Grip Training for Rock Climbing

“How Stronger Hands Will Help You Master The Rock”
– Grip and Forearm Training for Rock Climbers –
As a climber, your hands can never be strong enough so you had better train them. In this section I will illustrate how specific grip training can be of tremendous benefit to rock climbers and some things to keep in mind when designing a physical training program.

First of all, it should be understood that to get better at rock climbing, you have to spend a lot of time on the rock. When your goal is to develop a skill, there is no substitute for practicing the skill itself. However, climbing is an extremely physically demanding activity and there is a definite limit to how much actual climbing your body can take before it starts to break down.

Taking time off is physiologically and psychologically a good thing. With training, you can take advantage of the down time in order to strengthen your “weak links” to help you become the best climber you can be.

Let’s take a look at what we are trying to accomplish within a rock climber’s grip training program:

1. To strengthen the “high use” climbing areas
2. To increase muscle, tendon, and bone strength and the durability of related soft tissues
3. To correct muscular imbalances
4. To toughen the skin
5. To increase blood flow to hasten healing/recovery
6. To increase flexibility

In short, we are developing “strength” through training which can then be applied correctly and more efficiently through actual climbing. Again, none of this is a substitute for climbing itself, but attending to these areas will help you climb more efficiently when you do get the opportunity. The diagram below illustrates the major components that we are training to become stronger – the fingers, thumb, wrist, and elbow/forearm.

* Strengthening the Fingers and Thumb:

Rock climbers ask a lot from their hands and put them in very extreme positions of stress. As a result, we need to train them through a full range of motion to strengthen every possible joint.

This can be done very efficiently with heavy duty spring hand grippers. The knurling of the hand grippers offers a very efficient way to toughen the skin which the actual training matches the strength curve of the human hand providing a very efficient training method. Hand grippers are portable and 1a different levels allow for effective progression.Muscles will get stronger and tendons and ligaments will strengthen over time. This will not happen overnight but over the course of many workouts. The thumbs are involved in hand gripper training but a tremendous source for building thumb strength as well as “open hand” strength is to use thicker-than-average training bars. You can find out more information about those right here. Another method would be to put the smooth side of two barbell plates together and lift as needed.

* Strengthening the Wrists, Forearms and Elbows:

Often the elbow problems that many climbers experience occur as a result of a muscular imbalance between the flexors and extensors and this can easily be corrected through proper training. You should also spend time training the pronation/supination and radial/ulnar deviation.

* Rest and Recovery:

Frequent climbing sessions (and frequent training sessions) will need to be spaced far enough apart in order to facilitate recovery. The body will repair itself through time if given the chance. Many climbers climb (or train) far too often, which increases the chance for injury. Active rest and non-climbing physical activities will help to increase blood flow and allow for healing to take place. As far as hastening recovery of the hands themselves, here is something to look at: the Finger Fitness program.

* Training the Whole Body for Climbing:

There is much more to climbing success than simply strong hands. A climber who only relies on hand strength will not last long – the hands will wear out in short order. Since climbing is a full-body activity, it necessitates a full-body training program. While climbing appears to only involve the “pulling” muscles, in reality, every major muscle group is involved and should be trained with a variety of basic exercises.