You see hangboards in just about every gym and in any dedicated climber’s home, but why do we care so much about finger strength as climbers? Here’s what training guru Eric Hörst has to say on the matter—along with his recommendations for two training protocols.

Stronger fingers:

  • Grip stronger holds
  • Endure longer on submaximal holds
  • Recover on small holds
  • Have more stamina

As a beginner climber, you should aim to simply continue climbing—in this way, you’ll naturally develop finger strength along with endurance. As a more experienced climber, however, you’ll want to engage in more targeted training of the finger flexor muscles in the forearm.

Two effective fingerboard training protocols

1. Minimum edge training (entry-level)

  • Find holds you can hang on for 15 seconds
    • Do not hang until failure
    • Actual training hang will be 12 seconds
  • Train with half crimp or open hand crimp
  • (12-second hang + 2-minute rest) X 5 = 1 set
    • Beginners do 2 sets
    • Advanced climbers do 5-6 sets

2. Maximum weight training (advanced)

  • You will use larger holds, but with the addition of weights to train
    • Select an edge just less than 1 finger pad in depth
  • Find a weight you can hold for a 10-second hang to failure
    • Test various weights on the belay loop of your harness
    • Actual training hang will be 7 seconds
  • (7-second hang + 53-second rest) X 3 = 1 set
    • After each set rest 3 minutes
    • Beginners of this training, 2 sets just 2 days per week
    • Advanced climbers, 5 sets but only 2 days per week

4 tips to reduce injury risk when fingerboard training

  1. Complete a full body warm-up prior to hanging
  2. Avoid painful holds
  3. Always use proper technique
  4. Rest more than you think you need

For more information from Eric—one of the leading authorities on climbing performance, with well over 30 years of experience under his belt—consider picking up the newest edition of his book, Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance.

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