Lactate tests on climbers give interesting results
- Thursday 6th August 2020 at 2.50pm
Sept 17th; 2015
Sheffield climbers have been getting pumped during August and September and giving blood - all in the name of science.
Ethan Walker in the midst of his crushing run on the Dynamometer test. Photo Keith Sharples
The BLC (blood lactate concentration) tests have been undertaken as part of a pilot study by Lottie Cooper, a post grad student at Sheffield Hallam University. The study has being supervised by the well-known climbing/sport science boffin, David Binney – a former Team GB climbing coach and currently a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University.
Volunteer climbers did three separate tests: the Dynamometer - a hand grip test, the Limpet Board – a deadhanging test and a climb test. The tests were done in a random order to prevent any order effects.
Keith Sharples hanging on for dear life on the Limpet Board test. Photo Ethan Walker
The Dynamometer test essentially comprises a giant tuning fork which was squeezed one-handed in a repeated five seconds on – two seconds off cycle and continued until the force the volunteer could apply fell below 40% of body weight. The Limpet Board – essentially a deadhanging test – involved hanging on a two-joint sized wooden edge at 90 degs to the ‘backboard’ which was inclined at a predetermined angle (between 25 and 35 degrees overhanging) whilst the feet stayed on a footboard. In this test the effort was taken to failure – falling off in this case. The loading cycle for this test was five seconds on with both hands, then two seconds off with one hand, five seconds on both hands, then two seconds off other hand and so on to failure. Finally, the climbing test was on a route that was sufficiently difficult to get the climber pumped and hence fall off through fatigue rather than failing off due to a hard move beyond their technical limit. As all the testing was done at Awesome Wall in Sheffield, the climbers typically completed the climb test on the main prow so getting pumped was pretty much a certainty! Routes selected by climbers were typically in the mid to high seventh and low eighth grades.
Lottie Cooper extracting blood from Ethan Walker following the climb test. Photo Keith Sharples
Blood samples were taken from the climbers immediately following the individual tests after which the volunteers rested about 20 minutes before taking further tests.
Whilst lactate concentrations in athletes working hard in strenuous events can reach 8 or 9mmol/l, BLC levels in rowers or cyclists can get well over 10mmol/l. Perhaps not surprisingly, BLC measured by this study into the specific climbing related exercises aren’t hitting anywhere near those levels. Although the final results – as well as the findings - aren’t yet available, the initial indications are that the grip test and the deadhanging tests gave the lowest BLC’s - around half the value recorded by the volunteers during the climbing test which were themselves were well down on the maximum levels recorded in the super strenuous activities such as rowing and cycling.
CLIMBER will bring more info on this once the project report has been completed so watch this space.