• JoJo

9c Strength Test

I'm kicking February off with a painful analysis of how weak I currently am. Between Christmas and the end of January I only climbed twice due to injury, lockdown, and it being bloody freezing. Since then, I’ve introduced climbing, pull-ups, and fingerboarding back into my life but very gradually and I feel like my arms have been replaced with wet noodles. Naturally, now seems like the ideal time to test how terrible my climbing shape is.


This should be fun.


What is the 9c Test?

The test consists of 4 exercises that assess specific strengths you need to climb hard. These are:

  1. Finger strength – maximum weight you can hang from a 20mm edge

  2. Pulling strength – maximum weight you can hang while completing pull-up on a bar

  3. Core strength – how long can you hold a L-sit or front lever

  4. Endurance – how long you can hang from a bar

You get a score from 1 – 10 for each exercise, giving you a total score out of 40. Your final score corresponds to the sport climbing grade you are (theoretically!) strong enough to successfully climb.


Simple as that!

As a climbing addict, I definitely advocate for having fun on the wall over chasing grades and cranking out monotonous rep after rep of weighted pull-ups. On the other hand, I’m also an enthusiastic fan of numbers and straightforward but satisfying spreadsheets. This kind of test, therefore, appeals to the casual mathematician in me.

Other People’s Scores

All the big boys and girls of the YouTube climbing channels have been taking the test over the last few weeks. The Bouldering Bobats, Magnus Midtbo, the Wide Boyz, Eric Karlsson Bouldering, and Anna Davey have all given it a go and achieved extremely high scores.

Some more relatable humans have also given it a go. I enjoyed watching Hannah Morris, Fanny Ahlm, Average Athlete and Georgio Time give this challenge a try.

I won’t spoil the other videos by telling you exactly what everyone else scored but let’s just say they all scored significantly higher than I’m going to!

My Score - Prediction

Low! I predict my score will be low!

You might (very sensibly) question why in the world I would put myself through this test if I expect to flail around and fail at it. It seems especially foolish as this is meant to test sport climbing strength and I exclusively boulder. Good points, well made.


My plan is to use it as a benchmark to see how much/if I improve when I start training harder again. I intend to repeat the test in six months’ time. I chose six months because hopefully Covid will have calmed down enough by then for me to be back in a climbing gym on a reasonably regular basis. At least I sincerely fucking hope so!

So, considering my current lack of climbing training, here is what I think I will achieve on this test.

For reference, my bodyweight is 60kg:

  1. Max finger strength = 1 point (body weight)

  2. Max pull-up = 1 point (body weight)

  3. L sit = 3 points (L-sit with bent knees for 30 seconds)

  4. Hang = 2 points (1 minute)

Total score = 7 points (6c+ sport climbing grade)

Let’s see if I’m right!

My Score: Attempt 1 – 14th February 2021 (Happy Valentine’s Day to me)

Max Finger Strength

Climber hanging from a Beastmaker 1000
Try little fingers, try hard!

The most I had previously managed to hang from a 20mm edge was my body weight plus 5kg. I needed to hang 6kg to bump my score from 1 to 2 points, which I had no expectation of managing right now. Safe to say I was stunned and chuffed to, somewhat out of the blue, snag an extra point on this exercise.Sadly, 12kg was one giant step too far though, so I’ll gladly settle for 2 points.


Exercise 1: Max Finger Strength Approx. 20 mm crimp (5 sec)


1 Point = 100% (bodyweight)

2 Points = 110%

3 Points = 120%

4 Points = 130 %

5 Points = 140 %

6 Points = 150%

7 Points = 160%

8 Points = 180%

9 Points = 200%

10 Points = 220%


Max Pull-Up

Climber failing to do a weighted pull-up on a Beastmaker 1000
My coach is not very impressed with my efforts

Another exercise I wasn’t confident about. I managed to do 3 pull-ups in a row (no added weight) for the first time during the lockdown in Spain last year, when all I could train was pull-ups and finger strength. But since then, my pull-up strength has plummeted.


It was outrageously comical how bad I was at this when I added even a little bit of weight. I can quite comfortably do one pull-up at bodyweight, but I could barely achieve a tiny bend in my arms when I added 6kg. I was just an idiot hanging off a chunk of wood while wearing a heavy rucksack and ineffectively power screaming into the abyss.


Exercise 2: Max Pull-Up (1 rep)


1 Point = 100% (bodyweight)

2 Points = 110%

3 Points = 120%

4 Points = 130 %

5 Points = 140 %

6 Points = 150%

7 Points = 160%

8 Points = 180%

9 Points = 200%

10 Points = 220%


L-Sit

Climber hanging from a Beastmaker 1000 with bent legs
Core, what core?

My core is in better shape than my arms right now, so I felt more confident about this exercise. The 30 second L-sit with bent knees wasn’t comfortable but well within my capabilities. The increase in difficulty from the bent leg to the straight leg L-sit felt brutal. I was a country mile away from holding this position for 1 second, never mind about 10. Definitely something I can work on in the future.


Exercise 3: L-Sit


1 Point = 10 sec L-sit (bent knees)

2 Points = 20 sec L-sit (bent knees)

3 Points = 30 sec L-sit (bent knees)

4 Points = 10 sec L-sit

5 Points = 15 sec L-sit

6 Points = 20 sec L-sit

7 Points = 5 sec Front Lever

8 Points = 10 sec Front Lever

9 Points = 20 sec Front Lever

10 Points = 30 sec Front Lever


Hang

Climber hanging from a Beastmaker 1000
No, it doesn't hurt that much, honestly

This one frightened me. It looked extremely painful when other people tried it on YouTube. Also, I’m a boulderer. Endurance isn’t really my thing. I was right to be trepidatious. This one hurt but I was pleasantly surprised with my time. I made it to 1 minute 30 seconds, which I was not expecting. Unfortunately, I had no chance of holding on for another 30 seconds, so I dropped off and cradled my protesting forearms on the floor for a while.


Exercise 4: Hang from bar (or jugs on a Beastmaker, as we don’t have a bar)


1 Point = 30 sec

2 Points = 1 min

3 Points = 1.5 min

4 Points = 2 min

5 Points = 2.5 min

6 Points = 3 min

7 Points = 3.5 min

8 Points = 4 min

9 Points = 5 min

10 Points = 6 min


Total

  1. Max finger strength = 2

  2. Max pull-up = 1

  3. L sit = 3

  4. Hang = 3

Points

40=9c/5.15d 39=9b+/5.15c 38=9b/5.15b

37=9b/5.15b

36=9a+/5.15a

35=9a+/5.15a

34=9a/5.14d

33=9a/5.14d

32=8c+/5.14c

31=8c+/5.14c

30=8c/5.14b

29=8c/5.14b

28=8b+/5.14a

27=8b+5.14a

26=8b/5.13d

25=8b/5.13d

24=8a+/5.13d

23=8a+/5.13c

22=8a/5.13b

21=8a/5.13b

20=7c+/5.13a

19=7c+/5.13a

18=7c/5.12d

17=7c/5.12d

16=7b+/5.12c

15=7b+/5.12c

14=7b/5.12b

13=7b/5.12b

12=7a+/5.12a

11=7a+/5.12a

10=7a/5.11d

9=7a/5.11d

8=6c+/5.11c

7=6c+/5.11c

6=6c/5.11b

5=6c/5.11b

4=6b/5.10d

3=6b/5.10d

2=6a 1=6a/5.10b


I scored 9 points, which is 2 more than I expected and gets me a sport climbing grade of 7a. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate exactly to bouldering grades so I could probably do with a bit more oomph to climb a boulder of the same grade, as I aim to do by the end of the year. Maths and climbing grades are cruel bedfellows.


All things considered, I’m extremely satisfied with this score and very curious to see how it changes over the coming months as I return to climbing more regularly and continue to work on my strength. Let’s be crystal clear, I’m not expecting miracles. I also won’t be neglecting training technique to spend excessive time hanging off my Beastmaker. But getting stronger surely can’t hurt my chances of climbing a 7a boulder by the end of 2021, can it?


That’s all from the 9c strength test for now. See you on 14th August 2021, when I’ll do it all over again.


I can hardly weight.

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