If you’ve read this blog with any amount of regularity, you’re probably aware that our household is way into “pre-hab.” I firmly believe it’s important for climbers of all ages and skill levels, whether you are projecting 5.14’s or struggling your way up 5.8’s on toprope. A big part of prehab is training the muscles that do the OPPOSITE movement than the muscles you use while climbing. When you climb, you pull, pull, pull. So to keep your body in balance, it’s important to do some exercises that push – push-ups, presses, etc. (For a whole post dedicated to antagonist muscle training, click here.)
One of the most common “out of balance” area of the climber’s body is in the forearms. All day long we close our hands, gripping the most miniscule holds very tightly. Our forearm flexors get pretty darn strong…But our forearm EXTENSORS (the muscles on the back, non-palm side of your arm) are ridiculously weak in comparison. Over time this can lead to all sorts of overuse injuries in the elbow, hand, and even fingers.
In the past, I’ve incorporated everything from reverse wrist curls to rice bucket workouts into my routine to balance my forearms out. But while dumbbells easily allow for varying resistance as you get stronger, they only work the extensors of the wrist, not the fingers. And while rice buckets are able to intricately engage all the extensors, varying resistance can be inconvenient. Not to mention that bucket of rice is a pain to lug around and just plain messy. That’s where powerfingers enter the scene.
Powerfingers are a system of rubberized discs in varying resistances that engage the extensor muscles of the entire forearm. It provides the benefits of dumbbells and rice bucket workouts WITHOUT the cons of either. The exercises are easy – just insert your fingers into the little holes in the disc, and start opening and closing! I guarantee you will feel quite the burn in a very short amount of time! (As with any other exercise, form is important to avoid injuries, so check out these videos from the Powerfingers website to see what to do/not to do.)
Beginners can start with the lightest color (for the lightest resistance), and work up to blue, then purple. When that gets too easy, you can do the exercises with multiple discs at once, so the possibilities are really endless! Do them watching TV. Do them in the car to and from the crag. Do them around the campfire after a long day of climbing. The discs come in a small case that is easy enough to take anywhere, leaving no room for excuses about finding the time or opportunity to use them.
This product is fairly new, especially on the climbing scene (it was originally designed to improve speed, strength and dexterity for musicians.) But I personally think the design and concept is brilliant, and expect to see it sold in climbing gear shops all over the place very soon. If you are looking for a convenient way to prevent/improve overuse conditions like tendonitis, Powerfingers may very well be your ticket!