Using a grip strengthener is an excellent supplement to your climbing training. In addition to helping protect you from injury, training grip strength can condition your hands, fingers, and forearms to withstand the stresses of climbing. There are tons of different products on the market, making it challenging to select the best grip strengthener for your needs.
When choosing a grip strengthener, it’s crucial to look for a product with an appropriate resistance level for your body and a comfortable, ergonomic design.
To help you narrow down your search, we’ve selected five of the best grip strengtheners for climbers. Before diving into the reviews, let’s go over some of the basic things you should know about grip strengtheners, including how to use them and how they differ from a hangboard.
How to use a grip strengthener
While anyone can start training with a grip strengthener, it’s essential to go slow and allow your body to build up strength over time – especially if you’re new to climbing.
Most grip strengthener manufacturers include recommended workouts for free with the purchase of one of their products. Typically, people start grip strength training around three times a week and progress from there.
If you haven’t trained with a grip strengthener before, start with a low resistance level, take it slow, and don’t overdo it. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, but always listen to your body and stop if anything feels painful.
Anyone using a grip strengthener to rehab an injury should get advice from a physical therapist or doctor before starting any exercises. If done improperly, a grip strengthener could make the injury worse.
How is a grip strengthener different from a hangboard?
It may seem like hangboards and grip strengtheners are similar training tools. While they are both important for climbing training, they target slightly different areas and cannot be interchanged with one another.
Hangboards specifically target the tendons in your fingers and involve mostly isometric or static movements. Grip strengtheners, on the other hand, are focused more on the muscles in your hands and forearms and usually require a squeezing motion. As a result, hangboards are better for building strength in your finger tendons, while grip strengtheners are designed more for general conditioning, warming up, and injury rehab and prevention.
Our Top Five Picks for the Best Grip Strengthener
IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper: Best Overall
Pros: Durable, numerous resistance levels available
Cons: Not ideal for people with small hands, expensive, not adjustable
Materials: Billet aluminum and alloy steel
Weight: 7.7 oz
The Captains of Crush Hand Gripper by IronMind is a classic and popular grip strengthener trusted by climbers, powerlifters, and other athletes since 1988. The simple design makes this grip strengthener very durable and easy to use.
Thanks to the alloy steel and billet aluminum construction, the Captains of Crush Gripper is nearly indestructible compared to many other models and feels good in the hand.
There are 11 different strengths available for the Captains of Crush Gripper ranging from 60 lbs to 365 lbs of resistance, making this model a good option for new climbers and pros alike. However, the resistance is not adjustable, so you’ll have to purchase a new Gripper as you progress and build strength. At $25 each, this may not be a feasible option for everyone.
While the different resistances make this model an approachable choice for many people, reviewers with small hands warned that the design did not feel very comfortable. Additionally, the easiest option offers 60 lbs of resistance, which may be too intense for some people, especially those with an injury.
Gripmaster Pro Hand Exerciser: Best for Targeting Fingers
Pros: Easy to target individual fingers and improve weaknesses
Cons: Expensive, not adjustable
Materials: Plastic, metal
Weight: 4.3 oz
The Gripmaster Pro is one of the best tools available to exercise specific fingers and target and improve weaknesses. It is available in a variety of resistance levels ranging from 5 lbs (Light Tension) to 13 lbs (XX-Heavy Tension).
At only 4.3 oz, the Gripmaster Pro is lightweight and portable and can be used anywhere. You can easily toss this grip strengthener in your crag pack and use it to warm up before climbing or keep it in a backpack or purse to exercise your fingers on the go. Like the Captains of Crush Gripper, this device is not adjustable, so you’ll need to purchase a new one as you get stronger.
The Gripmaster is also available in a regular version priced at $16. The conventional Gripmaster is cheaper than the Pro and has a lower profile and a smaller range of motion. It also lacks cushioning on the finger pads, making it slightly less comfortable to use. Although this version is missing some of the Pro features, it may be a better option for those on a budget or with smaller hands.
Many reviewers found the Pro version to be more difficult than the regular Gripmaster despite equal ratings. If you’re new to grip strength training or have petite fingers, you’ll likely prefer the original Gripmaster.
Longang Hand Grip Strengthener: Best Value
Pros: Adjustable, easy to progress, affordable
Cons: Not durable, noisy
Materials: Metal, plastic
Weight: 6.1 oz
The Longang Hand Grip Strengthener comes with a knob to easily change the resistance and is the only grip strengthener on our list that is adjustable. At only $8, this product is our pick for the best value.
With resistance from 11 lbs to 132 lbs all in one device, you’ll be able to build strength and progress without needing to purchase a new grip strengthener.
The product includes rubber grips to reduce slipping and has a scale next to the spring to indicate the current resistance setting. Some purchasers cautioned that the scale is not particularly precise, making it difficult to tell exactly what resistance you’ve set it at.
The metal, plastic, and rubber construction is not as durable as some of the other choices on this list, particularly the Captains of Crush Gripper. The manufacturer offers a 360-day warranty, so you’re covered if you run into any issues with durability during that time.
Although it’s not as compact as models like the Gripmaster Pro, Iron Crush, and PowerFingers, the Longang is still easy to bring to the gym and use on the go. However, it is noisier than other products and creaks during use, so it may not be suitable to use at work or in a quiet place.
Iron Crush Grip Strengthener: Most Versatile
Pros: Versatile, 3-in-1 design, affordable, portable
Cons: Rings may lose resistance over time
Weight: 3.46 oz
Thanks to Iron Crush’s 3-in-1 design, climbers can use these donut-shaped grip strengtheners to improve their pinching, crushing, and extensor strength. These rings are made of durable silicone, have a simple, user-friendly design, and are comfortable to use.
The Iron Crush Grip Strengthener includes three silicone rings with different resistance levels for $14, making this a great value. Purchasers can choose between two different sets: Level 1 contains rings with 30, 40, and 50 lbs of resistance, while Level 2 has rings with 60, 70, and 80 lbs of resistance. In each set, the rings are color-coded for easy identification.
Unlike some other extensor trainers, the extension on this product is an isometric movement, meaning the ring will not expand with the pressure of your fingers.
Since this model doesn’t allow you to extend your fingers to an open-hand position, it does not reflect the natural hand position in climbing. It’s still better for training the extensors than grip strengtheners with no extending option; however, there are much better products available for climbers if you’re specifically looking to target the extensors.
While the silicone construction is quite durable, the rings may lose their resistance over time. Overall this is still a solid option for the price and a great way to improve different types of grips.
PowerFingers: Best for Extensors
Pros: Great for injury rehab and prevention
Cons: Not very durable, expensive
Weight: 3.2 oz (set of five discs)
Rock climbing can overwork the flexor tendons and muscles in your forearms. To help prevent injury, it’s important to work the antagonist muscle group: the extensors, which are located on the backs of the fingers, hands, and forearms. This set of five silicone discs from PowerFingers is an excellent way to build extensor strength, protect yourself from injury, and rehab certain overuse conditions like tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow.
The discs are lightweight and portable and come with a carrying case, allowing you to use them anywhere from the crag to your office. Beginners can start with the lightest resistance and work their way up through the discs. Once the hardest disc feels too easy, you can layer them for added resistance.
PowerFingers are designed for isometric holds of around 5 to 10 seconds at angles that mimic movements while climbing. The PowerFingers website contains additional recommendations and instructions for exercises you can do using their product.
Some reviewers warned that the silicone is not very durable and is prone to tearing, but typically this only occurred after extensive use. PowerFingers include a 90-day warranty covering any tears or damage within this time frame. Any issues beyond that time will likely require purchasing a new set or another product.
Additionally, PowerFingers has a great set of videos showcasing different exercises to help you target your desired goals.
Choosing the best grip strengthener for your body and current fitness level can significantly improve your grip strength and reduce the likelihood of injury. No matter which product you select, start out slowly with the grip strengthening exercises to allow your body to adjust to the new training program.