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Last week I talked about how to reduce your risk of injury by cleaning up your diet, and this week I want to share a really great article about how you can prevent those pesky pulley injuries.

If you’re recovering from a pulley injury or hoping to avoid one for the rest of your life, then you’ll enjoy this simple finger strengthening exercise from Dr. Jared Vagy – aka The Climbing Doctor.

How to Prevent Pulley Injuries

By Dr. Jared Vagy

You feel a sharp pain across your finger after a long day of hanging on crimpers. Your finger is swollen and difficult to bend. You may have heard a snap or pop while pulling hard on a particular hold. It is likely that you strained or tore a pulley ligament in your finger.

The muscles in our forearms extend into long narrow tendons as they reach into the fingers. These tendons run through sheaths and are anchored down by pulleys that keep the tendons gliding flush to the bones.

When excessive strain is placed on the finger tendons, the pressure exerts an outward force on the pulley, which may cause it to tear. This is one of the most common climbing injuries, but lucky for you, it can be prevented with a rubber band and some targeted physical therapy exercises.

Best prevention exercise:

Finger expansions: perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions

This exercise strengthens the muscles in the hand and fingers that can help oppose pressure on the finger pulleys.

Putting on the rubber band:

A rubber band

A: Start with a rubber band around your thumb.

b rubberband

B: Rotate one half turn clockwise and loop it over your index finger.

c rubberband

C: Rotate one half turn counter-clockwise and loop it over your middle finger. Repeat this pattern until all fingers are connected.

The exercise:

D rubberband

D: Begin with your fingers flexed forward.

e rubberband

E: Fully spread your fingers outwards against the resistance.

f hand xtrainer

F: This can also be performed with specialty equipment such as the TheraBand Hand Xtrainer

You can get your own TheraBand Hand Xtrainer from Amazon or select stores.

Mirror a climbing stance:


G: Perform the finger expansion exercise in a partial squat with both hands over your head.

Integrating the finger expansions into this stance is more effective because it closely simulates the body position while climbing.

Dr. Jared Vagy is a Physical Therapist, a professor at the University of Southern California (USC) and an authority on climbing related injuries.  He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from USC. He is board certified as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist from the American Physical Therapy Association. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions, and he is committed to combining the two.

Buy The Climbing Doctor’s new book titled “The Ultimate Climber – Prevent Injury and Peak Your Performance”.

Want to learn more strategies on how to prevent pulley injuries? View the full article in DPM magazine.