Strengthen your wrists for climbing with these 3 quick exercises
If you spend any time climbing or hang boarding, you can benefit from some additional wrist and finger exercises to help build strong, durable joints. Doing so allows us to practice our favorite sport pain-free and hopefully prevent future injuries.
Here are a few great exercises you can do at home or before your climbing sessions.
Start with a quick dynamic warmup with a rubber band. Hold the ends of the bands, pull it taut in front of you, and pull outwards. The goal with this exercise is to lightly and quickly stretch out your tendons to prep them for higher loads.
Warm-Up Exercise 1: Wrist Shakes
Our first warm exercises going to be wrist shakes. Hold your hands out in front of you, keep your fingers relaxed and shake your hand side to side for about 10 to 15 reps. Once you reach that point, just switch the direction and shake your hands up and down.
Warm-Up Exercise 2: Finger Flicks
This warm-up exercise targets your finger extensors. Hold out your hands and extend your fingers. Start with your index finger and do 10 to 15 flicks on your thumb. Move onto your middle finger and continue working your way down to your pinkies doing 10 to 15 flicks per finger. Once you finish flicking your pinkies, work your way back up.
It’s important to make sure you’re putting a decent amount of force through your fingertip and into your thumb before each flick.
Warm-Up Exercise 3: Finger Snaps
This exercise is a little different from the flicks because this exercise targets finger flexors, starting with your index finger.
Hold your hands out in front of you and extend your fingers. Start with your index finger and rub it against your thumb with enough force to make a snap sound. Do that 10-15 times.
Again, work your way down to your pinkies, same as you did with the finger flicks.
Three wrist exercises for climbers
Exercise 1: Finger Tendon Glides
Start with your hand in front of you and your fingers fully extended. Your wrist should be in a neutral position, or just slightly extended back. In this example from here, fold your fingertips flat against the top of your palm while applying light pressure and begin to slide them down to the bottom of your palm.
Once you reached the bottom of your palm, reverse the motion and slide your fingers back up, you can do up to three sets of 10 before or after your training.
If you were looking to increase the difficulty you can by adding tension through your fingers. I like to imagine that I'm pressing my fingers hard into a climbing hold. The more tension you add, the harder the exercise becomes. For high tension finger glides, I recommend one or two sets of four reps—you may feel a bit pumped afterwards.
Exercise 2: Finger Extensor Lifts (Floor)
The goal of this exercise is to give our often-neglected finger extensors, some quality work, and to practice moving our fingers independently from one another.
Get on the floor and into a table top position and place your palms flat on the floor. Spread your fingers out wide. From here, you're going to lift each finger one at a time and hold it up for two seconds.
You may notice that some fingers are more difficult to lift than others, which is totally normal.
Avoid lifting your palm off the floor at any point in this exercise. when lifting your fingers is a common mistake is to slightly lift your palm off the floor. Since the goal of this exercise is to try to get as much range of motion as possible, just be sure to re-flatten in your palms.
To alter the intensity, you can rock your shoulders behind your wrist to make it a little bit easier. Or you can rock your shoulders forward to make it more difficult. Be careful--it doesn't take too much to dramatically increase the intensity of this exercise.
If you want to do this exercise in a more climbing specific way, you can use a hangboard or even the top of a doorframe. To start, place your fingertips in a half-crimp position.
(If you're unfamiliar with different grip positions, a half-crimp position means your middle knuckle on all your fingers will shift from straight to 90 degrees. Your hand will move up and slightly out. This half-crimp grip is commonly used to grab smaller holds or to generate more force through your fingers.)
With your hands in position on the hangboard or the door frame, keep your feet on the floor and drop your weight down until you feel a light pressure through your fingertips.
As with the floor variation, you can now individually lift each finger off the edge and hold it up for two seconds.
Exercise 3: Fingertip Wrist Pushups
This last exercise is great for working wrist flexion. Place your palms flat on the floor, spread your fingers out wide and rotate your hands slowly out. Keeping your shoulders directly over your wrists and your fingers as straight as possible, press through your fingertips and lift your wrists and palm off the ground. Make sure to keep your fingertips on the ground.
Press up for one second and slowly lower your hand back to the floor. If you find your pinky leaving the ground, just rotate your hands out further.
To decrease the difficulty, you can rock your shoulders back. To increase the difficulty you can rock your shoulders forward.
Do three sets of 10 reps before or after your climbing session.