Eric Hörst’s finger strength training program – quick summary


In November 2020, I received an email from Carson – one of my blog readers. He wrote me to ask for advice regarding his hangboard training. Carson was already an accomplished young boulderer, but he wanted to amp his game by further improving his finger strength. 

He ultimately devised his own training program based on Eric Hörst’s “7-53” finger strength training program and dramatically improved his finger strength within just 8 weeks. I found his case very interesting and inspiring, so I decided to share his results with his permission.

Initial result from the Finger Strength Analyzer 2.0

First, Carson described his training situation and recent results. He used my Finger Strength Analyzer 2.0 tool to estimate his current bouldering level [1]. He entered the following input:

  • Height/Span: 6’0
  • Weight: 157 lbs
  • Training Mode 1: At least twice a week, including weighted hangs
  • Edge depth: 18 mm (wooden Metolius rung
  • Hang time: 7 seconds
  • Added load: 70 lbs (227 lbs in total)
  • Pull-ups: 3RM, +75 lbs
  • Calculated comfortable projecting level: V6 – V7

The result accurately reflected his current bouldering ability – he had just recently come back from a trip, during which he sent two V6s and two V5s. His personal best result was V7/V8, but it took him 3 months of projecting. Carson also explained that he excelled at overhanging and compression routes due to his high pull strength and underperformed on technical vertical climbs with small holds.

Previous finger strength training program

Before the pandemic, Carson did not hangboard – he only bouldered. However, when COVID struck, he began training hard, according to the following schedule:

  • Monday: 5 reps of 1 arm Recruitment Pulls – Tyler Nelson inspired, feet on the ground, maximal isometric [2]
  • Wednesday: Bouldering outside or in the gym if it was raining
  • Friday: 5 sets of 6 reps of 7/3 repeaters
  • Saturday/Sunday: Climbing once every two weekends or so

This simple self-made training program allowed him to take his bouldering level from V4/V5 to V6/V7. It is worth noticing that his training volume was relatively low, with only 2 short hangboard sessions and 1 – 2 climbing sessions in a week. Yet, it was sufficient to allow him to progress 1 – 2 V-grades.

Now Carson was ready to take his training up a notch, so he contacted me to ask which of the programs on my site would be most appropriate for him to build finger strength over the next few months. 

Choosing the hangboard training protocol

We started by discussing the hangboard training methods that Carson could use to develop his finger strength further. Usually, when an athlete has been hangboarding for less than a year, I recommend completing a few cycles of 7/3 Repeaters at 80% of the 7-second max. load [3]. The goal is to build some muscle and strengthen the connective tissues to prepare for the heavier loads. However, Carson was determined to train maximum strength immediately.

I figured that since he had already trained with Recruitment Pulls for a few months, it might be ok to continue with high intensity training. Alternatively, Eva López MaxHangs can be an excellent introduction to weighted hangs if you opt for a lighter version of the protocol [4]. You might, e.g., start with 15-second hangs at 85% intensity, which would be only slightly heavier than the standard loads used for 7/3 Repeaters.

Still, Carson chose to go for the Hörsts “7-53” protocol, which, I believe, lies close to the maximum of the intensity spectrum [5]. I need to stress here that Carson was not formally entering any of my training programs – he was merely asking for advice, so I was not in the position to categorically advise him against following an aggressive training routine.

And yet, while it was a bit risky, Carson’s approach was not unreasonable. He is a young climber, able to regenerate quickly, and he did, after all, train with added weight before. However, I think he still has a lot to gain with less aggressive protocols, and I agree with Eva López that you should strive to achieve progress with the least amount of stimulus possible. This way, you won’t hit the wall with your development. 

Details of the climbing training program

After our discussions, Carson designed the following program for himself:

  • Hangboard routine: Eric Horst’s “7-53” protocol (Table 1)
  • Program duration: 8 weeks
  • Program structure:
    • Twice a week 1 set of:
      • half crimp
      • full crimp with a thumb wrap
      • 4 fingers open hand

Each set was 3 x 7 seconds on, 53 seconds off. He would start the program at 90% of his hal crimp MVC-7, which was equal to 205 lbs. Every hangboard workout, he would attempt to increase the load by 2 lbs. Every fourth week he planned to deload and to use less weight. That meant that he would increase his half crimp training load by the end of