Ice Climbing Training: Grip Strength

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The dreaded pump. Every climber has been there: You. Can’t. Hold. On. Any. Longer! Rock climbers’ best training weapon for training grip strength is the hangboard. And for ice climbers, it is weighted hangs. Here is a tried-and-true way to increase your ice-climbing-specific grip strength. You will need a place to hang from both ice tools.

Training Grip Strength for Ice Climbing: Warm-up and Workout

Grip Strength Warm-up

Start by hanging with only your body weight for 10–12 seconds out of every 60 seconds for 5 minutes. If you have a bouldering wall, do 5 minutes of easy bouldering, followed by 25 burpees at a moderate pace. Then do 20 TGUs (Turkish Get Ups) with appropriate weight (10/side), 10 dips (bench, rack, or ring depending on your strength), and another 5 minutes of bodyweight hangs (10–12 seconds out of every 60 seconds). Finally, it is wise to complete a little shoulder mobility work; click the link for a video tutorial.

Grip Strength Workout

Hang from both arms, with shoulders activated. Don’t hang slack on your shoulder joints. You may want to wear gloves, depending on your tools and the grips. I recommend using the largest, bottom grip of your ice tool as that’s the grip you use most often. Determine the most weight you can hang from your body that only allows you to hang for 10–12 seconds before you’re 90–95 percent “done” and have to drop off.

Complete this workout 2x/week for four weeks.

Ice Climbing Grip Strength Workout Progression

Week 1: 6 minutes of 10-to-12-second hangs per minute followed by 3 minutes of rest. Go through this circuit until you can no longer consistently hang for 8–10 seconds.

Week 2: Hold the weight steady from last week’s workouts. 8 minutes of 10-to-12-second hangs per minute followed by 4 minutes of rest. Go through this circuit until you can no longer consistently hang for 8–10 seconds.

Week 3: Increase the weight by approximately 15–20 percent over last week’s workouts. 6 minutes of 6-to-8-second hangs per minute followed by 3 minutes of rest. Go through this circuit until you can no longer consistently hang for 6 seconds.

Week 4: Hold the weight steady from last week’s workouts. 8 minutes of 6-to-8-second hangs per minute followed by 4 minutes of rest. Go through this circuit until you can no longer consistently hang for 6 seconds.

These progressions are adapted directly from isometric training theory and will increase the strength capacity of your grip in this position. Therefore you will require a lower percentage of your absolute strength when gripping and swinging ice tools. Happy climbing and let us know how it works out! #weareuphillathlete or coach@uphillathlete.com.

-by Steve House, Uphill Athlete co-founder

Read more about training for ice and mixed climbing.
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