Basics of Hangboarding

 In How To, Intermediate

Hangboarding, when done properly, can really bump your climbing to the next level. Often times climbers will plateau at a certain level, continue to climb and work through it. Other times training, specifically hangboarding, can help climbers work through their weaknesses and breakthrough climbing barriers. So how do you know when to train and when you continue climbing? This is a really tough question that pretty much every climber will ask at one time or another. We’re going to break this question down and try to give you some answers! One thing to keep in mind is that if you consider yourself a beginner climber, hangboarding is not for you. Hangboarding is dangerous. You increase your possibility of injury when you hangboard and the more unfamiliar you are with climbing the greater the risk. This is because you may not have built up the required hand and finger strength to begin to focus these areas with training. So let’s get down to it. Understanding and implementing the basics of hangboarding can be broken down by answering three questions:

 

Why should I hangboard?

 

What does hangboarding try to accomplish?

 

There are a billion workouts, which ones should I try?

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Why should I hangboard?

You should hangboard to experience a multi-grade boost in your climbing, to train your fingers and hands in a controlled and isolated environment, to meticulously keep logs of your progress, to improve on your weaker grips, and to finally send that specific problem at the crag. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is! But it doesn’t come without faults.

Why shouldn’t I hangboard?

You shouldn’t hangboard to avoid prolonged exposure to injury, to increase your overall climbing ability, because it can be mind-numbingly boring, because you have difficulty identifying your specific weaknesses.

What does hangboarding try to accomplish?

A lot of times climbers think hangboarding is training. And while this is not necessarily an incorrect assessment, it’s also not altogether true. Hangboarding a piece of training. The goal of hangboarding is never to improve climbing ability or to get stronger. Instead, each time you hangboard, you should have a specific goal in mind. Some goals of hangboarding might be to increase hand or finger strength, to improve crimping, or for injury prevention. Let’s take note of one very important trend here: hangboarding is always a type strength training! What does this mean? Well, you are not training your power or endurance when hangboarding and therefore shouldn’t treat it as such. While some hangboard exercises may be dynamic (such as pull-ups), hangboarding inherently does not train power. If you are looking to train power, maybe try campus board or systems board. Hangboarding for injury prevention is an advanced usage of the hangboard and is not easy to do. If you are not entirely comfortable on the hangboard, please do not hangboard for injury prevention.

So we are hangboarding to strength train. What is . . .

Hand Strength?: Overall grip. Work to overcome hand cramps and fatigue. Has an enormous impact on climber’s ability to stick certain grips on holds (for instance: pinch strength, sloper strength, etc.).

Finger Strength?: Affects all grips, but is most noticeable when crimping. Work to improve the ability to not only stay on but move off of (usually) smaller holds.

So if you are feeling like you are not strong enough to hit that V5 or 5.11, whether in your hands or fingers, hangboarding may be the next step for you. But before you start, remember to have a specific goal in mind when hangboarding and then pick a training program that works to accomplish that.

There are a billion workouts, which ones should I try?

Start here. This is, I think, one of the best beginner hangboard workouts (courtesy of rockclimbingtrainersmanual.com).

routine-layout-beginner

First, let’s breakdown how to read this:

Warm-Up: This workout suggests a 30-40 min ARCing warm up. ARCing is a form of capillary training supported by The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Essentially, this warm-up wants to make sure that you are not hopping on the hangboard cold. Be sure to practice every grip that will be trained, as it says. This is crucial for injury prevention.

Grip: These are the different holds/grips you will use for the workout. Feel free to include and exclude according to your goals, but be sure to work your way up to the more difficult grips like monos and credit card crimps.

  • IMR 2-pad 3F pocket: Index, Middle, Ring fingers. Top 2 finger pads should make contact with the hold creating a 90-degree bend.
  • Medium edge/crimp (semi-closed): At least your full first finger pad should contact the hold. 90-degree bend. No thumb over top.
  • Large open-hand edge/crimp: As straight as possible when holding this edge.

Set/Reps: you will be doing 1 set of 6 reps of each exercise. Each rep is 10 seconds long with 5 seconds of rest in between. After each set, rest for 3 minutes.

Resistance: This refers to how much weight you add or take off of yourself (via a pulley system). When learning to hangboard, you want to avoid adding weight for injury prevention. Once you are more accustomed, you can try more challenging holds and add weight. If you need to take weight off, visit rockclimbingtrainingmanual.com and check out their suggested pulley rig. It’s easy to set up.

Now that we know how to read this workout, what is this workout, specifically, trying to accomplish?

This is a basic hand strength workout. It suggests a wide variety of holds and by the end of each set, you should be beginning to fail (around the 5th rep). If you are not making it all 10 seconds by the end, that’s okay! You’re not supposed to be. This particular hangboard routine should be done roughly twice a week to see the best results. Any more and you might find your hands too tired to climb and you expose yourself to possible injury.

You now have the tools to know if you should get started hangboarding, why you should hangboard, and, if you decide, how to start hangboarding. What hangboard workout are you currently doing? Let us know in the comments!

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