Bouldering for Finger Strength

bouldering-by-bareknuckleyellowIf you’re a climber, your finger strength is an important aspect of your abilities to get up a tough climb. When you’re relying on your fingers to jam into a crack and stay there, having strong fingers and hands is crucial. Bouldering is one of the easiest ways to build up your finger strength for climbing. First, bouldering requires more hand strength because you’re fighting gravity much harder than on a regular climb route and have to use your fingers more to support your weight. Second, you’ll enjoy it — we’re not talking calisthenics here!

In fact, since bouldering condenses a climb into a shorter but more powerful climb than sport climbing, adding bouldering to your climbing is a great way to build strength in general, maybe for a particular crux or a competition.

To exercise your fingers through bouldering when you’re first starting out and want to build up strength, start with climbs that use a wide range of different grips so you can figure out what you need to work on the most. If you have more trouble with a pinch grip than a pocket grip, you’ll want to focus on building up the strength to do pinch grips well. However, be aware that crimp grips put a lot of stress on your tendons, so you’ll want to be extremely careful when working on building crimp grip stamina and strength.

If you’re working at an inside gym, try to use a problem that isolates one type of grip for the route and train on it till your grip fails. Be sure to rest between attempts. Outdoor problems are harder to isolate certain types of grips but can be a fun way to get out and try something new while still building finger strength.

Hypergravity training is also another option but should only be used by advanced climbers who have a few years of bouldering under their belt. Fingers, because they’re made up of ligaments and tendons, take a long time to get stronger so waiting until you’ve completely plateaued at regular training levels is important before moving to hypergravity training. The idea is to increase gravity’s pull on you while you climb by adding weights. Only do hypergravity training in the controlled environment of a gym, with a spotter.

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