We use maximal finger strength (as measured by a 5 sec. hang on a 20mm Lattice Edge) as a key data point in our performance profiling and when combined with all the results from our testing it gives a good indicator of climbing potential. However, we have wondered for some time whether forcing a particular grip position during testing would make for a better measure of performance (effectively removing the ‘grip position’ variable  from the equation).

Existing research uses maximal tests in non-overhead positions and in our experience this has poor specificity and does not produce good results, so that line of enquiry was out!

What we decided to do next was run a specific testing event at one of our Lattice partner walls to try and determine whether open or half crimp grip position was a better measure of climbing performance. The sample size (n=13) was too small to draw any statistically significant conclusions but what we did notice was several cases where a climber’s open handed grip strength significantly exceeded our expectations given their reported grade.

From here we decided to investigate this pattern further by looking at our existing data set collected over the years of assessments. Fortunately we’ve consistently collected information about the grip type used in each assessment so we could easily compare the two.

What we found was a better correlation between finger strength in a half crimp position and boulder grade vs. finger strength in a an open grip position and boulder grade. The correlations with route grades were similar.

The supporting statistics for both grip types did not significantly alter this finding, so based on this data it is our opinion that it is better to measure grip strength in the half crimp position than an open grip position.

We are always looking to improve our processes, so we’ll continue to collect data on this issue and alter our processes when it makes sense.

Note: this post is based on a previously published facebook post.