Finger Strength and Climbing.

By | 24 January 2019

The more often you boulder and climb, the stronger the muscles that pull the tendons to your fingers become, and the stronger those muscles become, the higher the grade of your climbs. Hand holds are not the rungs of a ladder or via ferrata. Sometimes you can use your entire hand but at other moments you will use just the fingertips of one hand.

On a climb such as this one I managed to get up two thirds to three fifths of the way up before my fear of falling took over. In this context it wasn’t that I was afraid of falling, after all I had “fallen on an easier route half an hour earlier. It’s that I could see what move I wanted to do, but my finger muscles would not allow it.

When this happens you look down at your feet, to see if there are other footholds and you lean back and try to see if there are other holds that you can use. Eventually you decide “I know what to do and I can try but there is a very good chance that I will fall. It’s a shame that my drive to succeed is overtaken by my instinct not to fall.

Professional climbers train for weeks, months and even years to strengthen their fingers. They have finger boards, they have balls that they hang from. They use elastics and plenty of other tools. They train with the whole hand, with four fingers, down to two fingers, or even one. That training means that they are able to hold their entire body weight while hanging on an overhang and last for long enough to clip in.

I have lost my former finger strength and I am trying the same grade of climbs as before, set by different route setters. At Rocspot in Lausanne I could consistently top 6a lead climbs. At Vitam I am still struggling. I haven’t learned the route setter’s techniques yet. With time I will

There is something to be noted. When outdoor climbing with the groups I am part of one individual often climbs as high their skills allow, they struggle for a bit and then they give up and come back down and the next person goes up and tries to make some progress. In so doing the lead climbers set up the top rope for less experienced climbers. In so doing everyone can enjoy specific routes. As we get better indoors we will not need to do that.

On the overhanging part I saw an agile climbing up 7 or 8a routes over and over. She would climb until she fell and within seconds she was back on the ground, ready to try again. She was climbing according to the IFSC rules. The rope is there for protection in case of a fall, not as a means of resting. I love watching such climbing. I spent three days watching it for hours at a time two or three years ago and I still enjoy it now.

Watching great climbers is fun because it gives you an appreciation of what you could do if only you developed the finger strength, sense of balance and agility. Climbing is an art form but it also requires the strength that goes with that art form. I would love to climb those overhangs but my finger strengths is currently blocking me. It has blocked me for two years. Persistance is an important part of climbing. I will get there.

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