Movement Demands of Elite Female and Male Athletes in Competitive Bouldering

By Medernach, Prosper J.; Kleinöder, H. et al. | Journal of Physical Education and Sport, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Movement Demands of Elite Female and Male Athletes in Competitive Bouldering


Medernach, Prosper J., Kleinöder, H., Lötzerich, Hermann H. H., Journal of Physical Education and Sport


Introduction

Competitive bouldering (CB) has recently been added to the program of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and is a discipline of sport climbing completed on low height artificial walls with landing mats to ensure safety (2,4,9). On the international level, CB is organized by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) and consists of (a) a qualification round with five boulders, (b) a semi-final round with four boulders, and (c) a final round with four boulders (3). According to the IFSC-rules, the average number of handholds per boulder is four to eight and the maximum number of handholds is twelve (3). Moreover, an attempt is considered successful when an athlete grips the marked finishing hold with both hands or achieves a defined standing position on the top of the boulder (3). With regard to the athlete's scoring, competitors are ranked after each round according to the number of successfully completed boulders (top) and the total number of attempts to complete these boulders (3). The rotation period system in the qualification and semi-final round requires that all boulders must be climbed in a prescribed order and with a fixed climbing time of five minutes for each boulder and a resting period between two boulders equal to the climbing time (3).

With regard to the state of the art, scientific investigations remain sparse and numerous training methods published in coaching manuals and climbing magazines have not been investigated empirically (2,5,9). Therefore, little is known on how to maximize individual performance in CB (4,5). Macdonald and Callender (2011) investigated the athletic profile of highly accomplished bouldering athletes and found that their handgrip and climbing specific finger strength was superior to that of non-climbing controls and elite sport climbers. These results suggest that maximum grip strength can be considered a key factor in CB. Medernach et al. (2015a) investigated thirty-four male bouldering athletes' use of fingerboards in the presence and absence of vibration stimulation to increase grip strength and found significant grip strength increases in both the vibration regimen (+7.3%, P < 0.001) and the conventional fingerboard regimen (+5.0%, P < 0.001). In a different study, the authors investigated twenty-three highly advanced male boulderers for the effects of a four-week long fingerboard training on grip endurance and found significant (P = 0.004) grip endurance gains of 26 s (7).

With the purpose of testing objective data on how to establish strength and conditioning regimens, La Torre et al. (2009) and White and Olsen (2010) investigated the time-motion analysis of the movement demands of CB athletes. In the study of La Torre et al. (2009), the climbing times in eleven Italian elite climbers during two national bouldering competitions were investigated and the authors found a total bouldering time per problem of 65 ± 20 s and a total bouldering time for the entire competition round of 391 ± 85 s. However, it remains unclear as to what extent and how these findings can be applied in the implementation of training regimens in elite CB because the competition mode differed from the current IFSC-rules with a maximum bouldering and rest time for each problem of 6 min and a total number of six boulders. Moreover, the authors did not differentiate between female and male participants and the presence of a mixed sample could have, for instance, an influence on the total number of attempts or the overall bouldering time.

In a similar study, White and Olsen (2010) performed a time motion analysis of CB athletes and investigated six bouldering athletes during a national competition and found that athletes attempted a problem an average of 3.0 ± 0.5 times with attempts lasting 28.9 ± 10.8 s and rest periods of 114 ± 31 s between the attempts. However, data were collected on a small sample with six athletes, and the competition mode differed again from the current IFSC-rules with a total bouldering time of 6 min to complete a problem. …

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