Prehab and rehab for climbers: Keeping the hands healthy!


Today I want to share a routine that I typically do when I have down time that helps me keep my hands and fingers limber, reduces inflammation, and just feels good.

Work allows me to travel every few weeks, so I do this routine in the plane.

It’s a great way to kill time in-flight and your hands will feel good.


You’ll need a couple things like this Handmaster ball and the scraping massage tool:



The Warm Up:


The routine starts with about 20 “open-claw-duck-fists” to warm up the tissues and promote blow flow. See where you’re feeling tight, how mobile your joints are, and remember to breath to feel it out.

These photos show you what I mean by “open-claw-duck-fist” sequence:



Next, Some Exercises:


Once you’re warmed up, let’s do some oppositional work.

You’ll use the ball and do 3 sets of 20 reps on each hand. The sequence is squeeze and then open wide for 1 rep. Here’s the sequence:



Sometimes I like to hold the open position for a couple seconds to feel a bit of a burn in the palm and the back of the hand.

This is a great exercise to strengthen the stabilizer muscles in your hand and keep them healthy to crank on those crimps!


The scraping massage tool! (Be careful with this)


Next we’ll use this tool! Fair warning here: do not overdo it / air on the light side when massaging!

We’re going to use the scapula to massage the muscles on the inside of your hand, around your thumb, your pinky muscles, and over your A1, A2, and A3 pulleys. This article has a good schematic that shows you where these pulleys are in your hand:



In most cases the pressure you’ll use to massage your hand and fingers should be very light. If you’re feeling a bit of grinding, especially over the meaty pads directly above your pulleys, that’s normal. Just do it lightly. We’re promoting blood flow as we lightly breakdown fascia and help your body regenerate the tissues and thus re-align them in the way they were meant to be. Normal wear and tear, trauma, and overuse causes scar-tissue and these fibers to be crisscrossed in less than ideal ways. We’re lightly breaking that down.

You might also find sore spots above old pulley injuries… go lightly.


DO NOT use this tool on joints; nope, don’t do it. Always use it on soft tissue.

I learned this method from going to a hand specialist in Physical Therapy after a particularly bad A2 pulley tear a few years ago. I won’t be providing or quoting supporting articles for this method but I’m sure there are some out there. Be careful and go lightly with this and you'll see results, or consult with a professional before trying it out!


Part 4: Stretches!


Now that we’re done with the exercises and blood-flow related work, let’s stretch things out!

I like this guitarist oriented stretch video because it has the main stretches and then some:

Essential Hand Stretches for Guitarists

As well as this particular one for the lumbricals:

Finger Stretches for Lumbricals

The videos above provide a gamut of stretches; Overall I recommend playing around with forearm, hand and finger stretches, and discovering the tight spots.

You can stretch one or more fingers at a time as well to get a slightly different effect and feelings.


One stretch not described in the videos is for your finger joints.

If you go back to the claw photo above, you’ll notice two things:

  • The back of my finger is flush / in-line with the back of my hand
  • The joint is mobile, allowing my finger to curl in on itself and go all the way in.

If your fingers are unable to get into this position (closing the gap inside the curl of your finger), it’s time to help them get mobile and get healthy!

With the help of your other hand, you’ll squeeze a finger down into this position (one finger at a time). It’s more important for the back of your finger to be flush with your hand than it is to close the gap in your finger; So start with number 1 and work toward number 2.

Please be careful with this one, too. If your fingers are particularly stiff, immobile, and won’t close down, it’ll take you a couple months of sitting at red lights or in traffic practicing this stretch to get there. That’s what it took me. Be cautious and be in it for the long run.

Overall this stretch is a tiny piece of the puzzle but a good one to keep the joints happy!


Another one I learned recently is called the tendon slide. You'll slide a single finger at a time starting from it being down against your palm and all the way back up to being straight. Do that on each finger!


Once you’ve completed the routine, your hand and fingers should feel more mobile and good!


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post and please share any of your go-to hand care in the comments.


PS: If you need supplies and want to help support my blog, please use these Amazon links to make (any) purchase! Thank you!


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