How to Hold on Tight – Part 1

One of the first things you might see when watching pro climbers is that they have the uncanny ability to hold their entire body weight with just their fingers. This almost cartoonish feat of strength comes from lots of training, but it isn’t just a skill that they use to show off. If you are climbing by hand (which most do) you are going to need to build up some strength in your digits before you take on bigger challenges. As you progress upwards to your goal the first part of your body to advance is your fingers, because of this oftentimes you will need to be able to pull of this ‘finger only’ hold in order to orientate your legs to other footholds, you may even need to pull yourself up from below which means your fingers and your grip need to both be strong if you don’t plan on making your way back to the ground the fast way.

Firstly, understanding the anatomy behind your finger strength is a worthwhile starting point. Your fingers themselves don’t have muscles all the way to their tips which is why you won’t see climbers in the gym doing curls with their fingers. Your hand does have muscles however and the strength that you can imbue your five digits with comes from the capabilities of these ones. Your grip is controlled by the strength of your hand muscles and the next ones in line which are in your forearms. Collectively training these (and the other muscles in your arms to some degree) will help you maintain a better grip and allow more weight to be taken on by your fingers. But if you can’t workout your fingers like the rest of your body then how can you improve them? Here are several ways you can put you’re your fingers and your hands through the ringer and arrive at a solid foundation for climbing.

Fist Stretch

This may sound overly simple, but your hands are constantly in a fist, though they are capable of performing one it makes sense to get your hands used to tightening. The great part about this minor exercise is you don’t need to be anywhere in particular or need any other equipment to do it. All you need to do is make a fist tight enough to put your thumb over your fingers and hold this for at least half a minute at a time. Repeat this several times and you can make your hold firmer if you like. You should be able to see movement in your wrist as you tighten and release, showing how the tendons in your fingers are governed by the muscles before them.

Hand Grip Strengthener/ Squeezee

If your hands alone aren’t doing the trick for you there are several tools out there for anyone looking to advance their grip. You’ve probably seen the inverted V-shaped grip tools which can help, but to get your fingers working better a more malleable product may be better. Using the ones that are softer and more akin to stress balls will be better at getting your fingers into a natural grip position.