/ Begginer - Finger & Grip Strength

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Kelloggs77 on 02 Dec 2012
Relatively new to climbing and wondered how many people start out with grip and finger problems? I have been doing some specific work the last few weeks to try and improve, which seemed to have helped today when I went to the wall.

How quickly does this develop (obviously depending on frequency of training)? At the moment my grip is restricting what I can do and means that my technique is not getting a change to develop.

Thoughts, comments or advice would be welcome!
alanlgm - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:

take it easy and it will come..

if your newish to climbing you dont want to overdo the training and hurt yourself. its really easy to pull a tendon and be out for ages when your still developing. muscles strengthen quicker than the other parts of your hand.

Kelloggs77 on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to alanlgm:

Thanks! Experienced in weight training in the past so hopefully should be a good judge of when to ease off?! At just gone 35, I am on a bit of a fast track if I am honest, hence will need to progress a bit quicker than those 10 year old I saw swinging from hold to hold today ha ha!

fraserbarrett - on 02 Dec 2012
I think the way you will get the fastest improvements will be by improving technique, as this should hopefully limit the amount you need to use your grip.

On the training side, even with weight training experiance, I would be very careful of the tendons in the hands. They are very small and comparitively have little bloodflow. Big gains can also be had by improving core and shoulder strengh, to allow you to hold positions better and put less load on you hands.

On the plus side you should see some really quick, huge improvements in grip strength from climbing, and it is quite normal for this to be the limiting facor when you first start.

Fraser
RichardP - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to alanlgm:
> if your newish to climbing you dont want to overdo the training and hurt yourself. its really easy to pull a tendon and be out for ages when your still developing. muscles strengthen quicker than the other parts of your hand.

I strained some tendons in my fingers and as there is no direct oxegen infusion to the tendons they take along time to heal (in my case I had to take it easy for 6 weeks)

Kevin Woods - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77: Pretty much as everyone else said. Just climbing a lot do a lot of favours. Since limitations in grip strength may make you work to get around a move, it might benefit technique a lot.
RichardP - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:
> At just gone 35, I am on a bit of a fast track if I am honest, hence will need to progress a bit quicker than those 10 year old I saw swinging from hold to hold today ha ha!

:-)

The thinmg about the 10 year olds you mension, they don't weight as much as you as a result their musscle don't have to carry as much weight.

I'm 6'2", well built and have a fairly phsical job, but I know several women who could be discribed as "slip of a girl" however they outclimb me. because they don't have to carry the 16 stone I weigh.

It's a matter of a power to weighjt ratio, and in regards the 10 year old, there is also a fear to weight ratio. Kids don't know when it's good to be scared

basically take it easy and you'll get there

Richard

Kelloggs77 on 02 Dec 2012
Thanks guys - will ease of a tad then.

Certainly appreciate the power to weight issue. I recently went on a crazy fitness and diet program. Got very fit for a trip I was going on but lost a fair bit of strength. Slowed it down now, however the weight that comes back on isn't muscle (obviously).
tom_in_edinburgh - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:

I'd think about this in reverse - it's your technique that isn't getting enough of your weight on your feet so your grip is overloaded. Having weak grip is an opportunity to get routes done efficiently with technique rather than strength.

I'd suggest mileage on routes you can do and focussing on 'silent feet' where you concentrate on putting your foot down silently, exactly where you want it and saying 'push' to yourself when you feel yourself putting your bodyweight through your feet. If you are saying 'push' you've got a good position and are offloading your arms.

Going for arm and grip strength with specific training will get you to the next grade faster than training footwork but there's a good chance if your starting out you'll end up with tweaked fingers or sore elbows and have to back off to let them heal. That's what happened to me.



Kelloggs77 on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

You definately seem to be describing how things are going for me with regards me using way too much arms. Will try focus on using my feet more, keeping straight arms and using my hips.

Thanks!
shark - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:

Finger strength is of primary importance in climbing and a lot of technique is essentially to load the fingers as little as possible so you can execute moves or conserve finger strength for further moves.

As you probably know there isnt any muscle in the fingers themselves so the strength is in the forearm muscles. These are relatively small muscles and so gains can be slow. As they are small CV fitness is not useful even for endurance routes.

The first key thing to realise is that the fingers don't move on the holds (usually) so the strength is isometric. Isometric finger strength is unique as a primary performance factor compared to other sports and less is known or has been researched as a consequence.

Max grip strength and finger endurance are also both important. The first more vital for bouldering and the second more important for (non-cruxy) routes.

There are two types of strength gains you can elicit. One is neural based which trains existing muscle to work more efficiently and the other is increasing muscle sze (hypertrophy). The neural gains can lead to quick and rapid results and then plateau leading some to lose faith with fingerboarding as further gains are much harder to come by.

Fingers are surprisingly robust for such small structures but the type of work climbers do mean that tendons and other supporting structures and attachment points do get pushed to, and beyond the limits.

Fingery bouldering should be your main tool to improve max finger strength and intervals on bouldering circuits and routes for increasing finger stamina.

A secondary classic way to improve finger strength is regular deadhanging from fingerboards. As finger strength gains are typically slow I see no reason why a beginner shouldn't make a habit of this from the outset if they have any ambition especially as it can be done at home.

When deadhanging try to use a variety of grips so you get good on slopers, drags, half-crimps and crimps. Spreading the load will help prevent injury too.

Stop strong, stay hydrated, be mindful of small pains/tweaks.
pasbury on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to shark:

Or find a railway bridge and get traversing!
jkarran - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:

> How quickly does this develop (obviously depending on frequency of training)? At the moment my grip is restricting what I can do and means that my technique is not getting a change to develop.

Without meaning to sound condescending your grip strength isn't limiting your ability to develop good technique, that can be done on a huge variety of angles and holds, it can be done hands off.

Really focusing now on good movement and fully exploiting your feet/legs/balance will get you a lot further in the medium term than any amount of finger exercises. The added bonus is you largely avoid the injury risk and your fingers will strengthen naturally as your climbing progresses.

jk
shark - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to jkarran:

These things aren't mutually exclusive. Efficient movement can be learnt and engrained through volume of moves and working out difficult moves through bouldering.

Hard bouldering and intervals on routes or bouldering circuits is the primary way to gain max finger strength and fingery endurance respectively.

Some supplementary deadhanging can speed progression. Deadhanging is relatively controllable and needn't be too risky. Also getting strong fingers can help prevent finger injury.
jkarran - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to shark:

All good points. I was mostly responding to the idea that weak fingers limit the ability to develop technique.

I'm sure dedicated finger exercise from the outset can be beneficial but I never had the discipline to do it safely, I've always ended up hurt and weaker than if I'd done nothing.

jk
Kelloggs77 on 04 Dec 2012
Thanks guys, appreciate all the comments. I think it is fair to say both footwork and grip strength need big improvements in my case. I guess footwork will come with practice and observing those more proficient, whilst I can focus specifically on my grip away.from the wall also to assist.
shark - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Kelloggs77:
> Thanks guys, appreciate all the comments. I think it is fair to say both footwork and grip strength need big improvements in my case. I guess footwork will come with practice and observing those more proficient, whilst I can focus specifically on my grip away.from the wall also to assist.



Watching others is good but swapping beta whilst bouldering on the same problem is even better. Ask for help to. Most climbers will be happy to show you how to do something.

Also be aware that good technique is not just footwork. It is also about body positioning, sequences, movement initiation, timing and momentum. Sometimes precise footwork is the optimal solution, other times paste and go works best.
Gotte - on 13 Dec 2012
When I started (only a year or so ago) I was advised that if I wanted to improve my strength, endurance and tecinique, the best way to go about it was a lot of traversing. Obviously, there are certain things you can't practice on a traverse, but it sure works those fingers and forearms.
Kelloggs77 on 12 Jan 2013
Just thought it worth updating by way of thanks. I have taken on board much of the advice provided and in the last week have finally started to make notable all round improvements. My grip strength is much, much better (I have actually surprisingly put just over an inch on my forearms - albeit do have the benefit of muscle memory from weight training in the past) and this has enabled me to tackle more challenging problems, thus helping my technique by requiring more from me.

A few things I have notice seem to have made a difference, or possibly since the improvement they have emerged.

1 - Relaxing - I think I was gripping way to hard to everything before, thus not helping by exhausting my muscles very quickly.
2 - Momentum - as I feel more in control I can create and utilise momentum to ease up things that I was trying to brute before (and failing might I add).
3 - Mental approach - I think I have more confidence about my ability, thus actually don't psych myself out of something before I actually start.

Overall I am pleased with my progress, which really has come about in 2 weeks of regular attendance at the wall. I am under no illusions that the next plateau is not just around the corner, however I will meet it with much more confidence and belief now!

Thanks again.
shark - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Kelloggs77:

Nice one
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