climbing. Instead, this program focuses on three positions—open hand, half crimp, and full crimp—because they are the most common used in real climbing, and they address the principle of “joint angle specificity.” This principle says that isometric strength is gained only in a small range outside the angle in which it was trained. By covering all three positions, we’re guaranteed to gain strength in any hand position one might encounter on real rock. No matter how disciplined we are about trying to hold an openhand or half-crimp position, when the going gets tough, the full crimp comes into play. The idea is to train this position carefully in a controlled environment instead of rolling the dice when on the rock.
Find an open-hand grip that you can hang onto for 10 to 12 seconds. You can add or reduce weight, but it’s best to start with a hold that you can hang on at bodyweight. For the next four weeks, this will be your training hold, so choose the hold carefully. Using this position, hang for just three seconds.
Rest a while, somewhere between 10 and 60 seconds is fine. The actual time isn’t important. The rule of thumb in strength is this: Long rests lead to great gains in neurological factors such as recruitment and firing rate; shorter rests lean more toward hypertrophy (muscle growth). Stay fresh to get strong. To fight boredom and continue resting, stretch or complete another non-finger exercise. Follow the rest with a six-second open-hand hang. Rest again, longer if you need to. Follow this rest with another hang, this time nine seconds long. After the nine-second hang, you’ve completed one ladder of 3-6-9. The beginning of the program starts with three sets of 3-6-9 ladders for each hold position. Rest as needed between sets. Repeat this pattern with a full crimp and then finish with the half crimp, also for three sets of 3-6-9. Full crimp is trained second to ensure you’re warmed up for it. We finish with half crimp because it is the strongest position. Execute these moves well, remembering quality over quantity.
Do this session once more during the week. In the second week, increase to four sets per hand position twice a week. In the third week, do five sets per hand position twice a week. In the fourth week, do three sets for each position, but add a 12-second hang so you are doing 3-6-9-12 twice a week.
After completing the fourth week, assess your strength, and then restart the program with slightly increased loads, meaning add some weight to your hangs. Big load jumps aren’t necessary, so add weight conservatively. If you add somewhere around 2 to 5% of your bodyweight each cycle for several cycles, that’s great. The ultimate goal is to continue to progress over the long-term, and adding too much weight too soon will only result in a plateau.