When you shake hands with a rock climber, you know it.
Advanced climbers have insane hand strength and strong fingers. If you’re new to sport climbing and want to improve grip strength, then we have 15 workouts that are going to help you.
Studies even show that having strong grip is associated with seeing positive cardiovascular structure patterns. Another study even showed that increases in grip strength would decrease the 10 year cardiovascular disease risk.
One important caveat to all of this, is that it’s crucial to prevent injury when building strength. An injury will take you off the wall for a significant period of time and reset your gains. Injuries are the greatest way to hurt your climbing performance. Overuse injuries and elbow injuries are common for climbers. Take your rest days when you feel like you need it to prevent overuse injuries.
Warming Up For Grip Training
I have to warm up.
It may be due to getting older, years of rock climbing, or years of typing into a computer. But Without following my wrist and finger warm up routine, I will feel some stiffness and pain in the next few days.
Here are two warm ups you can follow
Wrist circles are an easy exercise you can do in the car, hiking to the crag, or before sending your project.
All you need to do is rotate each wrist in a clockwise motion ten times. Next, rotate them counterclockwise ten times. Repeat these for a few sets until your wrists are feeling warmed up.
The pencil twist is a great warm up for grip training and when you’re about to crimp your fingers off.
You’ll need a pen, pencil, wooden dowel, or any other small cylandrical object. Put your hand straight up in the air and hold the pencil against your palm with your fingers. Next, walk each finger one by one up your palm. It should feel like your caressing the pencil with each finger.
1. Rubber Band Finger Extension
This is an easy exercise to increase your grip strength and all you need is a rubber band.
It’s a great exercise to do while you’re watching TV or sitting at the computer zoned out of your Zoom meeting. Place all of your fingers and thumb inside the rubber band so that they are all touching.
Next, slowly expand your fingers forcing the rubber band to stretch. Contract your fingers and expand them again. Do this eight time times for a few sets. If you need more resistance, you can use a thicker rubber band and double or triple up.
2. Wrist Curls
Wrist curls improve your climber grip and strengthen your wrist muscles. If you’re experiencing any wrist pain after climbing, I have found that running through wrist exercises has been very helpful to manage the pain by strengthening and training my forearm muscles.
For these curls, you need to start with a very light amount of weight. I would recommend 5 pounds or less. If you don’t have any dumbbells, you can even use a can of soup or a filled water bottle.
For this exercise, sit down and lay your arm and forearm flat on your leg. You can also use a table. The goal is to keep your hand free hanging but your arm and forearm supported. Grab the weight in your hand and slowly flex your wrist down towards the ground.
Bring your hand back up to parallel. Repeat this 5- 8 times in each hand
3. Reverse Wrist Curls
If you can do wrist curls, you can also do reverse wrist curls.
As the name implies, we will be doing the reverse of what we previously did for our wrist curl. Rather than our palm facing down, we’ll be turning it upside down so it faces up towards the sky.
You’ll set everything else up exactly the same. Same forearm on thigh. Same table. Same workout music playlist.
Hold the weight in your palm and curl your wrist up and towards the sky. I do this slowly and as far as I can. Then I will slowly release and extend my wrist back to parallel.
4. Farmer Walks
You don’t need bales of hay to get farmer strength.
I don’t know the exact origin of this name but I do have a good guess. Farmers are well known for their strong grip that they’ve built from years of working on the farm.
The exercise is incredibly simple. Pick up a heavy weight. Hold the heavy weight. Release the heavy weight. So easy a farmer can do it.
Unless you have heavy dumbbells or weights at your house, this is an exercise that’s good to do at climbing gyms. In my heavy weight lifting days, I loved performing this exercise because it complimented deadlifts so well. To start, I would pick up a weight and walk back and forth across the gym while holding it. If it felt too easy, I would go up five pounds and try it again.
Be careful to not get in anyone’s way while you’re walking and to watch your toes when you drop the weight.
5. Rice Bucket
My friends give me a lot of grief for keeping a Home Depot bucket of rice next to my computer.
They think that I am preparing for doomsday or that I drop my phone in water constantly. Nope. I’m using my rice bucket to improve my grip for rock climbing.
To use a rice bucket for grip training, you’re going to need to get a bucket and fill it up with rice. Deep enough so your entire hand is covered when you insert it. Next, you’ll insert your hand and make clockwise circles for 30-45 seconds. Do the same but for clockwise circles.
I like to do that for a few times and then finish by creating a fist and inserting my hand into the bucket. Then I open my fist and extend all my fingers and pull my hand out. A few reps of that will get you pumped. This is great because it will improve your finger strength as well.
6. Dead Hangs
The dead hang improves your climbing grip as well as your body weight fitness.
You will need a pull up bar for this exercise, but that’s it! If you don’t have one at home your climbing gym or regular gym will definitely have one for you to use.
All you need to do is head to the bar with confidence, grab it and hold on tight for as long as you can. Keep in mind that there is proper form for this exercise. Keep your back muscles engaged during your hang.
7. Wrist Ball Exercises
There’s a whole industry of wrist ball exercises on Amazon.
These devices are the same size as a stress ball but are made of plastic and they have a gyroscope ball inside of them. You’ll grip the ball in your hand and spin in concentric circles. As you spin, the ball inside will generate more and more force. It gets pretty tough to hang on to at fast speeds, so its a great way to train your grip strength.
8. Plate Balancing
Circus training has come for rock climbing grip training.
I have always used a dinner plate or frisbee for this exercise. But a smaller weight plate will work as well. You want to balance the plate on all of your fingers and thumb and rotate your hand around. It’s tough with out dropping it so pay attention.
If you’re having trouble visualizing this, you can place a ping pong ball on your plate or frisbee and try and get it to orbit around the perimeter.
9. Hand Crush Grippers
Crush grippers are the classic piece of equipment that come to mind to train grip strength. I like to keep one of these in my car so I can crank out a few squeezes at a red light. They’ll come at different resistance levels so choose wisely.
10. Forearm Grip Ring
This is one of my favorite grip trainers.
Black Diamond makes a specific tool called the forearm grip ring that you can use to train your grip strength. It’s made out of a smooth material that won’t irritate your calluses. Some of the other devices have scraped on my calluses which gets annoying over time.
11. Pinch Blocks
Have you seen some blocks of wood attached to weights at your gym?
These devices are a great way to not only improve your grip, but will also build your pinch strength. There may also be blocks of different widths. Try holding them by your sides for ten seconds at a time and see how it feels. From there you can change the weight or width for more of a challenge.
Deadlifting is a great supplemental exercise for your climbing training.
It’s a full body workout that targets nearly every muscle in your body. I think it’s something that experienced climbers can benefit from if they are plateauing or getting bored with their regular routine. I only do one or two sets of heavy deadlifts per week because of how intense they are. Get your form perfect on them and keep your arms straight. It’s easy to do some damage with bad form.
A hang board offers all different kinds of grips and holds for you to use.
This is similar to a dead hang, but since the hang board also has grips specific to rock climbing, you’ll be developing finger strength at the same time as you improve your grip. Follow a hang board routine and setup a weighted pulley system to make it easier when you’re first starting off.
14. Pull Ups
The classic exercise is the pull up.
You can do a pull up on hang boards, jugs at the climbing gym, or at the local playground you jog by. I personally use an overhand grip, but either flavor works fine. My current routine is I do one set of pull ups to failure every time I jog by a playground that has monkey bars.
15. Rock Climbing
Yep. Your grip strength will get better by just doing real, actual climbing.
You won’t need to buy an extra resistance band or grip trainer. Just head to your local rock gym or crag and start climbing. Most climbers already have good grip just from being on rock so much.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is grip training good for climbing?
Yes having a strong grip is beneficial for climbing, it will help you hold on to tiny holds as well as take rest on bigger jugs.
Is grip training good for you?
Yes, studies have shown that improved grip and increased hand strength is associated with characteristics that are known to be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
How long does it take to build grip strength climbing?
It will take a few months of climbing, other exercises, and rest days to build general grip strength.
How do you strengthen your finger grip for climbing?
Going climbing and using hang boards are two of the best ways to improve your finger strength.