Laurent Vigouroux, a beloved climbing researcher out of Aix-Marseilles just had his newest paper e-published 15 days ago... It's coming out in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and also in our new book, Climbing Injuries Solved (2015).
This is important research for us as a climbing community:
"Estimation of hand and wrist muscle capacities in rock climbers." Laurent Vigouroux, Benjamin Goislard de Monsabert & Eric Berton.DOI 10.1007/s00421-014-3076-6
To measure strength of extensors, flexors and the intrinsic muscles of the fingers and wrist in climbers (men and women) as well as non-climbers. Climbers are extremely susceptible for pulley tendon and joint wear and tear injuries due to the proposed weakness of the extensors of the forearm and fingers, this study measures them against each other as well as the non-climbing population.
Climbers exhibited almost 40% MORE fingertip strength but LESS extensor strength overall as compared to those who did not climb. This could be due to inhibition from the flexors being overly used. The intrinsic muscles of the hand were stronger, but still as compared to the hypertrophy of the finger flexors, the overall muscle mass of the hand and forearm is not (by his estimation) enough to balance out the mechanisms of motion in the hand and fingers. It is proposed that this is a viable reason as to why wrist instability syndromes and pulley tendon failures occur more commonly in climbers.
It is also mentioned that women in this study were much weaker in finger flexor strength than the men (42 plus or minus 11% less of torque to be exact) even through they were able to climb at a French 8a (5.13a) however these studies were done only on a few women (3 women) and there were none in the control (12 men). This is a fascinating new twist that I hope more research brings to light how women can climb at this level with almost half the torque and if strengthening these weakened areas brings balance and health to the system that depend upon daily.
What we learn from this research:
As climbers, our strength in distal finger flexion sets us up for success on the wall but also its dominance as a finger stabilizer set us up for injuries to the entire system. We need to do a lot of wrist strength, elbow and shoulder strength, and balance out those strong finger tip flexors so our support systems are more protected from failure.
The following sets of muscles are indicated as "needing focus":
-Wrist extensors (Abductors and adductors)
-Wrist flexors (Abductors and adductors)
-Intrinsic Muscles of the hand (bringing the fingers together, pulling the fingers apart)
-Elbow flexors & Extensors
Instead of focusing on full body strengthening for climbing and finger board, lets also work all of the muscles besides the Flexor Digitorum Profundus, the muscles for fingertip strength...