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Rock Climbing Performance Assessment: Highly Advanced 5.13c (8a+)

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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!

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8 thoughts on “Rock Climbing Performance Assessment: Highly Advanced 5.13c (8a+)”

  1. Hello man!
    Is the database you’re talking about is available in open-access?
    If it’s the case, it would be very interesting to have a look at it and compare!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Yann!
      No, unfortunately, I use this database for preparing assessments and designing training cycles – I can’t make it public.

  2. Hi Jędrzej, I am wondering what the difference is in the comparison of the results due to the maximum hanging with both hands and the sum for the left and right arm. the sum is almost always 5 to 8 percent lower than the maximum overhang on both arms. Can you help me understand that. Regards Radek

    1. Hi Radek!
      I think that the phenomenon you’re referring to is called “bilateral deficit? you can have a look at this paper to start exploring the topic. If it’s something else that you meant, please let me know.

  3. Martin Moessner

    Hi Jedrzej,
    what I wonder is that assessed data doing 1 arm max effort hangs on a hangboard 20mm with a pulleysystem differ greatly between the ones measured by sitting on floor and pulling as hard as possible on the same edge size.
    Generally i do 1A max on hangboard with BW – 10 kg(deload) = 60Kg
    Now measured in a sitting position and pulling on the same edge size results in 35kg.
    Do you have any ideas where this difference is based on? Is there such a big difference between overcoming and yielding
    isometric muscular stimulus?
    Any idea?
    Cheers, Martin

    1. Hi Martin!

      Very interesting question, thanks! I was wondering about that myself at one point. I thought that it would be the other way round. I assumed that you would hang less weight than pull because of the need to additionally stabilize the shoulders – at least in the standing position. However, when I took the measurements, it turned out that the results were the same irrespective of whether I was pulling or hanging.

      Your low result when sitting could be attributed to different mechanics of the elbow flexors. You may be pulling more with the biceps when you hang, whilst when sitting, you might be pulling more with your brachialis and brachioradialis – just a wild guess. In any case, such a big difference is not usual.

      Please let me know what you think!


    Hi Jędrzej!
    It’s been a while ! After a whole year of training and due to the fact that in a month or so I will be able to climb outdoors, I decided to shift my training towards endurance.
    I would like to know if it would be possible for you to analyze my climbing profile with your Critical Force Curve?
    To be honest, my goal is to climb my first 8c route this summer and as far as I’m concerned, finger strength is not currently the limiting factor. So I would love to hear from you about your expertise to advise me and maybe give me an idea if wether or not my endurance is good. I would really appreciate it
    I’m planning to try your Critical Force test soon, let me know if you are interested 😉

    1. Hi Karl-Jean!

      It’s great to hear from you again! Yes, of course, I would be delighted to analyze your endurance profile and help you prepare for sending your project. Naturally, a lot depends on the route’s character, so it would be helpful if you could describe it to me as well. The measurements would help you understand which facets of your climbing you should prioritize to reach your goal.

      I’ve managed to build a large database with the results of the climbers I tested – some of them even in the 9a range, so I’d be able to tell you how exactly you compare against them.

      • Analysis of your finger strength and comparison with other climbers from my database around your level.
      • Analysis of your endurance profile – anaerobic and aerobic endurance, comparison with other climbers
      • Identification of weaknesses
      • Clear training targets that you need to reach to make it to the next level, etc. – much like what you can see in the example assessment on my site.
      • Answers to other questions you may have regarding your training.

      I’ll provide more details in a separate email.

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