Athletic Profile of Highly Accomplished Boulderers
Bouldering is a discipline of rock climbing completed at low height. Despite its popularity, scientific description of this sport remains sparse. This study aims to characterize the athletic profile of highly accomplished boulderers. Twelve male highly accomplished boulderers (age 25.3 ± 4.9) were matched for age (± 5 yr), height (± 5 cm), and body mass (± 5 kg) to 12 nonclimbing aerobically trained controls. Body composition was determined by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Handgrip and climbing specific finger strength were assessed by dynamometry. Shoulder girdle and abdominal muscle endurance were assessed by isometric tests. Data were mostly analyzed by t-tests with an adjusted alpha level for multiple comparisons. Ethical approval was received from the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK. Body composition was similar between the groups, apart from increased bone mineral density in climbers' forearms (1.1 ± 0.1 vs. 1.0 ± 0.1 g · cm2, t(22) = 2.798, p = 0.010). Hand grip strength and climbing specific finger strength were greater in climbers (eg, finger strength: 494 ± 64 vs. 383 ± 79 N, t(22) = 3.740, p = 0.001), but handgrip and abdominal endurance were similar between the groups. In contrast, endurance of the shoulder girdle was substantially greater in boulderers (58 ± 13 vs. 39 ± 9 s, t(22) = 4.044, p = 0.001). Highly accomplished boulderers were characterized by handgrip and finger strength better than that of nonclimbing controls and superior to that of previously investigated elite climbers. In contrast, boulderers' body composition and core endurance were similar to that of controls (who were aerobically trained). These characteristics provide an athletic profile of highly accomplished boulderers, and hence identify possible targets that with further investigation may aid athlete selection and training program design.