Improving Amateur Indoor Rock Climbing Performance Using a Changing Criterion Design Within a Self-Management Program

Brett E. Furlonger*, Andrew Oey*, Dennis W. Moore*, Margherita Busacca* & Douglas Scott*.

*Faculty of Education, Monash University

Correspondence concerning this manuscript should be addressed to Dr. Brett Furlonger, Krongold Centre, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia 3800. Phone: + 61 3 99059173. Fax: +61 99055127. Email:

The authors state that this manuscript has not been published or submitted simultaneously for publication elsewhere.

Despite the popularity of indoor rock climbing there is little information on how amateur climbers can improve their performance. A single-case experimental design with baseline, intervention, and post intervention phases was conducted using a changing criterion design within a self-management program. Discrete exercise training and combined training methods were trialled, with the effects of both on actual rock climbing compared. All discrete exercises improved over baseline; Powerball grip 45%, open-handed pull-ups by 50% and multi-stage fitness 35%. There was, however, no observable improvement in climbing performance. In contrast combined training led to a 40% improvement in climbing performance. For amateurs wishing to improve their recreational indoor rock climbing ability, practicing the task holistically rather than by training discrete skills in isolation may prove to be more effective.

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Analysis of Contemporary Anaerobic Sport Specific Training Techniques for Rock Climbing

Authors: Justin Mabe* and Stephen L. Butler, Ed.D.

Justin Mabe is a graduate student of the United States Sports Academy and a faculty member of Howard Community College where he instructs in lifetime fitness and health science courses. Previously running a rock climbing wall for the Y, Justin developed an interest in the application of sport and conditioning techniques to rock climbing.

*Corresponding Author:
Justin Mabe
6043 Tree Swallow Ct
Columbia, MD, 21044

This review seeks to centralize research on contemporary training techniques and their purpose in the development of training programs for elite level climbing. A needs analysis determined that elite level rock climbing demonstrates a need for muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility (namely in the hip joint) to be enhanced in order to improve performance in rock climbing.

Current research into sport specific exercises for rock climbers focuses on maximal strength in the finger flexor and forearm muscles with respect to body weight. Additional attributes that contributed to performance are the shoulder girdle and core muscles, flexibility in the hip joints, and enhanced anaerobic energy pathways.

The sport specific exercises identified for development of sport specific attributes are: hang board, campus board, system training, and hyper gravity training. Through an informal movement analysis, three phases of climbing were determined: stabilization, preparation, and displacement. Potential application of the sport specific exercises can be derived from these phases of movement. Exercises that closely replicate certain phases of movement present greater likelihood of improving performance.

Future research in performance enhancement of rock climbers needs to evaluate the efficacy of hang board, campus board, system training, and hyper gravity training in order to reliably demonstrate the value of these exercises. Furthermore, little research has been conducted evaluating the effect of leg and core strength on elite level rock climbing.

In order for coaches and athletes to apply these findings, close evaluation of climbing movement must be conducted in order to best match training apparatus to weaknesses in the athlete’s training. All of the exercises will improve maximal voluntary contractile strength in the finger flexor and forearm muscles. Improving this attribute alone will only assist in the stabilization phase of climbing movement, while each exercise can serve to improve aspects of the other phases of movement.

KEYWORDS: rock climbing, performance, system training

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