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Contact strength (RFD) in rock climbing - Introduction

If you're a sport climber or boulderer, you know that finger and upper body strength are crucial for success in these disciplines [1][2]. However, while often overlooked, finger Rate of Force Development (RFD), often termed contact strength, is another highly critical factor. Moreover, the higher your level, the more important it becomes since dynamic moves on small holds become more common as the grades rise [3].

RFD is the ability to generate force quickly, which is essential for explosive movements like dynos and deadpoints. In sport climbing and bouldering, where holds can be small and difficult to grip, RFD can make all the difference between sending or falling off.

In this article, I'll focus on ways and tools used to measure and evaluate and your finger RFD practically. I'll also explain how to decide when to focus on finger strength (MVC) and RFD training and when to introduce it into your training program.

The article features an instructional video, where I show step-by-step how to determine your RFD using the Tindeq Progressor accurately [4].

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Finger Rate of Force Development measurements for rock climbers - summary

The Rate of Force Development (RFD) or contact strength is, next to finger and upper limb strength, a critical parameter determining rock climbing performance, especially at high levels. However, not everyone needs to engage in contact strength training. For lead climbers and amateur boulderers, it's usually more important to work on their finger strength (MVC) [5].

To decide when to start contact strength or power training, you should measure your RFD using a dedicated tool, such as the Tindeq Progressor, or Exsurgo gStrength, and compare the result with your Peak Load measurement. Based on this calculation, you may decide between finger strength and contact strength training and properly plan your subsequent training cycles. RFD measurements and analysis are easy to perform on your own with the Tindeq Progressor. To do it, you can follow the step-by-step instructions I have provided in the video included in this article.


  1. Laffaye, G., Levernier, G., Collin, J.-M., 2015. Determinant factors in climbing ability: Influence of strength, anthropometry, and neuromuscular fatigue. Scand J Med Sci Sports. (link)
  2. Laffaye, G., Collin, J.-M., Levernier, G., Padulo, J., 2014. Upper-limb Power Test in Rock-climbing. Int J Sports Med. (link)
  3. Vereide, V., Andersen, V., Hermans, E., Kalland, J., Saeterbakken, A.H., Stien, N., 2022. Differences in Upper-Body Peak Force and Rate of Force Development in Male Intermediate, Advanced, and Elite Sport Climbers. Front. Sports Act. Living. (link)
  4. (link)
  5. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Dr. Tyler Nelson’s New Active Finger Strength Training Protocols, Mar. 23, 2023. (link)

Sport Climbing Level Calculator - Introduction

Have you ever wondered how hard you could lead climb at your current fitness level? Do you feel stuck on a sport climbing plateau, despite having super strong fingers? Or maybe your endurance is excellent, and you're considering investing time in finger strength training? Would you like to know how hard other climbers with comparable finger strength and forearm endurance climb?

If so, running a simple test with the Sport Climbing Level Calculator can let you answer your questions and help you get on track with your training! All you need to do is measure your finger strength and endurance, input the data into the calculator, and you'll instantly receive an evaluation of the most critical facets of sport climbing performance!

Your Input - Demo Version





MaxHangs MAW-MED 8-week training cycle spreadsheet

Setting up your own training cycle can be challenging, particularly in the case of routines such as the MaxHangs, where it's necessary to calculate added load, edge depths, and other parameters. That's why I have created functional Excel spreadsheets for StrengthClimbing registered Premium Users [1].

Trigger neural adaptations efficiently through low volume, short time under tension, and high loads.

All you need to do is register for a 1-month subscription plan and download the Excel spreadsheet. The MaxHangs MAW_MED training spreadsheet features a complete 8-week training plan that consists of 4 weeks of MaxHangs MAW and 4 weeks of MaxHangs MED. You may train various hold positions, from half crimp and full crimp through 3-finger drag, 2-finger pockets, and even pinches.

Start with four weeks of MaxHangs MAW, followed by four weeks of MaxHangs MED, to complete a full 8-week cycle and maximize gains.

The training sessions are programmed, and hang loads are calculated automatically, although advanced users will find the spreadsheet easy to customize to modify their training plans. You just need to measure your finger strength based on the step-by-step instructions included, and the rest is done automatically.

And in case you have any additional questions, as a Premium User, you get full technical support. I can also help you customize the training plan according to your goals. On top of that, you get access to all StrengthClimbing Premium Content, including articles, instructional videos, tools, and training programs!

Good luck with your finger strength training!


  1. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Eva López MaxHangs Hangboard Routine For Finger Strength, Apr. 29, 2019. (link)

Endurance Repeaters Pyramids - Introduction

So far, in my articles, I've been explaining how to perform finger strength and forearm endurance tests for rock climbing [1][2]. Having reliable test results is great for identifying your weak spots and benchmarking your climbing progress.

However, the main power of performing finger strength and finger endurance measurements is that they allow you to design your targetted rock climbing training plans. In my future posts, I'll explain planning finger strength and endurance training cycles in detail. But before you can design a complete training cycle, you need to know the training drills that are the building blocks of your training sessions.

I covered many basic protocols in my early articles, like the MaxHangs, IntHangs, Bechtel's Ladders, and Endurance Repeaters [3][4][5][6]. However, over the years, as I gained experience in coaching climbers, I've developed my versions of the protocols, which I've found to be even more effective and time-efficient. I want to share this knowledge with you, and in this post, I'll start by explaining my version of Endurance Repeaters, which I call Endurance Repeaters Pyramids.

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Endurance Repeaters Pyramids - Summary

The Endurance Repeaters Pyramids is a very flexible exercise for building aerobic and anaerobic endurance required for high-level sport and trad climbing.

By appropriately controlling the training load and training volume, we can target the following:

  • Lactic capacity
  • Anaerobic threshold
  • Maximum oxygen consumption
  • Aerobic threshold

I've been successfully using the Endurance Repeaters Pyramids training method with my clients for years, obtaining significant improvements in Critical Force, which translated directly to sport climbing performance. Please try this technique and let me know your results!

  1. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Finger Strength Measurements For Rock Climbers Made Easy!, Feb. 17, 2023. (link)
  2. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – How To Test Rock Climbing Finger Endurance – Simple Guide, Feb. 17, 2023. (link)
  3. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Eva López MaxHangs Hangboard Routine For Finger Strength, Apr. 29, 2019. (link)
  4. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Eva López IntHangs Strength Endurance Fingerboard Protocol , Apr. 24, 2019. (link)
  5. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing - Steve Bechtel’s 3-6-9 Ladders hangboard finger strength training, May 18, 2019. (link)
  6. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Endurance Repeaters – Forearm Aerobic Endurance Hangboard Routine, May 2, 2019.(link)

Ketogenic diet for rock climbers - Introduction

Climbing is a sport where the strength-to-weight and power-to-weight ratios are critical for success. Therefore, climbers understandably strive to minimize their weight while maintaining lean muscle mass, high performance, and overall well-being. Doctors initially used the ketogenic diet (KD) in the 1920s for treating epilepsy. However, recently it has been gaining a lot of attention in sports for its efficacy in controlling weight. It has also been reported to increase energy levels and recovery rates. Nonetheless, of late, it has been mainly studied from the weight/fat loss angle and its impact on glucose and fat metabolism. Still, as far as the effect on sports performance is concerned, the ketogenic diet is yet to be thoroughly analyzed [1].

My first encounter with the ketogenic diet

I first heard about the keto diet in the climbing training context when I listened to the TrainingBeta podcast interview with Neil Gresham in 2016 [2]. Neil claimed that the ketogenic diet did wonders for him in terms of his climbing improvement. Among the many benefits Neil mentioned:

  • feeling stronger, lighter, and more energized
  • eating healthier stuff - his palate was rewired toward vegetables
  • no sugar cravings
  • improved recovery rate - eating less pro-inflammatory foods, including gluten
  • lost 15 lbs of weight in a month without ever feeling hungry or low on energy
  • feeling mentally sharper and better mood

He said that after changing his way of eating, he'd improved from struggling on 8a+ routes to sending 8c within a year. If that doesn't spark your interest, I don't know what does! That all sounded too good to be true, but I immediately felt I needed to give it a try!

No single thing has ever made such a big difference in my climbing as this diet.

The matter was more complex, though. After doing a little more research into the topic, I realized that the evidence was conflicting and that many sources, including Neely Quinn, the podcast's author, reported experiencing several adverse effects [3]. The more I explored the topic, the more I learned how vital for hard climbing carbs were [4][5]. But I could also find encouraging voices from keto diet enthusiasts, such as Dave Macleod himself [6]. I needed to get to the bottom of this, so over three years, I ran a series of experiments where I compared my climbing test results on keto and mixed diets and documented the results to get my perspective.

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  1. Paoli, A., Bianco, A., Grimaldi, K.A., 2015. The Ketogenic Diet and Sport. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.
  2. N. Quinn, Neil Gresham on Training for 5.11 and 5.12, Trainingbeta Podcast 048, Mar. 24th, 2016. (link)
  3. N. Quinn, Ketogenic Diet and Climbers, Trainingbeta Podcast 043, Feb. 09, 2016. (link)
  4. M. Michael, Keto diet for climbers, (link)
  5. M. Michael, Why The Keto Diet Will Hurt Your Climbing,, May 16, 2022. (link)
  6. D. Macleod, The ketogenic diet in sport performance - 6 years of experiments and scientific evidence,, Oct. 01, 2021. (link)

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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