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Grip Strength Exercises

Kris floating through The Pearl

Ultimate grip strength is arguably the most important strength in climbing. There are many training methods to increase grip strength. This is the part of training that I enjoy most and see the most results from. Here are the methods I use:

1. Hangboard work outs. There are a million articles on hangboard training, so I won’t get into the nitty gritty. Here’s some tips from my time on the board:

a. Use Open Hand Grips. It’s less injury prone than crimping and will make crimping stronger too.

b. Do Not do dynamic moves, & if one hand pops off, drop immediately. My only hangboard injure came from campusing up pockets with weight, and having a hand come off.

c. Adding and subtracting weight as recommended in many hangboard articles is a pain in the butt. If you’re using something like the Metolius Simulator, just switch to a different edge. If the small holds are too hard on your skin, add a constant weight (like 10 lbs.) and either use 10 lbs or 0 lbs. Adjust hold selection accordingly.

d. Use Assorted Fingers. In retrospect this seems very obvious, but mix up the finger selection on the holds. I realized dramatic improvement when I started using Index/Middle fingers in two finger pockets instead of just Middle/Ring.

e. Protect You Skin. I used to throw in a CD and train ’til I bled. This was so stupid. I should have increased the weight to shorten the workouts (they were about an hour), and sanded down some of the texture on my hangboard. Wash your hands afterwards and use moisturizer as needed.

f. Have a Plan. Establish a workout and complete it. Consider whether you want to hang for a long time for endurance or short time for muscle building. Track your results. Below and linked is a spreadsheet I’ve used. I’ve never filled in the whole thing in one session, usually focusing either on pulling or hanging depending on the day. Please modify the spreadsheet as needed for your routine.

2. Finger Rolls. So I’ve mentioned these before. This is basically finger weight lifting. I got it from an Eric Horst training article here.

I don’t have much to add except to say if you don’t have a nice squat spotter as shown in the photo above- use a simple bench press set up. Stand with the bench between your legs, but try to curl directly above the rack that holds the bar.

I do these for a couple weeks, then take a couple weeks off. Super strong!

3. Bouldering. Hit the boulders. Imagine doing the crux on a route 15 times before getting it. Now imagine your belayer. Bouldering is the easiest way to work moves beyond your limit. Plus, you don’t have to wait (i.e. belay) while someone else is climbing. A good pump can be had in 45 minutes while bouldering

Kris on The Pearl, Kraft Boulders, NV

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