5 Best Grip Strengtheners for Climbing (2023 Guide)
Published on: 07/16/2022
Last updated on: 08/13/2023
Forearm strength and muscular endurance can help keep you injury-free while rock climbing. A good grip trainer works the forearm muscles and develops finger strength, keeping you safer.
Finger injuries, elbow injuries, and injuries to the forearm flexors are common in our hobby. Regular grip strength training can help prevent these problems. And it can also help you recover from setbacks more quickly.
Grip trainers are inexpensive, lightweight, and can be used while reading and drinking a cup of coffee. All climbers should have one of these in their bag of tricks.
Our Selection of the Best Grip Strengtheners in 2023
We’ve listed five of the best grip strengtheners for climbers. It covers coil-based strengtheners, rubber extensor trainers, and individual fingers trainers. Whether your goal is injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, or increased hand strength, our list includes a suitable device.
We’ve also done our best to include grip trainers at various price points. Grip training doesn’t have to break the bank. Simply dead hanging from a pull-up bar or regular rice bucket training can get your climbing grip most of the way there.
- Individual spring-loaded rubber grips
- Multiple models available with different tensions
- Color-coded bands easy, medium, and hard
- Multiple models available with different tensions (60 lbs to 365 lbs)
- Aircraft-grade aluminum
- Extensor and stress ball
- Soft, regular, and hard
1. Gripmaster Pro Hand Strengthener: The Best Trainer For Individual Fingers – Advanced Climbers
Individual springs for each digit, pressed against a spring-loaded rubber grip, make this ideal for developing finger strength.
Independent finger pads on the topside allow you to focus on one digit at a time. The Pro Hands trainer is also popular with horn and sax players for this reason.
The springs here are non-adjustable, meaning there’s only one tension available. We’d suggest a lower resistance model if you’re a beginner or intermediate. This is for advanced climbers.
Buy the Gripmaster Pro when you’ve developed some basic strength and want a quality unit to challenge you. A cheaper entry-level unit with similar specs is also available from Gripmaster.
Who’s it for?
This is a grip training device for climbers with existing strength. At 13lbs per finger, the tension offered by the Pro Hands will challenge even the most advanced climbers.
The resistance levels here are for competent musicians, athletes, powerlifters, etc. The individual piston design means engaging the whole hand to target crude, total grip development or focus on individual fingers.
The Pro Hands is excellent for mono training and exercises that focus on pinch grip strength. But the clever design also allows for the development of crushing strength.
The ergonomic rubber grip of this grip trainer is significantly more comfortable than most other units. And the Pro Hands weighs in at 4.3 ounces and is small enough for your pocket.
2. LATTICE – Extensor Bands: The Best Grip Strengtheners for Climbers on a Budget
This set from Lattice includes three silicone bands of increasing resistance levels. Placed around the fingers and thumb tips, you engage the muscles by a hand opening movement.
The extensor muscles, in particular, get a workout from this motion.
Color-coded easy, medium, and hard bands allow the user to progress by repeating three sets of twelve reps. Hand muscles, forearm muscles, flexor tendons, and related muscle groups all get a decent workout.
For a cheap and cheerful option, these bands are a good choice. They make a tremendous low-intensity training tool and are surprisingly versatile.
These also make a lot of sense for beginners. The increasing levels will keep you challenged for a long time.
Who are they for?
These bands are suitable for anyone suffering from carpal tunnel or muscular imbalances. Their design means the resistance level is constant and helps build strength with minimal risk of finger injury.
The gradually increasing tension levels suit novice through to experienced climbers working on their base conditioning. The training regime recommended is three sessions with twelve reps in each. This should give you stronger fingers in weeks.
This device does not specifically target crush and grip strength. Climbers looking to work on those areas find coil and spring strengtheners more effective.
3. Ironmind Captains of Crush Grippers: The Best Grip Strengthener for Crush Strength
The captains of crush hand grippers are the gold standard in crush training. Made in the USA from premium materials, Ironmind makes this device in eleven different tension levels, from 60lbs to 365lbs.
It’s popular with all kinds of athletes, especially climbers, gymnasts, powerlifters, and the weight lifting community.
Each aircraft-grade aluminum arm is machined with a diamond pattern knurl. The resistance level is fixed. But Captains of Crush offer sets of three and five units with different levels.
Though the price of the crush hand gripper is higher than many on the list, the build quality and durability are second-to-none. It is limited to training crush strength, however.
You can’t target individual fingers like the Gripmaster or adjust the tension like a spring-based strengthener. But there’s no better tool for a crush hand gripper. This device will give you an iron fist in weeks.
Who is it for?
Provided you get a tension suitable for your fitness level; this is a good buy for anyone. While there might be more versatile trainers out there, the Captains of Crush hand gripper will suit most climbers working on their base conditioning.
Resistance is smooth and consistent, giving the fingers and arm muscles a thorough workout. The knurled grip also helps with rock climbing conditioning. While it may initially hurt the hands, the rough texture will help you develop a tougher layer of skin.
4. Metolius Grip Saver Plus Hand Exercisers: Best Rock Climbing Grip Strengthener for Rehabilitation
Ideal for strength training and injury prevention, this finger grip strengthener comes in a set of three. They are designed specifically with climbing training and rehab in mind.
The ball part of the unit looks similar to a stress ball, but individual finger loops create resistance in a hand opening movement.
This combination makes the Grip Saver an excellent climbing grip trainer or rehabilitation tool for climbers with injured fingers.
The extensor trainers offer a steady resistance when pulled in one direction. And the ball creates resistance in the other direction.
Using these balls also develops wrist and forearm strength by bringing the hand muscle groups through a full range of motion. One caveat here is a few online complaints about durability.
We’ve included this unit on our list because it’s so good for injury prevention and recovery. But the durability is not comparable to something like the Captains of Crush hand gripper.
Who is it for?
These are the most climbing-specific grip strengtheners on our list. Designed by a doctor to strengthen the fingers and forearms, these are ideal for injury prevention and recovery.
Most grip trainers are focused on one type of grip strength. This set covers all aspects of grip strength comprehensively. The fingers and muscles in the forearms get a thorough but gentle workout. The included training manual is useful too.
5. Kootek Hand Grip Strengthener: Best Adjustable Grip Strengthener
This grip strengthener from Kootek takes the classic coil design and makes it adjustable. It does this by using the law of the lever.
Grease-like lubricant covers the adjustable inner aluminum arm, allowing you to slide the handle up and down. In turn, this creates different levels of tension.
There are a few minor problems with this design, however. The grease will inevitably find its way onto your fingers, bench, clothes, etc.
The tension is lower the further apart the handles are. Unfortunately, this also affects the angle you’re pulling at.
It is useful to have several resistances in one tool. But the adjustable grip can be finicky. Still, if you want to make a single purchase that you can progress with, this could be a good choice. It’s sturdy and offers a decent range of resistances.
Who is it for?
This is for someone looking to make a single purchase that they can use for a long time. The adjustability sets it apart from most other coil grip trainers.
And while this is small enough to be portable, the lubricant on the arms will make you reluctant to put it in your pocket or bag.
It’s a competent device for grip training, and most rock climbers would benefit from owning one.
But it’s probably best kept in your garage alongside your chalk and other stuff that annoys your partner/non-climbing housemates. For use on the sofa, this is the wrong tool.
Do You Need a Grip Strengthener?
Many climbers use grip strengtheners as part of their training program. The reason is part injury prevention and part a boost to performance—this should help answer the question.
If you’ve ever struggled with a finger injury or repetitive strain in the forearms or hand muscles, you should own one of these.
Don’t believe us? A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (1) concluded that grip strength in middle age is an excellent predictor of functional limitations and disability later in life.
Unsurprisingly, those with a good grip had a higher walking speed, required less care, and had more independence and body autonomy when checked 25 years after the initial study.
Which Climbers Should Use Grip Strengtheners?
Climbers from beginner to advanced can benefit from this type of training. No matter your level, extensor trainers can help you avoid injury. And improving your grip gives you confidence. This applies to any type of climbing, from bouldering to sport climbing and everything in between.
That said, beginner climbers should be careful not to overtrain. The temptation may be to increase tension quickly or to hold contractions for an extended period. Work up to these goals slowly and always take rest days to listen to your body.
Advanced climbers likely have good grip strength, even if they don’t use a specific training tool. The forearms and finger muscles develop from climbing alone. But these tools can be a great way to maintain condition when away from the gym or crag.
How to Find the Best Grip Strengtheners?
These are the grip trainers that most people are familiar with. Using a steel coil with two handles attached, the user presses the two ends of the coiled steel together. These are simple, durable tools common in fitness gyms and homes.
The drawback is that this design is not typically adjustable. For a variety of resistances, you’ll need multiple units. The exception to this rule is the Kootek grip trainer on our list. One of its primary differences is adjustability. You are limited to crush training only with this type of device.
Spring-based trainers include those with two arms that you press together and trainers like the Pro Hands Grip Master. The latter type uses individual springs for each finger, allowing for mono training and the development of pinch grip strength.
Grip trainers with a spring on top and two handles are usually adjustable. Unlike coil strengtheners, spring-based trainers are often in plastic. Unfortunately, this reduces their durability slightly.
Extensor Muscle Trainer
The simplest version of this type of trainer is just an elastic band placed around the fingertips. The extensor muscles are engaged when we open the hand. Placing extra resistance on this motion develops strength and helps prevent injury.
Many climbing grip trainers feature individual finger loops to help target specific groups. The Metolius Grip Saver uses a stress ball and finger loops to train a wider range of muscles.
Fixed or Adjustable?
For most beginner to intermediate climbers, an adjustable trainer makes more sense. You’ll progress quickly through the first level of training, and if you can’t adjust your unit, you’ll need a new one.
The Kootek is a good option for this reason. But trainers that come in sets with varying levels are also a good option for beginners to intermediates.
A premium fixed trainer like the Captains of Crush makes sense once your base conditioning is on point.
The resistance in your trainer will be measured in pounds (lbs). Captains of Crush, for example, offer units from 60 to 365 lbs.
The device manufacturer will usually print beginner, intermediate, or advanced based on its resistance.
Don’t be tempted to jump in at the highest level right away. Just as this kind of training can prevent injury when done correctly, it can cause problems when done wrong.
There are ways to train without dedicated grip strengtheners. You can improve pinch strength by picking up and holding a weight plate. Try walking with a plate pinched in each hand for an increased challenge.
Training using your body weight is possible with a pull-up bar. Just grip the bar and hang, letting your fingers, hands, and forearms keep you in place.
Rice Bucket Training
Popular in martial arts movies but with a foundation in reality, rice bucket training is a classic grip strengthener.
Kung fu practitioners use the rice to condition the punching side of the fist. Climbers are more interested in conditioning the fingers, muscles, and palms.
This technique involves plunging hands into a bucket of rice and then twisting and clenching the hands once they are as deep as you can drive them. You can alternate the twisting motion to ensure you get an even workout.
Muscles and tendons don’t care about your enthusiasm. Fun can trick the mind into ignoring or reducing its perception of pain. This is why many people get hurt when they first take up a hobby.
Working out your hands and forearms doesn’t feel like as big of a deal as doing bench presses, for example. This is why it can be easy to overdo it. If your device comes with a training manual – read it.
Either by buying one of the products on our list or doing some of the equipment-free exercises listed.
Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Grip strengtheners help you grip rocks. Gripping rock is a fundamental cornerstone of the hobby. Just don’t overdo it.
Some people say yes. However, most scientific studies on injuries often point to overuse as one of the leading causes. As such, any kind of strength training requires adequate recovery. Training grip is no exception. If you’re pushing hard, you should only be training 2-3 times per week.
Midlife Hand Grip Strength as a Predictor of Old Age Disability
Rantanen et al. (1999)
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
Determinants for success in climbing: A systematic review
Saul et al. (2019)
Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness
Grip strength and endurance in rock climbers
Cutts and Bollen (1993)
The Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers