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Personal Training for Climbers: Grip Strength & Finger Mobility

Here’s a basic warm up every climber should be doing before a session + a simple way to improve grip strength. Climbers, get your spirit fingers out.

how to improve grip strength

After an enlightening personal training consultation that made me realize how much there was to learn about my body to reach maximum performance levels, I got to spend a session with trainer Matt de Spain at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago.

Fingers are integral to climbers, and yet, they’re usually neglected. Matt taught me basic warms up every climber should do to work finger mobility:

  1. Finger rotations: hold your hand out with all five fingers separated. Rotate each finger in isolation to, clockwise. Move from your pinky to your thumb, and then turn counter clockwise, going back around. Do this for each hand.
  2. The “Presidential Point”: hold each hand up, facing each other, and then rotate each finger downwards, starting with the pinky and ending with the thumb on top – much like how presidents make their points in speeches. Then bring the thumb back and stretch each finger out back around as well. Repeat this 5-10x. 
     presidential point

Matt, a Colorado native, was a wild land firefighter for seven years in Utah, who trained crews, rappelled off helicopters, and live in the woods for weeks at a time. His climbing philosophy:

“Progress as quickly as you find enjoyable. For me, I progressed in climbing pretty quickly, but when it stopped being fun to progress,  I knew it was time to slow down.”

Matt de Spain at BKB Chicago.
Matt de Spain at BKB Chicago.

For me, another area of weakness I learned that I had was grip strength. A basic solution to improve grip strength? Farmer carries. All it entails is taking dumbbells in your hands with straight arms and walking a long distance.

farmer carries

The key is to keep your back straight and core tight. I might not be on 70 pound weights yet… but working on it.

Stay tuned for more on this personal training journey.


Matt de Spain is a Certified Personal Trainer at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. Sign up for a complimentary personal training consult with Matt click here.For personal training consultations at our other locations:

BKB CHICAGOBKB SOMERVILLEBKB QUEENSBRIDGE