Training - Basics

Training is an individual matter. What works for you may not work for anyone else. Get to know the options that your Gstrings and Pocket Rocks offer, and combine them into a custom training routine that’s right for you.

Start with these basic “building blocks”. Decide where you want to focus your training, then assemble a combination of exercises that will accomplish your goals. For tips on how to focus on strength or endurance, click on the links to the left. Jump to the bottom if you’d like a generalized routine and approach.

Basic building block exercises

There are five main types of exercises that can be done with each grip position:

  1. dead hang - never lock elbows - always hang with arms slightly bent. This is considered the backbone of training finger strength and endurance.

  2. lock-offs - any position between 12 o’clock and 4 o’clock - most commonly 12 and 3 o’clock.

  3. pull-ups; off-set pull-ups; one arm pull-ups; lower-offs (use a step stool to start at the 12 o’clock position and then slowly lower to 6 o’clock, a good method to use if you’re having a hard time with pull-ups or one arm pull-ups).

  4. undercling (chin-up position) - perform any of the above with your palms facing you.

  5. mantle press-ups (dips) - start with arms extended down, lower down and then press back up. For ideas on how to lower Gstring or Pocket Rocks for this exercise and others below, go here.

      dead hang                lock off                     pull-up                off-set pull-up         mantle / dip

  1. Any of the above exercises can be made easier by using the pulley system mentioned on the Endurance page

Core strengthening

The following exercises integrate abdominal and back and chest muscles to give a fuller workout:

  1. Use a pad for protection in case of a fall for the following exercises

  2. L hang - extend legs out in front in an L position and hold - If this is too difficult, bend at the knees.

  3. knee tuck/alternate knee tuck - raise both knees at once and bring them as high as possible. Hold or do repeatedly. For the alternate knee tuck, raise and tuck knees first to the left side, then to the right side. Repeat while using the dead hang or lock-off mentioned above.

  4. toe pointing - raise one leg at a time and touch one toe to the opposite top corner of a tall chair or rung on a ladder, then alternate repeatedly while doing a dead-hang or lock-off.

  5. levers & half levers - hold body in tension horizontally. This can be made easier by bending one leg at the knee and gradually work towards the full lever.

  6. overhang pull-up - extend grips from anchors with slings, webbing, or cord so that your body is parallel to the floor when toes are pointed resting on the edge of a chair. Use core tension to keep body straight driving weight down onto toes during this exercise. Pull up and reach like you were going to grab the next hold, clip a quickdraw, or set a piece of gear, then lower back down. Repeat, alternating arms.

  7. undercling step-ups - grips need to be hung in a doorway or hallway and extended slightly with a sling. Pull grips through doorway so that they are pulling against the bolts or pull-up bar. Alternately, a knotted sling or loop of webbing can be placed over a door so the knot is then trapped by closing the door. Then attached grips with ‘biners to the loop. Pull back on grips in an undercling position while slowly walking bare feet up either side of doorway. Difficulty is controlled by grip position and/or adding weight while performing the exercise.

  8. hanging push-ups - extend grips so the jug grip is the same height as the seat of a chair of stool. Start with hands on grips then place toes on the set. Proceed to do push-ups - it will require more strength than a normal push-up in order to keep yourself stabilized. Adjust the height of the grips or feet in order increase or decrease difficulty.

         L-hang                   knee tuck                      toe-point                          lever / half-lever     


     overhang pull-up / clipping        undercling step-up             hanging push-ups           


A Basic Routine

  1. Muscles develop faster than tendons. Begin your Gstring/Pocket Rock workouts at a low intensity and increase their intensity slowly over time. If you’re fairly new to climbing, tendons can take 1-3 years to gain required strength for finger intensive training and climbing. Each workout session should start off with 10-15 minutes of general warm-up exercises to get the blood flowing to all parts of the body including the  extremities. These don’t necessarily need to be climbing related.

Each climber starts at a different place and has different needs and goals for their training. Some climbers will only use Gstrings or Pocket Rocks for maintaining finger strength while traveling or away from climbing. Others, who train intensively, can easily integrate them into their overall training program. The beauty of both Gstrings and Pocket Rocks is that they can be used at whatever level you’re at and whatever your training goals are.

For specific training information, check out some of the  many excellent resources that are available and adapt to your own needs and goals. The best short summary of training strategies can be found here. For more resources see our Links page.

The following is a generalized workout that can be done in approximately an hour. This does not include the additional resistance band or TRX warm-up at the start and the optional finish. If you have the time, these are important because they target antagonist muscle groups (they could also be done more intensively at a separate time if your trying to keep the workout to under an hour).

To start the program, first decide which four grip positions you want to train (i.e. crimp, sloper, pinch, 3-finger pocket). All exercises in the workout, including the warm-up and finish) should be done in conjunction with a system for adding/reducing weight. The most efficient way to do this is detailed here using a system of pulleys, weights and a climbing harness. The goal with the exercises is to add or subtract weight so that you are able to just finish each exercise without failure (falling/slipping off grips). The beauty of this type system is that it is easy to track and to makes changes (increases) as you progress. It is important to keep a notebook tracking what you are doing so that you can document improvements and make adjustments to the routines.

Do the workout 2-3 times a week with at least 1-2 days rest in between workouts. Consistency in both following the routine and following it over time is important to see improvement. The goal is to gradually increase the difficulty (time, reps, or sets) throughout the 4-6 week block as it becomes easier. Always adjust it so that you are close to failure by the end of each exercise. Follow this system for 4-6 week block followed by a week rest, then start another 4-6 week block with four different grip positions. 

  1. CAUTION: Training involves repetitive motion. When climbing outside on rock, the angles, grip types, and positions of fingers, hands, arms and shoulders are infinite and constantly changing due to the natural features of the rock. However in grip training, the same positions are used over and over. This can lead to repetitive stress injuries.  Please be vigilant and stop if you are starting to experience pain. Rest is the best cure when starting to experience problems.