Many colleges have climbing gyms on campus. Over 150 colleges have competitive climbing teams. Recently Brevard College in North Carolina has made rock climbing a Varsity Sport and other schools will follow. Sport Climbing is growing world wide at such a rate that the sport will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.
The Olympic Sport will have three events ; Racing whereby two climbers sprint up a 15-metre fixed route, Bouldering completing a fixed route on a 4-metre wall in a specified time and Lead climbing, where the athlete climbs as high as possible on a wall within a defined time. The final rankings are determined by the combined results of the three events.
As Sport Climbing evolves professionals and participants must obtain a greater knowledge into the physical requirements to meet its demands. This year in the International Journal of Sports Performance and Physiology published, “Physical and Physiologic Determinants of Rock Climbing”. Researchers looked at and compared shoulder endurance, hand and finger strength, shoulder power-endurance, hip flexibility, lower-arm grip strength, shoulder power, upper-arm strength, core-body endurance, upper-body aerobic endurance, hamstrings and lower-back flexibility, aerobic endurance, and open-hand finger strength of climbers. Their findings were that, “Shoulder power and endurance majorly determines maximal climbing. Finger, hand and arm strength, core-body endurance, aerobic endurance, flexibility and balance are important secondary determinants”.
When you look at elite climbers versus recreational climbers physical needs become clearer. A study in The Journal of Sports Science, “Anthropometric, strength, endurance and flexibility characteristics of elite and recreational climbers.” researchers concluded, “These results demonstrate that elite climbers have greater shoulder girdle endurance, finger strength and hip flexibility than recreational climbers and non-climbers.
Certainly in Sport Climbing training, the entire system is important and deficits in any one area must be addressed by the participant and/or coach. Based on the current research having strong shoulders is a great place to start and having strong hands and fingers are necessary to stay above the ground!