Best Hand and Grip Strengtheners for Rock Climbing
Rock climbers need strong hands. When you’re just starting out, you’re not really climbing hard enough to be in danger of injuring your tendons (unless you ignore your body and keep climbing far into pain) because you’re not crimping hard enough or holding on to small enough of holds to do yourself harm.
As you start climbing harder you may find that your technique is starting to outstrip your conditioning. Your hands build up solid callouses, but your finger strength may not be enough to hold onto the small holds that your technique and overall conditioning would otherwise allow you to complete.
So what do you do? How do you improve your hand strength even when you’re climbing as much as you physically can?
Lucky for you, there are many ways to do this.
These are the best hand strengtheners for rock climbing available right now.
If you’re looking for an easy and simple tool that you can easily throw into your backpack like your old TechDeck from high school, then look no further than the Gripmaster Hand Exerciser.
Gripmaster Hand Exercisers come in five tensions:
- XX-Light (green)
- X-Light (yellow)
- Light (blue)
- Medium (red)
- Heavy (black)
Gripmasters are relatively simple. They are essentially seven springs and three levels of plastic with four individually moving coils, one for each finger along the top.
There are many different exercises you can do on your Gripmaster, but the most common is to simply do sets of squeezing and releasing until your forearms are pumped and your hands are tired.
Another workout I like to do with my Medium Gripmaster is to do a set of 10 squeezes to warm up, then do a set of 10 where I squeeze and then hold for 10 seconds. I then release and squeeze again. Do a few sets of 10 squeeze and holds and you will feel a deep burn.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend that you get a Light (blue) and Medium (red) to interchange. I find that the XX-Light and X-Light have too little tension to be of any real use.
Dynaflex Gyro Exerciser
If you want to do a grip strength workout at home and don’t care about portability as much (though this is still very portable), I recommend buying a Dynaflex Gyro Exerciser.
This small contraption does not look like much, but aside from actually going climbing this unit has given me a better forearm pump and grip workout than pretty much anything other exercise I have ever done.
The way it works is through an internal gyroscope that outputs centrifugal force that requires you to rotate your wrist and use your forearms to control it.
That’s a complicated way of saying this thing moves around once you get it going, and in order to keep it going you need to move your wrist and forearm while you grip it hard to keep it from flying out of your hand.
The exercises are pretty simple – use it in one hand until your forearm and grip start to fatigue, then switch to the other arm. I like to do three sets to fatigue and the final one to failure (be careful to not let it fly out of your hands) as I have found that that length of training gets me a great workout to the point of soreness the next day.
Hangboards involve a lot more dedication than GripMasters or Dynaflex Gyro exercisers because you must find a place to hang them and then construct it, attaching it into a board that is itself attached to some studs in a wall.
But if you are really looking to take your training to the next level, you need to start hangboard training. I have recently started doing a 10+ minute hangboard workout every single time I go climbing. I often reach the point of exhaustion and non-focus before my forearms are completely pumped and my hands are completely tired, so I find that a hangboard workout before I leave the gym gets me to that complete exhaustion that I seek each time I go.
Hangboards are fantastic training instruments because you can do a workout wherever one is mounted. Each hangboard has multiple sizes and depths of holds, so you can train not only hanging on jugs but also two or three finger pockets, small crimps, and more.
If you do not know where to start with hangboard training, there are two good apps that we recommend:
- Boulder Trainer ($2.99 on the iOS app store)
- My Climb (free on iOS app store)
For the Android users out there, there is the Metolius hangboard training app (link), which we have not used (because iPhone) but has good reviews.
Happy training! Leave a comment below with your favorite hand and grip strengtheners.