12 October 2008

New research published on finger endurance

My undergraduate research project investigating determinants of finger endurance in trained climbers was recently published in the Journal of Sport Sciences. You can see the details here or access the full paper if you have access to the scientific journals through an academic or other institution. A huge thanks to Stan Grant for encouraging me to keep going with the log preparation of the manuscript for submission and to everyone that worked with me on the paper and volunteered for the research itself.

We observed that climbers were not dramatically better at tolerating occlusive isometric contractions of the finger flexors (as you get in difficult climbing), but were surprisingly good at sustaining long periods of intermittent high force isometric contractions compared to untrained people. This could be down to an ability to perfuse the muscles very rapidly and recover from the contractions while reaching for the next hold. Not surprisingly, we also observed yet another confirmation that pure finger strength, and especially finger strength to weight ratio was a strong predictor of climbing level.

The intermittent isometric muscle contractions of our fingers in climbing are not that common in strength and endurance dependent sports, and there is still much to be learned about the exact causes of failure to maintain force output and sequence of chemical events that happen deep in the exercising muscle during fatigue. 

Big up to anyone out there willing to take up this mantle and help us to learn more about the physiological limitations in climbing. The continued dramatic rises in the level of ability of the worlds top climbers really shows that we are nowhere yet, either with our understanding, or what could be done with it.


Anonymous said...

hi dave a while ago ben moon and richard simpson posted on moonclimbing a training blog whereby they kept a record of their own training on a daily basis. It was a good insight into how how proffesional climbers approach training, i was wondering if you had considered doing something similair say for the build up to a route or boulder problem i'm sure it would make interesting reading to a great many climbers

Unknown said...

Hi Dave
in your research of finger strengh endurence, You mention that you explored that "pure finger strength, and especially finger strength to weight ratio was a strong predictor of climbing level".
is that messured as dynamic movement with max resistance???

and that will leed to my main ?
shall climbers train fingerstrengh dynamicly( fingercurls, grippers etc.) or solo staticly like hangboards and in climbing ?
and please ( if you like) surgest a fingerstrengh training plan.
Bo Thomsen

Dave MacLeod said...

Bo - It was measured isometrically (all the methodology is in the paper if you read it). There are many finger strength training articles on davemacleod.com

Puzzling Philosopher said...

When a sports scientist admits that basically nothing is known yet, you know that they are a good scientist. Way too many overconfident proclamations in climbing-training literature based on stuff like small-group studies of collegiate RUNNERS!


Grigri614 said...


I am an undergrad in exercise science at a school in VT as well as an NCSA-CPT. I have done much study on the physiologic responses to rock climbing. This is an interesting time in the realm of research for Rock climbing. Currently there is limited research on the training of finger strength and endurance.

Currently the accepted form of training for grip strength is to climb and work on hang boards. Though there studies out there that prove the use of gyroscopes improve grip endurance by upwards of 110% when used twice a day for 2-5 minutes at a time.

As for grip strength, resisted dynamic concentric and eccentric (resisted finger curls) can improve climbing ability by approx. 2 grades (YDS). The tool used is a pull up bar on ball barrings, the individual performs just hanging finger curls for multiple sets and repetitions.

Though this information is not physiologic in nature, I do believe that this goes hand in hand with the article presented. The responses to over head isometric contractions of the upper extremities is much different then that of lower extremities. mainly due to the size of the muscle. Local pressure is increased due to the contractions, blood vessels dilate to improve circulation, there as other organs such as the kidneys will constrict, to increase pressure through out the body, this aids in pushing blood into the working muscle, to allow oxygen and nutrients to get where they need to go. And know that the dilation in climbers is greater then that of the lay person, due to the adaptations of training.

This article will open the doors to further research into the micro biological responses to climbing..... VERY EXCITING!

Be well,


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Gonzalo said...

Dave i registered in the web but still cant see the article, any other way to obtain it to read it?

viagra online said...

It is so awesome how do fingers work! I think stuff like high force isometric contractions and pure finger strength are issues that not many people know about it.