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Which finger is second-strongest?
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By kenr
Oct 23, 2012
I was surprised to find that my 4th finger was much stronger than my 2nd finger, working as an independent hanging point. My 3rd (middle) finger was strongest. (counting my thumb as 1st finger)

I tried it on my fingerboard, with three different grips: open grip on a small hold (finger bent at first knuckle), open on a large edge hold (finger bent at second knuckle away from tip), and half-crimp. With my body in a overhanging configuration with feet supported by a chair underneath - (No I'm not strong enough to hang my full unsupported body-weight off a single finger).
Same result for each of the three grips: 3rd finger strongest, 4th finger almost as strong, 2nd finger significantly weaker (and of course 5th little finger was weakest). Results for my Left + Right hands essentially the same in both relative + absolute finger-hang strength.

I would have guessed that my 4th finger was bad at independent action, and that my 2nd finger rather gets lots and lots of practice at independent movements (even more than my 3rd) ... but I guess static hanging is different.

Contradiction?
When I do the same test with "teams" of two fingers working together, the team of 2nd + 3rd is equally as strong as my team of 3rd + 4th fingers. (Of course the littlest team of 4th + 5th fingers is notably weaker.)

Do other people get different results?

Does this matter for some kind of actual climbing?

Ken

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 23, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
What you're saying is a little confusing. Fifth finger? Generally most people agree that we have four fingers and a thumb. When you refer to your "middle" finger as your third finger, it sounds like you're either starting with the pinky (which is your FOURTH finger, unless you are an orangutan), or you're counting the thumb. Neither is correct.

Use index, middle, ring, and pinky and people will know what you're talking about.

To answer your question, I've never really tested individual fingers. I know I'm not strong enough yet to hang off a mono. For pairs, I've found that of course the pinky and ring combo is the weakest. My middle and ring are the strongest, but they tweak my flexor group the most. The index/middle feels most natural, but are not as strong of a pair as the middle/ring.

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By goatdavemac
From Flat Rock, NC
Oct 23, 2012
Jake, forgive me if I'm wrong, but your response was clearly dickish....Ken clearly defined what 1st - 5th fingers are to him. While I might use different terms for the fingers, I still know what he means by 1st, 2nd, etc after only reading his post once.

Remember, it is easier to walk through the world with slippers on, than to carpet the entire world...

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 23, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
I wasn't trying to be dickish. If I came off that way, I apologize. I too know what he meant, but after going through it a couple times and with all the 3rds, 4ths, 2nds, 5ths, and so on, it seemed a little jumbled and had to refer back to his definition to figure out which finger he was referring to. It's not like I called him a retard or asshole for referring to fingers this way. I just thought his post would be more understandable if he used the generally accepted terms. Again, if I'm being a prick, it is not my intention, and I apologize.

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By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Oct 23, 2012
Mt. Agassiz
Jake Jones wrote:
What you're saying is a little confusing. Fifth finger? Generally most people agree that we have four fingers and a thumb. When you refer to your "middle" finger as your third finger, it sounds like you're either starting with the pinky (which is your FOURTH finger, unless you are an orangutan), or you're counting the thumb. Neither is correct. Use index, middle, ring, and pinky and people will know what you're talking about. To answer your question, I've never really tested individual fingers. I know I'm not strong enough yet to hang off a mono. For pairs, I've found that of course the pink and ring combo is the weakest. My middle and ring are the strongest, but they tweak my flexor group the most. The index/middle feels most natural, but are not as strong of a pair as the middle/ring.


Most people do not agree that we have four fingers. We have 14 phalanges, and 5 metacarpals on each hand (i.e. five fingers). The thumb is missing an intermediate phalanx, is opposing, blah blah blah. Don't be a tool. Like it or not, "thumb" is a simple way to distinguish a specific finger.

Regarding the middle finger...in medicine/Latin, it is referred to both as the digitus medius and the digitus tertius. I won't translate for you, but again, you lose.

Regarding the original question: There was an article in the Journal of Hand Therapy a while back that mentioned that the forefinger (your digitus secundus, or second finger) had equally strong grip strength when compared to the ring finger. However, many other sources have found the index finger (forefinger, second finger, whatever) to be the second strongest. Check out some articles on Google Scholar to see for yourself: Here.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 23, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
Thanks for the correction Ryan. Again, I was not trying to be a dick, or a tool, or "lose". What I wrote just came off that way. Inflection is difficult to convey in typed English. Did you miss the part where I humbly apologized- twice? I found it hard to understand, and in explaining that, I came off as condescending and it was unintentional. I think it is generally accepted that index, middle, ring and pinky are terms that everyone can readily identify. And while I am in awe of your Google skills, I doubt a regular Joe would be able to tell you what the digitus tertius is. You seem a bit eager to pounce even after I corrected myself, and apologized for my earlier comments that were perceived in a less that desirable way.

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By Ryan Nevius
From The Range of Light
Oct 23, 2012
Mt. Agassiz
Jake Jones wrote:
Thanks for the correction Ryan. Again, I was not trying to be a dick, or a tool, or "lose". What I wrote just came off that way. Inflection is difficult to convey in typed English. Did you miss the part where I humbly apologized- twice? I found it hard to understand, and in explaining that, I came off as condescending and it was unintentional. I think it is generally accepted that index, middle, ring and pinky are terms that everyone can readily identify. And while I am in awe of your Google skills, I doubt a regular Joe would be able to tell you what the digitus tertius is. You seem a bit eager to pounce even after I corrected myself, and apologized for my earlier comments that were perceived in a less that desirable way.


I hadn't refreshed the page before I wrote my response and missed your apology as a result. Regarding my knowledge of the meaning of "digitus tertius" ... that comes from higher education, and a general meaning of the English word "tertiary," not Google. Although Google is a fantastic source of information.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 23, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
Fair enough.

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By Jeremy Riesberg
From Boulder, CO
Oct 23, 2012
Palisaid, SD.
For most people the strongest finger is the middle, then ring, index, and followed with pinky. So for a double pocket, rock the middle and ring finger in that tight little hole.

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By Rob Gordon
From Hollywood, CA
Oct 23, 2012
Tough Mantle Problem.  Haven't sent yet...
The only two times I've hurt a tendon have been when open-handing two finger pockets with the middle and ring. Which gets me thinking that I might start using the middle and index with a crimp. I think the middle and index with a crimp would be stronger than the middle and ring with or without a crimp.

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By Howrad McGreehan
Oct 23, 2012
Jeremy Riesberg wrote:
For most people the strongest finger is the middle, then ring, index, and followed with pinky. So for a double pocket, rock the middle and ring finger in that tight little hole.


My girlfriend agrees that my Middle and Ring finger are much better than my Index and Middle.

Just saying; I practice pockets a lot.

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By Mike McKinnon
From Golden, CO
Oct 23, 2012
Bunny pancake
Howrad McGreehan wrote:
My girlfriend agrees that my Middle and Ring finger are much better than my Index and Middle. Just saying; I practice pockets a lot.


My GF feels that for what I give up in strength on the ring and middle I more than make up for in dexterity with the middle and index to reach those hard to reach places

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By handon broward
From Westminster, CO
Oct 23, 2012
Elk Range, CO
Mike McKinnon wrote:
My GF feels that for what I give up in strength on the ring and middle I more than make up for in dexterity with the middle and ring to reach those hard to reach places

I think you meant middle and index right? But im with you dexterity over power. Plus for once my big fingers fit perfectly in that crack.

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By Howrad McGreehan
Oct 23, 2012
Brandon Howard wrote:
I think you meant middle and index right? But im with you dexterity over power. Plus for once my big fingers fit perfectly in that crack.



+10

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By Mike McKinnon
From Golden, CO
Oct 23, 2012
Bunny pancake
Brandon Howard wrote:
I think you meant middle and index right? But im with you dexterity over power. Plus for once my big fingers fit perfectly in that crack.


correct sorry.

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Oct 23, 2012
The ring may be slightly stronger than the index, but FOR ME, my ring is way more susceptible to A2 pulley tears and interior forearm belly tweaks than my index. For that reason, if I need to pull on a mono that is too small to get my middle tip in, I will go to the index every time.

If it's a two-finger sized, for a horizontal pocket/edge I'll opt for Index/Middle, but if vertical (typically pins scars or crack pods, I don't climb on limestone much) will tend to vary based on whether the hold is best thumbs-up (where I use M/R) or thumbs down (where I use I/M).

Stronger is rarely, if ever, the deciding factor, especially since the difference is very, very little (for me anyway, ymmv).

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By kenr
Oct 23, 2012
Ryan Nevius wrote:
There was an article in the Journal of Hand Therapy a while back that mentioned that the forefinger (your digitus secundus, or second finger) had equally strong grip strength when compared to the ring finger. However, many other sources have found the index finger (forefinger, second finger, whatever) to be the second strongest.

Thanks the link to Google Scholar -- the abstracts fit with that summary quoted. Unfortunately I do not have cost-free access to the full text of the articles.
Actually the findings might fit with my own ...
that my forefinger (2nd) and ring (4th) seem to be about equal when making a contribution to a 2-finger "team" grip with my middle (3rd) finger - (that Journal of Hand Therapy abstract was talking about "contribution").
But differ, in same the order in two other abstracts, when hanging individually - (though it's hard to know from the abstracts what specific grips were being performed).

My absolute hanging strength might be double that of the adult population average, due to my special climbing activity and training. So I might have guessed that special training should also have changed the relative strength among my different fingers.

Ken

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By kenr
Oct 23, 2012
Will S wrote:
Stronger is rarely, if ever, the deciding factor, especially since the difference is very, very little (for me anyway, ymmv).

With mono-finger grips on my home fingerboard the difference between my forefinger and ring finger is substantial. So far I've only encountered one mono-finger crux on rock, and my middle finger fit fine, so I haven't needed to chose.

I haven't used 2-finger grips very often either so far when climbing on rock or plastic. (I do like limestone, but have not yet moved up to a grade where small pockets are often critical).

I got into training lots with 2-finger gripping because Eric Horst's book on Conditioning emphasizes doing Repeaters and HIT workouts with the three 2-finger "teams" - (in the photos as well as the text).

The book does not give a detailed rationale for giving such a high percentage of finger-training time to using 2-finger rather than the (more realistic) 3-finger or 4-finger grips. An obvious consequence of this would seem to be that the forefinger (2nd) gets roughly only half as many of the most intense open-grip training intervals as the ring finger (4th).

Nor does the book say why whatever the rationale might be for training 2-finger grips, might equally (or more so) justify giving a high proportion of training time to mono-finger grips - (which would easily address any concern about the forefinger not getting enough high-intensity intervals) - (but could make it tough to train the pinky finger).

I would guess that Eric Horst has personally tried mono-finger training workouts, and he likely has some good reasons for not mentioning the possibility in the book - (? perhaps one might be that he ran into the same unexpected result for the forefinger that I found ?).

Ken

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