.
    BR,
    Darko

    1. Hi Darko,

      It’s great to hear from you – thank you for this question – it’s very interesting, and the answer deserves some thorough research and a separate post! However, I’ll try to work out a short answer here.

      Sure, by default, the most used Repeaters ratio is 7/3. Several factors impact the adaptation profile of the Repeater style exercise.
      Load – high loads lead to more recruitment, but the hang times and TUT will be shorter
      Hang time – this is related to the load. For example, at 90% MVC-7, you’ll likely use shorter hang times. In contrast, lower loads could let you hang longer. You could even do 30/15 Repeaters. You could do 2 – 4 reps, leading to extreme lactate buildup. Interestingly, the lactate level keeps rising for a few seconds during recovery, so this type of Repeaters leads to an extreme pump.
      Recovery time between hangs – if you’re using high loads and short hang times, you’ll be targetting the anaerobic alactic system. The shorter the recovery time, the less PCr you’ll be able to restore in your muscles, so even reducing the rest interval from 5 seconds to 4 seconds could dramatically reduce the TUT.
      Total exercise time – training at low loads and with a high TUT is likely to lead to high lactate buildup, so you might be training lactic tolerance or increasing your anaerobic threshold.
      To summarize, if you want to target the anaerobic alactic system (PCr), use high loads (90 – 95%) and short hang times (5 – 7 seconds). The recovery is best in the range of 15 – 50 seconds.

      For hypertrophy, use 65 – 85% loads and gauge hang time and rests so you can do between 8 – 10 reps with possibly high TUT, like 7/3, or 6/4 Repeaters.

      As far as anaerobic lactic and aerobic adaptations are concerned, I covered that in the Endurance Repeaters Pyramids post.

      Thanks again for registering for the Premium Content! Please let me know if you need anything else.
      Cheers,
      Jędrzej

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