Finger hangs are a commonly used exercise in climbing training since they offer many advantages. They are easy to perform, require little equipment and space, and allow a precise targeting of the physiological adaptations to be achieved as their volume and intensity can easily be adjusted. In addition to this, the musculature they fundamentally activate (the finger flexors), has been shown to be the most determinant for climbing performance (1,2), making them one of the most traditional and effective methods for physical training in this sport.
However, if you are a beginner in climbing, or you are starting to train for this, you should not consider them a first choice precisely because they can produce very effective muscle-specific improvements that, surprisingly, could be counterproductive for you. An early muscular development that are disproportioned in relation to other adaptations, could pose a significant risk of injury that is obviously not worth taking. In addition, the performance in this activity depends fundamentally on how effectively the movements are read when climbing or bouldering, as well as on how efficiently they are executed, which you won’t improve by training with finger hangs.
This being said, you should avoid finger hang workouts:
- if you have been a regular climber for only less than two years;
- if you have a hand or finger injury, except under the prescription and supervision of a health professional specialized in climbing (in fact, finger hangs are no longer solely considered from a performance point of view, they also take part in rehabilitation programs as they allow a good control of the loads) (3).
You should also avoid finger hang workouts using any weight added to your own body weight *:
- if you have been a regular climber for less than 3 years and you’ve never done finger hang workouts;
- if you have not surpassed your peak height velocity (PHV), which, preventively, may mean an age of 16 for girls and 18 for boys (4-6).
* WARNING: Since the protocol used in self-testing implies doing finger hangs with added weight, you should not carry out these tests until you’ve acquired some experience with this kind of exercise.
However, if you meet the right requirements, proper training with finger hangs can help you to improve faster on the specific-physical level. The R-Evolution Training App can be of great help to achieve this, as it may be a guide on how to combine this type of exercises and on which level you should do them. Moreover, it can offer you information on how to combine its workouts with the rest of your training contents.
We recommend you to take into account the following postural hygiene considerations to perform any finger hang workout as safely as possible:
- Engage your shoulders and keep them as far away from the head as possible. To achieve this, retract your scapulae trying to make them come close to each other;
- keep your arms straight, without flexion but in tension;
- the distance between your hands should be the width of your shoulders (biacromial distance), which is made easy by the design of the R-Evolution Training Board;-
- lock your body posture by activating your CORE, stopping immediately any possible swinging that could alter your performance during the finger hang;
- keep your eyes looking to the front to help a neutral neck position and take care of your cervical spine health, which again, is made easy by the design of the R-Evolution Training Board.
Finally, don’t work with finger hangs if you feel that your fingers or hands are tired and, if possible, consider postponing the session if you observe a decrease in your performance of more than 5% compared to any session of similar training that you may have done on previous days.
(1) Vereide V, Kalland J, Solbraa AK, Andersen V, Saeterbakken AH, editors. Correlation between relative Peak-, isometric Force and RFD and climbing performance. 3rd Rock Climbing Research Congress. Proceedings 2016; August 5 – 7th, 2016; Colorado, USA: 3rd International Rock Climbing Research Congress; 2016.
(2) Baláš J, Michailov M, Giles D, Kodejška J, Panáčková M, Fryer S. Active recovery of the finger flexors enhances intermittent handgrip performance in rock climbers. European Journal of Sport Science 2016;16(7):764-772.
(3) MacLeod D. Make or break. 1.0th ed. Scotland: Rare Breed Productions; 2015.
(4) Granacher U, Lesinski M, Büsch D, Muehlbauer T, Prieske O, Puta C, et al. Effects of resistance training in youth athletes on muscular fitness and athletic performance: a conceptual model for long-term athlete development. Frontiers in physiology 2016;7:164.
(5) Kwon S, Hong S, Nho J, Moon SI, Jung KJ. Physeal fracture in the wrist and hand due to stress injury in a child climber: A case report. Medicine 2018;97(34):e11571.
(6) Van der Sluis A, Elferink-Gemser M, Brink M, Visscher C. Importance of peak height velocity timing in terms of injuries in talented soccer players. Int J Sports Med 2015;36(04):327-332.