Rock climbing training techniques, reliability, and recovery in weight-assisted pull-ups

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Three studies were conducted on rock climbing. Study one investigated common rock climbing training techniques among competitive rock climbers via a questionnaire. Study two evaluated the reliability of open-handed and pinch grip weight-assisted pull-ups and whether chalk improved pull-up performance. Study three investigated two different recovery modalities, concerning closed-handed and open-handed weight-assisted pull-up performance, both of which are important abilities for rock climbers. The frequency of rock climbing training techniques (RCTT) as part of study one, was also investigated in competitive rock climbers (n = 174 usable). Chi square analyses revealed differences among age groups and three questions; differences also existed between gender and seven questions. Principal component analysis revealed five factors which explained 62% of the variance in questionnaire variability. Factor one, the primary RCTT, explained 25% of the variance in questionnaire variability. Some of the primary RCTT included: performing pull-ups, dead hangs, and utilizing various rock climbing training equipment such as fingerboards, campus boards and rock rings. While factors two, three and four pertained to climbing, explained 30% of the variance. The remaining 7% of the variance was explained by factor five, training from various structures. During study two (the reliability study) nine recreationally active male climbers performed six counterbalanced trials of open-handed and pinch grip weight-assisted pull-ups to failure with 72 hours of recovery. In four trials, the climbers used chalk during open-handed and pinch grip weight assisted pull-ups, but the remaining two trials, were without chalk. These additional trials allowed for the evaluation of the contribution of chalk to open-handed and pinch grip weight-assisted pull-up performance. Climbers were assisted 50% of body weight for the open-handed and pinch grip pull-ups. No significant differences were found between the open-handed vs. pinch grip or chalked vs. no chalked trials for rating of perceived exertion (RPE), heart rate (HR), perceived recovery scale (PRS) and session-RPE (S-RPE). Intraclass Rs for test-retest of the open-handed and pinch grip weight-assisted pull-ups were 0.99 and 0.96, respectively. However, Bland-Altman analysis revealed large errors indicating weight-assisted pull-ups using open-handed (95% error range: upper limit 6.34, lower limit -3.90) and pinch grips (95% error range: upper limit 5.35, lower limit -6.91) were only somewhat reliable. Chalk improved performance in both open-handed (mean=22.8 ± 4.53 vs. mean no chalk = 19.7 ± 4.39 reps; p = 0.006) and pinch grip (mean = 14.4 ± 4.47 vs. mean no chalk = 9.1 ± 4.83 reps; p = 0.007) weight-assisted pull-ups when compared to the non-chalked trials. In the third study, (recovery), each participant performed four counterbalanced trials of closed-handed and open-handed weight-assisted pull ups to failure after 72 hours of recovery. For each trial, participants performed three sets to failure of weight-assisted pull-ups using either the closed-handed or open-handed grip assisted 50% of body weight. Treatments were ~ 20 minutes of passive recovery or ice bags applied, between pull-up sets, to the upper-arm, immediately distal to the shoulder. No differences were found pre- to post- treatments for hand-grip strength, HR, RPE, PRS, and S-RPE or comfort scales among trials. Participants completed significantly fewer open-handed pull-ups (p = 0.003) than closed-handed pull-ups. Ice bag recovery maintained (p= 0.001) subsequent open-handed pull-up performance for sets two and three when compared to passive recovery. For closed-handed pull-ups, no differences (p = 0.31) were found between ice bag and passive recovery. Overall, results suggest pulling and hanging movements using sport-specific equipment predominate as a primary RCTT. Both the open-handed and pinch grip weight-assisted pull-ups were found to be somewhat reliable, while using chalk with these grips improved weight-assisted pull-up performance. Compared to passive recovery, ice bags were found to be superior for open-handed but not closed-handed pull-ups.

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