Rock climbing is a very popular sport and a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air in an adventurous way.
If you are looking to improve your rock climbing game, climb more difficult routes and increase your grip strength, here are some innovative and fun ways to do so.
What is meant by grip strength?
First things first, let’s clear up what we mean by grip strength.
Basically, grip strength is how securely and firmly your hands can hold on to something and how heavy the items that they grip are.
Grip strength is very important if you want to be a successful rock climber as it will determine how high you can climb and will allow you to reach remote places.
Consistency and practice is key
Before starting on your grip strength training, professional trainers recommend setting time aside every day specifically for this.
Getting into a daily routine (whatever that may entail for you) will help you to gradually build strength in your hand and forearm muscles and maintain the progress you have made so far.
A hang board is considered to be a basic training item for rock climbing enthusiasts as it is incredibly easy to use and very effective in helping you to build up strength in your hands.
A hang board is essentially a wooden block with a number of grooves in it that are ideal for helping to build finger muscles with a pulling or hanging motion. They are available at most outdoor stores and are relatively inexpensive.
You can fix it to a wall, over a doorframe or have it over your stairwell, making it an incredibly versatile piece of equipment.
We recommend starting out with some density hangs (also known as recruitment hangs) where you tug on an edge for about 5 seconds at a time.
If you are just getting started, your feet don’t need to leave the floor and, as long as you are pulling for at least 3 seconds, you are working your fingers’ muscle fibers.
Another way of using your hang board is with density hangs. Here, you select 3 holds and hang off the board with your fingers until you can no longer take it. Most folks last between 20 to 40 seconds and, as you build strength, you can hold on for longer.
One-Minute Hang Exercises
Hanging exercises from a pull-up bar are a great alternative to a hang board.
Some amateur climbers find that they are not ready for a hang board just yet and, in these cases, a simply pull-up bar would work better.
All you need to do is simply execute a “dead hang” from your pull-up bar and build up your strength from there.
An added advantage to using a pull-up bar is that it helps to strengthen your shoulder and upper back muscles, as well (all of which help to make you a better rock climber).
The name might be somewhat misleading, but plate pinches involve holding weights between your fingers and thumb for about half a minute at a time. It’s recommended that you repeat the process at least 3 times on each hand.
A great way to shake your plate pinches up is to use a loop resistance band that you place around your outer hand area. Push your hands out, how and then repeat 10 times on each hand.
Crushing exercises should be part of every grip strength training regime as they help to make your hands and fingers stronger rather quickly.
Spring-loaded grippers that you “crush” offer a great level of resistance for your hands and fingers. Once you are accustomed to a certain level of resistance, you can switch to a gripper that offers more resistance.
Your crushing exercise routine should involve at least 5 to 10 reps where you alternate hands (try and increase the number of reps you do gradually over time to get the most out of your crushing exercises).
Although your grip strength is largely determined by how strong your hand muscles are, you should not neglect your forearms.
Wrist curls are an excellent way to ensure that your forearm muscles are strong, toned and able to support your hands whilst rock climbing.
All you need for wrist curl exercises is a dumbbell and this can be bought from any sports store.
For the perfect wrist curl, have your forearm in the supine position and gently but firmly hold your dumbbell in your hand. Extend your wrist fully into an open position and then flex it fully into a closed position. Repeat this process slowly and consistently and aim for 8 to 10 reps.
Professional trainers recommend exercising your strong/dominant hand first and then moving onto your weaker one.
Another crucial part of your grip strength training should include some decent flexibility development in the wrist area.
This can be done by using a heavy but easy-to-grip object, like a sledge hammer. One that weighs between 3 and 6 pounds should be perfect for this kind of exercise.
To start your wrist rotations, keep your elbow tightly against your side and hold the sledge hammer in such a way that it is parallel to the ground. It should be lying on its side at this point.
Keep holding the sledge hammer for at least 10 seconds and then lift it into an upright position. Stay in this position and then rotate it the other way so that it is parallel to the ground in the opposite direction.
Some people like to wrap tape around the handle every few inches so that they can hold it closer or farther from the hammer part. How close (or far) you hold it in relation to where the hammer part is can adjust the resistance.
It is advisable to increase the resistance gradually and slowly because if it is too heavy for you, you run the risk of injuring your elbow.
To fine tune your grip strength, nothing compares to flexing your fingers with a bit of resistance.
This can be done using a wide range of resistance bands or extension tools (which you can buy from any sporting goods store) but many rock climbers actually swear by the plain, old rubber band!
If you decide to use a rubber band, make sure that it is at least half an inch wide so that it doesn’t break and offers a decent amount of resistance.
All you need to do is place your thumb and fingers into the band and then slowly extend them in an outward motion. Aim to spread your fingers out fully and don’t be despondent if you can’t do it on the first few tries- it can take some getting used to and a while for your fingers to build up sufficient strength.
Do these finger flexes in reps of 10 but make sure that you don’t strain your pinkie finger as it is the most delicate of all your fingers.
Once you have mastered the half inch wide rubber band, think about using a wider rubber band for added finger strength.