Finger Exercises for Rock Climbing

by Mike Matson

About Mike Matson

Mike Matson is a freelance writer and photographer living in Salt Lake City. He is the author of the guidebook Moon Utah Camping. Starting in 2003, Matson's work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Backpacker, Canoe and Kayak, Utah Adventure Journal and Northwest Travel magazines. Matson has a degree from Western Washington University.



Rock climbing is a sport that requires specific training for the muscles and tendons in your fingers and hands. Combining a regular routine of finger exercises with training on both artificial and real rock holds will rapidly increase your rock climbing strength. But be careful not to overtrain, as the small muscles and tendons in your fingers are susceptible to tendinitis and other overuse injuries. So add finger exercises to your climbing training slowly, and wait for the soreness in your fingers and forearms to subside before each workout.


Hanging on a fingerboard designed for rock climbing training increases the strength in your fingers and hands quickly. Made to hang above door jambs, fingerboards are designed specifically to build finger strength for rock climbers in the convenience of their own homes. The boards typically feature three rows of different-size pockets to hang from. The pockets vary in depth and angle, like the holds on a climbing route. Try a couple of different exercises: Static hang: Hang in a static, straight-arm position from the fingerboard holds for as long as possible before letting go. Wait five minutes. Repeat the static hang until you can't hold on any longer. Start with three sets in the largest holds, and slowly build up the length and number of hangs over time. Use as many different holds as possible to build different muscles and avoid injury. Static hangs build both strength and endurance. Fingerboard pull-ups: Your fingers, forearms, shoulders and back muscles must work effectively together to be a strong rock climber. Build your finger strength as part of a complete system by doing fingertip pull-ups on a fingerboard. Start by doing three sets of your maximum number of pull-ups. Slowly build up the number of repetitions in each set. Use increasingly smaller holds to isolate the finger muscles. Pull-ups build power.

Hand-Strengthening Devices

A number of hand-strengthening devices help build general finger strength for rock climbing when you're away from the wall. These convenient devices fit into the palm of your hand. For example, hand strengthening devises that use individual spring-loaded buttons for each finger can provide resistance for finger exercises. Squeeze the device in sets until your fingers are exhausted. Rest and repeat. Putty-style hand strengthener are made of silicone rubber. The putty can be squeezed into different forms but offers consistent resistance to build finger strength. Again, squeeze the putty until your fingers are fatigued, rest and repeat.

Campus Boards

Campus boards are training boards designed to isolate and strengthen finger muscles. A campus board is a series of wood bars or rungs mounted on a vertical or overhanging wall. The rungs have an in-cut side and a flat side that can be swapped out for more difficult workouts. Climb the the rungs hand over hand with your legs hanging free from the wall. The steeper the angle of the campus board, the more difficult the workout. Climb all the way up and then back down the board. For a more challenging workout, try skipping rungs or increasing the steepness of the board.

Photo Credits:

  • Adam Pretty/Photodisc/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or