Finger-board Training

This post is in response to the questions I’ve been getting about finger-boarding.

This past winter I started my first structured training program for climbing, and a huge component of this training was finger-boarding.  Over the last couple of years I’ve realized that finger strength is the weakest link in my climbing, so the hope was that targeted finger training would address this issue.

Preparation: I spent 4 weeks starting in mid-December building a base of finger-boarding.  At first I was doing 4 sets with each set being a different grip: Crimp, Slope, front 3 fingers(index, middle, and ring fingers), and back three fingers (middle, ring, and pinkie fingers). Each set was a series of 7 sec hang, 3 sec rest, 7 sec hang, 3 sec rest, etc, for 1 minute with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. I built up over 4 weeks to doing 2 rounds of 6 sets of 6 hangs with each set of hangs being a different grip (slope, half-crimp, closed-crimp, front 2, middle 2, and back 2).

1st Strength Cycle: After I had built to that volume, I stayed steady at that volume of work, and built up the intensity by adding weight for the next 6 weeks.  The goal was to reach failure for each grip by the last hang of the second round.  Over the 6 week period I increased my strength on almost every grip by between 20 and 60lbs with the slopers seeing the biggest increase.  I found tracking my workouts like this Fingerboard Training Log helped motivate and see the improvements.  This 6 weeks ended at the end of February and I transitioned into bouldering and campusing.  At first I could hang onto holds very well, but for the first time in years I was relatively weak on movement.  This came back quickly though, and soon I was climbing very well in the gym and feeling stronger than ever.

RESULTS: This also translated fairly well outside and I had a very productive short trip to Joe’s valley.  After not having climbed outside in 7 months, I was able to have my most productive trip ever, and I think I could have done better if I had been better acclimated to outside climbing.  During the trip I had 2 realizations: 1-compared to most climbers of the grade, I still have relatively weak fingers, and 2- compared to most climbers of the grade I need to work on my body composition.  So the bottom line is that strength to weight ratio matters a lot in climbing, and I am working on both.

2nd Strength Cycle: Last week I started a 4-week training cycle aimed at these two things.  Having built a base of finger-boarding over the winter I am shifting my focus to maximal recruitment.  What this means is less volume and higher intensity.  I’m doing 3 fingerboard workouts a week, 1-2 workouts focused on mono’s(each finger including pinkie), and 1-2 workouts focused on crimp and sloper.  So the workouts have shifted to a full warm-up with progressive hangs followed by building to three maximum intensity hangs for 5 seconds with 1.5min rest between each hang.  To address the second issue of body composition I’ve started running, stretching and doing basic body weight exercises 5-6 days a week.