Kinematic and EMG analysis of horizontal bimanual climbing in humans.


University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Climbing is an increasingly popular recreational and competitive behavior, engaged in a variety of environments and styles. However, injury rates are high in climbing populations, especially in the upper extremity and shoulder. Despite likely arising from an arboreal, climbing ancestor and being closely related to primates that are highly proficient climbers, the modern human shoulder has devolved a capacity for climbing. Limited biomechanical research exists on manual climbing performance. This study assessed kinematic and muscular demands during a bimanual climbing task that mimicked previous work on climbing primates. Thirty participants were recruited - 15 experienced and 15 inexperienced climbers. Motion capture and electromyography (EMG) measured elbow, thoracohumeral and trunk angles, and activity of twelve shoulder muscles, respectively, of the right-side while participants traversed across a horizontal climbing apparatus. Statistical parametric mapping was used to detect differences between groups in kinematics and muscle activity. Experienced climbers presented different joint motions that more closely mimicked the kinematics of climbing primates, including more elbow flexion (p = 0.0045) and internal rotation (p = 0.021), and less thoracohumeral elevation (p = 0.046). Similarly, like climbing primates, experienced climbers generally activated the shoulder musculature at a lower percentage of maximum, particularly during the exchange from support to swing and swing to support phase. However, high muscle activity was recorded in all muscles in both participant groups. Climbing experience coincided with a positive training effect, but not enough to overcome the high muscular workload of bimanual climbing. Owing to the evolved primary usage of the upper extremity for low-force, below shoulder-height tasks, bimanual climbing may induce high risk of fatigue-related musculoskeletal disorders.


Climbing,EMG,Evolutionary biomechanics,Kinematics,Shoulder biomechanics,