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Get Stronger With Pinch Block Training

Follow these training tips and you'll build an iron grip for plastic and rock

Photo by: Jan Virt/IFSC

Looking to improve your ability to hold pinches? Weighted pinch block lifts are an excellent exercise for increasing the isometric strength of your pinch grips across a range of pinch types. They are easy to track, modify, and intensify over time, making them a suitable exercise for all climbers, from novice to pro.

Here’s a quick breakdown on pinch block lifting form, finding a baseline, and basic training protocols.

The Exercise

To perform pinch block lifts you can purchase a specialized device such as the Lattice Training Quad Block or Tension Climbing Block. Alternatively, you could build your own device using a sanded block of wood with an eyebolt screwed into one side. Use a carabiner and sling to connect a dumbbell or set of weight plates to the pinch block. A lifting pin might be helpful.

With the weight sitting on the ground, bend your knees and grasp the pinch block between your four fingers and thumb. Chalking up beforehand is a good idea. Lift with your legs in a controlled manner and hold the pinch for a desired amount of time (more on this later). While holding the pinch, keep your shoulder engaged and your torso upright. Your arm should be straight. See the Lattice Training video below for a video demonstration of form:

Finding Your Baseline

Before beginning pinch block training, you need to find your maximum strength baseline. In a dedicated baseline training session with at least 24 hours of rest beforehand, increase weight gradually to your pinch block lifts until you reach failure. Aim for a maximum of 7 sets to find your maximum score.

Each lift should be 7 seconds long and completed with proper form (as described and viewed above). Rest 30 seconds between arms and 3 minutes between sets. Be sure to test and record results for each arm as they will likely be different. Your dominant hand will probably be a little stronger.

Training Protocol

You can add pinch block training to your schedule 2 to 3 days per week. Be sure to have a rest day between pinch training days.

  1. Begin with a gradual warm up of 10-second pinch block lifts, eventually reaching close to 90% of the weight used in your 7-second baseline max score.
  2. Perform 5 sets of 10-second lifts for each arm using a weight that equals 90% of your 7-second baseline max score. For example, if your maximum score for your right arm was 50 lbs, lift 45 lbs (50 lbs x 0.90) with your right arm.
  3. Rest 30 seconds between arms. Rest 3 minutes between sets.
  4. If you fail any of the lifts or are unable to maintain proper form, reduce the weight.

Follow this training protocol for a training cycle (typically two to four weeks), then attempt to incrementally increase weight. In a new training cycle, you could explore using narrower or wider pinches. Advanced climbers could also explore using different pinch grips (e.g. using just the pads of your fingers and thumbs vs. using the whole length of your fingers and thumbs to grasp the block).

Lead photo: Jan Virt/IFSC