Grip Strength

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  • #46341
    W C

    I started climbing last year 2019 in the spring with a series of scrambles, courses, and 1 on 1 guided sessions. I got into ice climbing after this and then Alpinism this summer. My biggest route that I have led to date is North Face Direct on Athabasca. I am a solid 5.8 outdoor lead rock (trad) and WI3 ice, nothing to brag about but I am happy with it so far. My climbing I think is being held back by my grip strength and obviously technique.

    Background: I have been working out my whole life. I started the Transition Training program here recently (currently week 7) and I noticed my grip strength is really holding me back. I added the isometric hangs but my hands just slide off my tools until they get crushed down on the pommels. No matter how hard I squeeze I just slide down until my pinkies and pointer fingers just crush on top of one another and I stop because it hurts the hands, not because I cant hold on anymore. It feels like all the weight is hanging off my crushed fingers with the focal point my pinkie at this point.

    Has anyone has had this issue. I am trying to adjust with a “max strength chin up ” type program (page 228-229 New Alpinism) adding these holds 2 X a week but it feels pointless when I just slide down the shafts. I have tried gripping high on the shafts, I have tried my Ergo’s and holding the offset handles and I have tried straight axes. Just seems my fingers sweat then I slide down on them within 10-12 seconds every time. Id assume the grip strength I have is very weak and that’s why my fingers just slide down.

    Open for suggestions, been bouldering 2X a week (Ice Season started so I may cut bouldering to once a week) figure this could help. But otherwise I feel I am a strong person from my background of lifting weights my whole life. I can do 1 solid, slow chin up with 70lbs (6’2″ 191Lbs) on my back so I’d assume my strength is there.

    Thank you

  • Participant
    Steve T on #46343

    Give this one a try

    I’ve been ice/mixed climbing for many years and it almost always comes down to grip strength. Arm strength is definitely a factor, but almost secondary to grip strength in my opinion and experience. Your difficulty with sliding down tools is mostly grip strength related. Also using good sticky gloves will help.

    jakedev on #46355

    It’s a good article. I’m already in my ME phase and doing MAX 1x week with 1 arm hangs.

    I have a follow on question.

    Is it necessary to do the grip isometric progression if you are doing MAX 1 arm hangs as part of a base building period and ice axe ring rows with ME?

    Or should it have been done in the transition period with general strength?

    W C on #46376

    Also to add from digging around ( and Steve T’s Comment):

    Training for Ice and Mixed Climbing


    Appreciate the feedback. I think this was a matter of “palms are sweaty” – Eminem

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    Anonymous on #47676

    I’m not sure strength is an issue here. It sounds like you may be over-gripping your tools.

    First, for WI3, most of your weight will be on your feet. Tools will be used primarily for balance (to hold you into the wall). I would suggest doing some top rope technique sessions at a crag somewhere, hanging on to your tools as lightly as possible (thus the top rope).

    Second, don’t squeeze. You need to grip an ice tool to swing it, but not to hang from it.

    When hanging from an ice tool, your palm should not be touching the tool. If it does, then you’ll be fighting against biomechanics. Biomechanics will always win. In contrast, your fingers should be curled but your palm open and relaxed. There should be a straight line through your joints from your second knuckle down to your shoulder, just the same as if hanging off of a hangboard.

    W C on #47697

    Thanks Scott, I ran some hangs with tools with the palm opened up from the hand grip, this made things a lot easier. Been leading some WI4 and recently had some 1 on 1 coaching and had my grip adjusted as well from my previous post. Really appreciate the feedback.

    Big difference in widening the gap by something as simple as focusing on breathing and hand position on my leads.

    Great site!

    Anonymous on #47718

    This is (almost) an ideal illustration of general ice climbing movement:

    I’ll make two suggestions:

    * The feet pelvis should be centered below the pulling tool with feet either side to form a tripod of sorts. It’ll be more stable without a barn-door effect.
    * The swinging arm should include a torso pivot where the leading shoulder will be higher than the pulling shoulder.

    In effect, the tools stay closer to the centerline while the feet and pelvis move slightly side to side at each stage to get underneath the pulling arm.

    W C on #52808

    Spent the winter dialing in the above. I climbed 60 days on ice this winter, which is amazing in my eyes with a full time job. I was able to lead some WI5 with confidence and want to thank the community here for the help. Biggest thing I learned is grip strength improvement by doing heavy holds, similar to the chin up strength program but I would weigh my backpack and hold the tools from the rafters. I can do 1 arm holds on tools for about 30 seconds now vs 1-2 seconds before, two arm holds I can weight my bag with 40lbs and go about 70 seconds.

    When swinging I lever the tool in my hand instead of gripping so it flows and almost snaps into the ice vs bashing. I pretend I have a feather in my hand, painting a canvas by flicking the paint off the tips and it seems to keep the grip strain down.


    Anonymous on #55129

    I pretend I have a feather in my hand, painting a canvas by flicking the paint off the tips…

    Excellent image!

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