Purpose: Considering the development of rock climbing as a competitive sport, we aimed at investigating the influence of four recovery methods on subsequent maximal climbing performance.
Methods: In a randomly assigned crossover design, 13 female well-trained climbers (27.1 +/- 8.9 yr) came to the climbing center on four occasions separated by 1 wk. On each occasion, they had to perform two climbing tests (C1 and C2) until volitional exhaustion on a prepracticed route (overhanging wall, level 6b). These two tests were separated by 20 min of recovery. Four recovery methods were used in randomized order: passive recovery, active recovery (cycle ergometer, 30-40 W), electromyostimulation on the forearm muscles (bisymmetric TENS current), or cold water immersion of the forearms and arms (three periods of 5 min at 15 +/- 1 degrees C). Climbing tests' performance was reflected by the number of arm movements and climb duration.
Results: Using active recovery and cold water immersion, performance at C2 was maintained in comparison with C1, whereas C2 performance was impaired compared with C1 (P< 0.01) using electromyostimulation and passive recovery (recovery method-by-climb interaction, P < 0.05). Blood lactate decreased during recovery, with the greatest decrease occurring during active recovery (time-by-recovery method interaction, P < 0.001). Arms and forearms' skin temperatures were lower throughout the cold water immersion compared with the other three methods (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Active recovery and cold water immersion are two means of preserving performance when repeating acute exhausting climbing trails in female climbers. These positive effects are accompanied by a greater lactate removal and a decrease in subcutaneous tissues temperatures, respectively.