February 17, 2023

Finger strength measurements for rock climbers - Introduction

If you're serious about training for climbing, monitoring your progress, and making the most out of your hangboard training, you need to have a clear finger strength benchmark. Just as you would measure the 5RM or 1RM load for your bench press or pull-ups, you can measure the maximum load for your fingerboard hangs. There are a few different methods for determining maximum finger strength, or Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC), as it is often called. In this article, I focus on the first and most basic method: measurement using two-handed weighted hangs. Then, I will explain other techniques in separate posts, including one-arm hang and dynamometer measurements.

In principle, it all sounds straightforward. Just add load to your harness, grab a stopwatch, choose an edge and hang away. In fact, it truly isn't difficult. However, a few nuances and factors need to be considered if you want to perform the perfect finger strength measurement. In this article, you'll find all you need to make accurate and reliable maximum finger strength tests that can later serve as a solid benchmark for designing your own finger strength and forearm endurance training drills and in-depth climbing data analysis.

Below, you'll also find my Simple MVC-7 calculator allowing you to convert any 5 - 20-second weighted or unloaded hang to MVC-7. Here you'll find detailed instructions on how to use the program.

I also made a short video to guide you through the MVC-7 measurement process to ensure that your measurements are perfect every time.

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Simple MVC-7 calculator instructions

Using the MVC-7 calculator is extremely simple. Type in your body weight and added hang load, and choose the test edge and the test time. You instantly get your result recalculated to standard MVC-7 on a 20 mm edge.

By default, select the Intermediate mode. The Beginner and Expert modes lead to significant differences only for longer test times. You may need to experiment a bit to determine which model is the most accurate for you at the moment.

Finger strength measurements for climbers - summary

Accurately measuring your finger strength is critical for evaluating your climbing performance. It lets you know how strong you are and opens the door for making meaningful endurance measurements and monitoring your training progress.

In this post, I have comprehensively covered how to measure your finger strength using the two-handed weighted hangs method. This method is simple and effective for intermediate and advanced climbers. However, strong individuals and pros will likely prefer one-arm methods or using a dynamometer, which will be covered in my future posts.

On top of that, I have also included a Simple MVC-7 calculator program, which will allow you to quickly convert any two-handed measurement on an arbitrary edge depth to a standardized 20 mm MVC-7 result. If you have any questions, go ahead and let me know. Good luck with your measurements!


Rock climbing endurance measurements - Introduction

While in bouldering, the most critical determinant of athletic level is finger and upper body strength, in lead climbing, endurance, or how long we can generate a given level of force with our fingers, plays an equally important role.

Although endurance measurements are common in other sports, such as cycling, in climbing, endurance has remained elusive and difficult to measure until recently. In 2019, David Giles, in collaboration with Lattice training, published an article proposing applying the concept of Critical Force to determine finger strength in climbing [1]. Since then, Critical Force determined on a 20 mm edge has become the gold standard for estimating sport climbing level.

Interestingly, determining the Critical Force is relatively easy, and anyone can do it on their own using a fingerboard and a set of weights and pulleys. In this article, I would like to explain how to effectively carry out such a measurement, which will later serve as a reference point and help you evaluate your sport climbing level progression.

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Forearm endurance measurements for rock climbers - summary

In this article, I've explained how to perform endurance measurements with the traditional two-handed method on a fingerboard. In addition, endurance and CF measurements may be performed using load cell dynamometers, such as the Tindeq Progressor or the Exsurgo gStrength. I will cover alternative measurement methods at length in separate articles.


  1. Giles, D., Chidley, J.B., Taylor, N., Torr, O., Hadley, J., Randall, T., Fryer, S., 2019. The Determination of Finger-Flexor Critical Force in Rock Climbers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1–8. (link)
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