Why it is important to start training your thumbs?

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Start training your thumbs

Why it is important to start training your thumbs? This is not a question normally asked by climbers. Fingers strengthening training on hangboards is the go-to method to strengthen your digits. But how do you strengthen your thumb? And come to think of it do you really need to strengthen your thumbs?

When it comes to training for climbing, thumbs are often overlooked. However, your thumbs are critical for climbing because you need strong thumbs for thumb press and pinches. Having a strong thumb allows you to put opposing force to your other 4 digits on pinches. The sloppier and shallower the pinch is the strong your thumbs need to be. Pinch holds get significantly harder the more incline the wall is. Thus having strong thumbs allow the climber to apply more pressure on the pinch in order to stay on the wall.

Start training your thumbs
start training your thumbs

The famous Dawn Wall pitch 15. Tommy Caldwell shows the importance of having strong thumbs.

How to strengthen your thumbs for climbing?

So how do you train to strengthen your thumbs for climbing? Many climbers train on hangboards and campus rungs. However, hangboards and campus rungs do not train your thumbs. The only way to engage your thumbs in training is to pinch. There are many ways for you to train your pinch strength.

You can train your pinch strength using a pinch block. A pinch block is a block with different wides depending on where you are holding. Ready-made pinch blocks are available online or at your neighbourhood climbing gyms. A pinch block will come with different grip widths for training wide and narrow pinches. Loads can be added using a weight loading pin to increase training intensity.

Pitch Block with weights

However, if you are on a budget or wonder why the hell are you paying for a wooden block with a rope tied across it? You are at the place. With a bit of time and patience, you can make your very own pinch block.

DIY pinch blocks

You can make your own DIY pinch blocks with a couple of wooden blocks, screws, nuts and a cord. Which should cost no more than $20 from any hardware store.

Convert portable hangboard into a pinch block

If you are already an owner of a set of portable hangboard then you are in luck. Certain types of portable hangboards can be used as a pinch block simply by inverting it and clipping a load on the cordelette.

Potable hangboards / Pinch block

pinch grip training
PC: Climbing Meta
Climbing ball pinch training

Pinch block training method

When it comes to training it is important to identify a method to measure your progression. Similar to training on hangboards the way to measure your progression is by determining the increase in pinch duration for a specific load. You can do this by establishing a performance baseline before you start your pinch block training.

To establish a performance baseline. You’ll need to select a pinch grip wide and a load to use for establishing the baseline. Pinch and hold the load until failure. Do this for both hands and record the time for each hand. Once the baseline is established you can proceed to start your pinch block training.

Follow a pinch block training program and check your progression against the performance baseline once a week. With regular pinch block training, you should be able to see an increase in your pinch duration. Measuring and monitoring your performance allows you to make adjustments to your training method for optimum results.

Pinch block training by Eric Horst

Pinch block training by Eric Horst

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