Strength Training: Pinch It Real Good!

A few weeks ago we finished a strength-focused climbing month, which means we added 2 hangboard sessions per week to our climbing schedule. We also changed up our hangboard routine from what we’ve done in the past (you can read about those here and here) and brought in a new, highly sophisticated piece of training equipment…. a small piece of 2×4 🙂

We were pretty happy with this new routine and thought we would share it.

Our Strength-Focused Schedule:

  • One lead climbing session per week: Working on leading harder grades and improving technique (footwork, fast clipping, on-sighting, etc.)
  • One bouldering session per week: Working on bouldering harder grades and focusing on maximum strength moves
  • One general conditioning session per week: Incorporating exercises to improve functional movement and increase core and upper-body strength
  • Two hangboard sessions per week: Maximum strength dead-hangs plus pull-ups

Hangboard Routine:

The modifications we made to our old hangboard routine were as follows:

  • Choose 6 or 7 finger/grip positions to train. This time around, we included three different pinch grips using a 2 x 4 (cut to a length of 5-inches)
  • For each finger grip / position, find the weight you need to add / remove in order to just hold tension for 6 seconds + 1 pull-up
  • For each finger grip / position, complete 3 sets of the “6-second hang + 1 pull-up”), resting for 90 seconds in between each set | Strength training mono-pullup

We loved this new routine for two reasons:

  1. It was quick! We could finish the hangboard routine in less than 45 minutes (this was, of course, after a very good warm-up at the climbing gym).
  2. It incorporated movement (the pull-up) off of a finger grip position, which we feel is more beneficial to climbing.

Pinch it Real Good:

We also started using a 2×4, cut to a length of 5 inches, to work on improving our narrow, medium and wide pinch grip.

  • Start with your weakest grip (for us, it was the widest, 5-inch width of the block)
  • End with your strongest grip (for us, it was the narrow, 2-inch width of the block)
  • We used a sling around the block, attached to our weights. It seemed to work! | Strength training pinch-grip

For these maximum-strength exercises, you need to find out what weight you need to add (via a weight vest) or remove (via a pulley-system) so that you can just complete one 6 second hang / hold followed by 1 pull-up. This might take a session or two to figure out exactly where you lie.

Make sure you record your weights and grip positions, so you can track your progress over the week, and know what weights to start on, when you return to the hangboard training months from now.

Happy Strength Training!


  1. Wow, this strength training routine seems intense but necessary. How would you train yourself on grips where the holds are large, rounded, and smooth? Those are the ones I struggle with the most.

    1. Hi Haley,

      We’ve definitely modified and adapted our training regimes over the years, and the finger-strength training is no exception. Because we only do it for 3-4 weeks, every 4 months, it never feels too bad.

      I’m not sure how much experience you have with finger-strength training, so bear with me, if the info is to basic.

      If you have access to a fingerboard / hangboard, there are usually two flat-ish sloper holds along the top of the board. One angle will be a bit more rounded and will be “easier” to hold, the other will be flatter and be “harder” to hold. Start with the easiest one first. Just try hanging off of it. Aim for hanging for 5 – 7 seconds. If you can do that, awesome! Maybe try adding a pull-up at the end of the hang. If you can’t easily hang off of the sloper for that long, you might need to reduce weight from your body (I have to do that for some of my 2-finger holds). This way, your fingers still get stronger, with a little help. If you can successfully hang for three 6-second reps, then next time try adding weight.

      The other exercise that might help with these is one-arm lunges on a climbing wall. So find a jug on a climbing wall (around head-height) and a sloper-hold somewhere just above the jug (within reaching distance). Keep both feet on some good holds close to the ground. Start with one hand on the jug, then lunge from the jug to the sloper with your right hand. Hold the sloper, then bounce the hand back down to the jug. Lunge back up to the sloper, then down to the jug. Do this about 10 times with right hand, then 10 times with left hand. This is great for working contact strength!

      Like all things, progress takes time. Often, we won’t see benefits in our finger strength for at least 6-months, or sometimes longer. So we’re definitely in it for the long-haul. But so worth it 🙂

      If you need more descriptions, or videos or something, just let me know. Either here, or feel free to email us at climbeatcyclerepeat [at] gmail [dot] com.

      1. I pretty much always find the fingerboards too daunting, but with all of this new information, I’m excited to practice on them. Thank you so much for the in depth response and exercise 🙂

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