Importance of finger strength for elite climbers

Sport climbing is considered a forceful-endurance discipline in which the main resistance force is the body weight. The duration of climbing on rocks and artificial walls varies from a few to several minutes. In this period of exertion, there is a significant amount of isometric muscle tension (Billat V, 1995).


The climbers must often have to hang by their fingertips against the force of gravity. The difficulty of the climbing route is strictly linked to the size of the holds. Therefore, finger strength is an important factor that influences rock climbing achievements among elite climbers.


Some anthropometric studies observed that elite climbers are characterized by an average height, a lower weight and a lower fat composition than non-climbing individuals (Watts PB, 1993) (Rokowski R, 2007). It is difficult to judge which somatic features are important to climbing at the elite advance 8b-8c Rotpunkt (RP) level and what are the main differences between elite climbers and advanced climbers so far the most studies reveal comparisons between elite climbers and nonclimbers or recreational climbers.


A scientist group from Poland  (Ozimek M., 2017)  attempted to solve this problem and demonstrated that elite climbers (represented a 8b-8c Rotpunkt (RP) climbing level ) can be distinguished from advanced climbers (represented an 7c+-8a RP level ) based on their smaller calf circumference, with a difference of up to 2.2 cm. Although the differences in the other parameters were not statistically significant, elite climbers also had a lower weight than advanced climbers, with a difference of up to 4.2 kg, and a lower fat composition of approximately 6.3%. In addition, elite climbers were characterized by a lower lean body mass than advanced climbers, with a difference of 2.6 kg. The results obtained from this study indicate that elite climbers can be distinguished from advanced climbers based on high levels of finger strength. The arm strength endurance  and increased resistance to fatigue in the forearms schowed no significant difference in these both groups. 

The explanation for the lack of intergroup differences relating to arm strength remains unclear. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that while climbing, there areno situations in which the competitor must pull up on one hand to reach the next hold. Evenin horizontal formations (i.e., roofs), the climber is standing up or hooks the legs (with the

heel or toes depending on the situation), using the slightest uneven ground and therefore crossing the upper limbs. So that’s seem to be correct, that the principal determinant that enables climbing on 8c-8b RP is finger strength.


Notably, these results are consistent with previously reported scientific data (Ozimek M, Analysis of tests evaluating sport climbers‘ strength and isometric endurance., 2016). This data indicates the importance of arm strength endurance for elite and advanced climbers. This result is not surprising because the requirements of sport climbing necessitate the constant bending  and strengthening of the arms. Therefore, maintaining a certain level of arm strength is likely an important element that enables climbing at the 8b-8c RP level.


Conclusion: elite climbers should have a low weight, a low fat composition, and a slender body build. Elite climbers can also be distinguished from advanced climbers based on finger strength and arm isometric endurance.