Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Rock Climbers Shown to Have Surprisingly Weak Finger Muscles

August 14, 2020

Most climbers are aware of the importance of finger flexor strength. But how strong are your finger EXTENSORS?

Finger extensors are the antagonist muscle group to the finger flexors and are critical to providing support and stability. Strengthening this muscle group is key component to a finger rehabilitation program, particularly in rock climbers who put extremely high demands on their finger flexors. Weakness in the finger flexors and extensors has been linked to increased incidence of flexor pulley injuries and is commonly seen in individuals who have stiff and swollen finger joints.

A study by Vigouroux and colleagues looked at physiological adaptations of climbers versus non-climbers. They found that finger flexor strength was 40% greater in climbers than non-climbers. Interestingly, there were no other forearm or hand muscle differences between the two groups and in some cases climbers had WEAKER finger extensor muscles. These results indicate that climbers who do not perform exercises to specifically target finger extensors are at increased risk of finger injury.

The greatest risk factor for developing a climbing injury is that the climber has had a previous injury. If you are having repeated injuries, particular to your fingers, it might be time to get professional help from a physical therapist who is trained in treating rock climbing injuries.