Heart Rate Response, Duration, Grip Strength, and Anthropometric Characteristics in Recreational Indoor Rock Climbers

Recreational indoor rock climbing continues to increase in popularity as the inclusion of climbing in the 2020 Olympics approaches. Despite the popularity of the sport there is a lack in research regarding the cardiovascular responses of recreational indoor climbers. Additionally, the importance of body composition and grip strength has been established in elite climbers yet has been overlooked in recreational climbers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to characterize the physiological and anthropometric characteristics of recreational indoor climbers. We hypothesized that heart rates and climbing durations would meet the standards set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for eliciting health benefits and that grip strength would show signs of fatigue over the course of a typical session. One hundred and twenty-one male and female adult recreational climbers participated in this study. Following informed consent, subjects completed a questionnaire and were instrumented with a heart rate monitor (Polar V800) which recorded heart rate and duration. A pre-climb and post-climb grip strength evaluation was performed using a hand grip dynamometer to assess maximal grip strength and calculate strength to mass ratio (SMR) and fatigue. Participants were 30.9 ± 8.3 years old and had participated in climbing for 5.6 ± 6.5 years. Average heart rates during climbing sessions was 122.3 ± 14.5 bpm and session duration was 90.6 ± 31.3 minutes. Mean grip strength was 49.9 ± 11.2 kg while SMR was 0.71 ± 0.14 and fatigue was 13.1 ± 11.6%. Results from this study suggest that recreational indoor climbers achieve heart rates in the ranges set by the CDC and ACSM. Heart rates are sustained long enough to contribute toward weekly exercise recommendations. Grip strength data suggested that forearm muscle fatigue may limit climbing durations.