Basics of Hangboarding
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
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 with it can help climbers work through their weaknesses and break through climbing barriers. So how do you know when to train and when you continue climbing?
This is a tough question that every climber will ask at one time or another. We’ll break this question down and try to give you some answers! Remember that if you consider yourself a beginner climber, hang boarding is not for you. It can be 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 on 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 do it?
What does it accomplish?
There are a billion workouts. Which ones should I try?
Why should I do it?
You should do it to experience a multi-grade boost in your climbing, train your fingers and hands in a controlled and isolated environment, meticulously keep logs of your progress, improve on your weaker grips, and 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 do it?
You shouldn’t do it to avoid prolonged exposure to injury or increase your overall climbing ability, because it can be mind-numbingly boring because you have difficulty identifying your weaknesses.
What does it try to accomplish?
A lot of times, climbers think it is training. And while this is not necessarily an incorrect assessment, it’s also not altogether true. The goal of hangboarding is never to improve climbing ability or to get stronger. Instead, you should have a specific goal in mind each time you do it.
Some goals might be increasing hand or finger strength, improving crimping, or preventing injury. Let’s take note of one very important trend here: Doing it is always a type of strength training! What does this mean?
Well, you are not training your power or endurance and therefore shouldn’t treat it as such. While some exercises may be dynamic (such as pull-ups), hangboarding inherently does not train power. Maybe try the campus board or systems board if you want to train power.
Hangboarding for injury prevention is an advanced equipment usage and is not easy to do. If you are not entirely comfortable on it, please do not use it for injury prevention.
Hangboard training specifically targets these two areas:
Overall grip. Work to overcome hand cramps and fatigue. It enormously impacts the climber’s ability to stick certain grips on holds (for instance: pinch strength, sloper strength, etc.).
It affects all grips but is most noticeable when crimping. Work to improve the ability to stay on and 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 you do it, and then pick a training program that works to accomplish that.
Hangboarding workouts to try:
Start here. This is, I think, one of the best beginner workouts to use with the equipment. (courtesy of rockclimbingtrainersmanual.com).
Let’s break down how to read this:
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 board cold. Be sure to practice every grip that will be trained, as it says. This is crucial for injury prevention.
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. The 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.
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.
This refers to how much weight you add or take off of yourself (via a pulley system). When learning, 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.
What is the goal of doing this workout?
This is a basic hand strength workout. It suggests a wide variety of holds; 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 routine should be done roughly twice weekly 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 do it, and, if you decide, how to start. What workout are you currently doing? Let us know in the comments!
If you are looking to train power, try these six campus board exercises.