Finger Strength Training | improve FAST | 4 Complete Protocols

Finger strength training climbing

When I talk about “finger strength training,” I’m talking primarily about increasing maximum strength.

What we want is more maximum finger strength!  

Finger Strength Training – in short

  • 3 concrete training protocols for more finger – maximum strength.
  • 1 training protocol for more strength endurance.
  • Finger strength is best practiced on the hangboard. 
  • Explosive strength is trained on the campus board.  
  • Squeeze rings – Squeeze balls and other grip strength toys are unsuitable for effective strength building.   

Train finger strength on the Hangboard

The hangboard is undoubtedly the best training tool for training finger strength, but a hangboard is not mandatory. 

A ledge (door frame, beam, table edge, etc.) that you can hang on to – works the same way. 

finger strength training climbing door
Finger strength training on a door frame

The 3 best training protocols for increasing maximum finger strength:  

All 3 protocols aim to get you to near maximum intensity (close to muscular failure) within 10-15 seconds.

You can adjust the workout by either using smaller holds or adding more weight

Fingers strength hangboard
Finger strength training on a hangboard

#1 Finger Strength Training – Small Edges

Training: Maximum strength

Finger strength training protocol1
Protocol #1 – Maximum strength
  • The size of the hold must be such that 12 seconds will bring you close to failure (your maximum performance limit should be around 15 seconds).
  • After the 12 seconds of hanging, take a precisely 3 min break (complete regeneration is essential). 
  • Repeat the whole thing 5 times, and you have completed a set. 
  • Do 3-5 sets (5 min rest between sets) 
Climbing finger strength training at home
Find the right size edges

“Small edges” is the standard protocol – best suited for hangboard newbies.

It couldn‘t be easier – all you need is time, motivation, and an edge to hang onto. It doesn’t even have to be a hangboard – a simple door frame, beam, etc., will do. 

#2 Finger Strength Training – Additional Weight

Training: Maximum strength

Finger strength training protocol2
Protocol #2 – Maximum strength
  • The size of the hold must be such that 10 seconds will bring you near muscular failure (your performance limit should be around 13 seconds).
  • After the 12 seconds of hanging, take a break for precisely 3 minutes. 
  • Repeat the whole thing 5 times, and you have completed a set. 
  • Do 3-5 sets (5 min rest between sets) 
Workout bouldering at home5
Add some weight

The Advanced Training Protocol – When you get to the point where the holds you need become too small and therefore painful, additional weight is required.

This protocol allows you to train on larger holds and control the intensity with the added weight

To “attach” extra weight, just use your climbing harness and hang weights from it. If you don’t have weights – hang a climbing rope, a person, or anything else on the harness – be creative; I’m sure you’ll think of something. 

#3 Training Protocol: The 7-53″ by Eric Hörst

Training: Maximum strength

Finger strength training protocol 3
Protocol #3 – Maximum strength
  • The size of the hold must be such that 7 seconds will bring you near muscular failure.
  • Your actual performance limit should be about 10 seconds.
Hangboard training climbing

While it’s not quite as “perfect” for training maximum strength as the two training protocols above, it’s comparatively time-saving and therefore a bit more suitable for everyday use. It also adds a little more variety to your finger strength training.

Finger Strength Training – Maximum Strength

You can’t climb hard routes without maximum strength. The training of maximum finger strength has absolute priority on the hangboard. 

Strength endurance training on the hangboard is, of course, also possible – you can find a suitable training protocol below. For more strength endurance, long boulder traverses or “normal” climbing are also suitable. 

Features of maximum strength training: 

Short load duration: 8-12 seconds
Anything beyond this load time is already training the area of strength endurance. You won’t (and shouldn’t) feel a “pump” – if your forearms are pumped, you’re doing something wrong.

improve finger strength
Accurate timing is essential.

In maximum strength training, the load time is too short to accumulate lactic acid – there is no “pump”. 

High intensity
As the name implies – maximum. The loads are short, but you have to go very close to your performance limit (muscular failure)with each repetition.

Finger strength climbing
Give it all you’ve got

Long (complete) recovery time: 3-5 minutes
Before each attempt, you must give your muscles time to regenerate completely.

If the break is too short, the training leans towards strength endurance – therefore, it is crucial to precisely monitor the timing of your recovery. 

Training for Bouldering at home9
Use the “recovery time” to train other muscles.

Take rest days
After a hard maximum strength workout, the muscles need at least 2 days to fully recover. It is better not to overdo it initially – more training does not necessarily mean better training. Focus on the quality of your workouts, not quantity. 

Train smart and effectively – schedule 2-3 rest-days between maximum strength sessions.  2x finger strength training/week is a good start. 

Maximum strength training – NO Pump
If you have never trained your maximum strength before, you might find the training a bit “unsatisfying”. Due to the short duration of the load, you will (at first) experience no noticeable fatigue. But rest assured, after a few sets of intense hangboard training, you will start to feel your muscles fatigue.  

Unusual but effective
Maximum finger strength training is a bit counterintuitive for many newbies, but I promise that you will noticeably improve your finger strength if you do it over an extended period. 

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#4 Power Endurance – Finger Strength Training

Effective training of Power Endurance is characterized by:

a.) longer duration
b.) lower intensity
c.) shorter recovery

Finger strength training protocol4
Training protocol #4 – Power Endurance

Get ready to be “pumped”
When training strength endurance, pumped forearms are the goal.

Advantages – Hangboard training

Small investment – Big Training
For just under $ 100, you get the best finger strength training tool for your home. Every top climber has at least one hangboard at home – that’s no coincidence. 

Training at home and at any time
No time for the bouldering gym – no problem. Train efficiently and at any time between kitchen and living room. With one of the small mobile hangboards, you can even train your finger strength on the go.  

Hangboard climbing
#1 Training Tool for Climbers

Effective training
As we said, there is no better tool for training your finger strength than the hangboard. Maximum strength is best trained isolated – in a normal boulder or climbing session, endurance is usually trained as well. 

For those who want to get better
Finger strength is one of THE limiting factors when it comes to climbing higher grades. If you have a few climbing seasons under your belt and want to improve – train your finger strength on the hangboard. 

You don’t need to convert your whole basement into a bouldering gym – a fingerboard hardly takes up any space.   

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Finger strength on the campus board

In addition to maximum strength, the Campusboard also trains speed strength or explosive power. The intense training on the Campusboard is only suitable for well-trained people – there is a certain risk of injury. 

Campusboard Climbing training

Here are a few ideas for campus board training:

Campusboard finger strength training
Simple ladder
Campusboard finger strength training3
Double ladder
Campusboard finger strength training2
Double Dyno
Campusboard finger strength training4
Campusboard finger strength training1
Double Dyno Asyn.

Training on the Spray Wall

In every good bouldering gym, there is a spry wall. It’s an overhanging climbing wall covered from top to bottom with climbing holds of all sizes and shapes. 

With a little creativity, you can put together your own bouldering problems on the spray wall. 

Spray wall bouldering
Spray wall

To create an effective workout, it makes sense to train specific:
a.) Focus on one particular type of holds/type of grip
b.) Train maximum strength and strength endurance seperate. 

On the spry wall, you can control both the duration and intensity of the workout. 

Bouldering with additional weight

Training with additional weights (weight vest, weight belt) is highly effective – so you can precisely set new training stimuli and further increase your finger strength.

Additional weights are usually only necessary when you already belong to the very strong climbers. For the average boulderer, a weight vest is usually not needed to reach your limit.    

Gain Finger strength through intense bouldering 

If you are one of those climbers who climb almost exclusively, you should go bouldering more often. Compared to climbing, bouldering trains significantly more maximum strength.

The routes are shorter, and the individual moves are usually much harder. Most routes are good practice for increasing finger strength. 

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Finger strength training – When to start?

If you have been climbing regularly for 2-3 years, you can start additional training.  For beginners, it makes no sense at all to train extra finger strength. Why? 

1. Because the risk of injury is too high.

Muscular adaptation is much faster than the adaptation of tendons, ligaments, and joints. This means that you can increase your muscles in the forearms within a few months – but your ligaments and tendons need 1-2 years to get used to the increased loads.

  • There is an imbalance between muscles and ligaments, and most often, this leads to overloads and injuries. 
  • Give your fingers time to adjust and focus more on technique, balance, body tension, etc.  

2. finger strength is not everything.  

Climbing/bouldering is a complex sport that requires not only fingers but the muscles of the entire body. 

In addition to raw strength, it’s a sense of movement and good technique that will make you a better climber. The movements of a solid technique cannot be automated in a few months – they are learned, improved, and refined over the years. 

That means for beginners; one thing is important above all:
Expand the repertoire of movements – Go BOULDERING and CLIMBING as often as possible. 

These training tools are unsuitable for serious strength building.

For warming up or rehabilitative purposes, however, these tools have certainly proven themselves.

Training Tools Climbing Bouldering
No serious finger strength training for climbers

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