European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 791–800 | Cite as

Changes in blood lactate and muscle activation in elite rock climbers during a 15-m speed climb

  • Feng GuoEmail author
  • Qingfu Wang
  • Yuanlong Liu
  • Nicholas J. Hanson
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to investigate the changes in blood lactate concentration (BL) and muscle activity patterns during a 15-m speed climbing competition that consisted of ten consecutive climbing actions on a standardized artificial wall in trained rock climbers.


Twelve trained rock climbers participated in this study. Surface electromyography (sEMG) and video signals were synchronized and recorded during climbing. The blood lactate was also tested 3 min after completing the climb.


The average climbing time was 8.1 ± 2.1 s for the 15-m speed climb across all subjects, accompanied by a BL of 7.6 ± 1.9 mmol/L. The climbing speed and power firstly increased and then slightly decreased relative to peak value during the 15-m speed climbing. The results showed there was a positive correlation between the BL and the climbing time, r = 0.59, P = 0.043. The sEMG showed the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) electric activity was the highest, followed by the biceps brachii (BB) and latissimus dorsi. The instantaneous median frequency of sEMG of FDS and BB significantly decreased during the 15-m speed climbing. All the participants showed the higher sEMG RMS (%) in the terminal phase than that in the initial phase, especially with a greater increase in the left upper limbs. However, the lower limbs muscles presented no significant changes in the sEMG amplitude during climbing.


The FDS and BB play an important role in completing the 15-m speed climbing. The median frequency of arm EMG decreased more than that of legs, suggesting more fatigue. The blood lactate concentration increases in the current study suggest that a certain amount of glycolysis supplies energy in completing 15-m speed rock climbing. Based on the current data, it is suggested that muscular endurance of FDS and BB muscles in upper limbs should be improved for our climbers in this study.


Competition speed climbing Neuromuscular fatigue Surface electromyography 



Integrated electromyography




Median frequency


Maximal voluntary contraction


Root mean square


Surface electromyography




Flexor digitorum superficialis


Extensor digitorum communis


Biceps brachii


Triceps brachii


Latissimus dorsi


Tibialis anterior


Gastrocnemius medialis


Rectus femoris



The project was sponsored by Natural Science Foundation of China (31701043), “Liaoning BaiQianWan Talents Program”, and the Center of Mountaineering Management in General Sport Administration of China (CMA2015-A-B06). And we also thanked the coaches in China climbing team, ZHANG Ning and CAI Luyuna, help to recruit the climbing athletes.

Author contributions

FG and QW conceived and designed research. FG and QW conducted experiments. FG and YL analyzed data. FG wrote the first draft of the manuscript. NH edited and finalized the manuscript. All authors read and approved manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Research data policy

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng Guo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Qingfu Wang
    • 2
  • Yuanlong Liu
    • 3
  • Nicholas J. Hanson
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Human KinesiologyShenyang Sport UniversityShenyangChina
  2. 2.Mountaineering Management CenterGeneral Administration of Sport of ChinaBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Human Performance and Health Education, College of Human Development and EducationWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

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