Fingertip force and electromyography of finger flexor muscles during a prolonged intermittent exercise in elite climbers and sedentary individuals

  • Vigouroux Laurent
  • Quaine Franck

  • Rock climbing
  • Electromyography
  • Finger flexor muscles
  • Fatigue


The aim of this study was to characterize forearm muscle fatigue identified by the decrease in electromyogram median frequency and/or fingertip force during intermittent exercise. Nine elite climbers (international competitive level, USA 5.14a on sight) and ten non-climbers were instructed to maintain a fingertip force of 80% of their maximal voluntary contraction force on a dynamometer mimicking a rock climbing grip during a 5 s effort/5 s rest cycle for 36 repetitions (i.e. 6 min of exercise). Elite climbers lasted twice as long as non-climbers (climbers: 3 min; non-climbers: 1 min 30 s) before the force could no longer be maintained (i.e. the failure point). After this moment, fingertip force decreased and stabilized until the end of the exercise around 50% maximum voluntary contraction force in non-climbers and 63% in elite climbers. Electromyogram median frequency showed a greater decrease in non-climbers than in elite climbers before the failure point. No change in median frequency was observed after the failure point in elite climbers or in non-climbers. These results confirm that elite climbers are better adapted than non-climbers for performing the intermittent fingertip effort before the failure point. After this point, the better fingertip force of elite climbers suggests different forearm muscle properties, while the electromyography results do not provide any indication about the fatigue process.