Campus Board Training Dos and Don'ts
Updated: Jul 15
The campus board is one of the most intimidating training tools in the climbing gym. If it’s being used, it is almost always one of the “strong climbers” you see around the gym and they are using only their upper body to pull from rung to rung. But as intimidating as the campus board is, it is also one of the most effective tools climbers have to train power and power endurance. So how do you know if you need to incorporate campus boarding into your climbing training? In this article, we have identified some Green Flags to look out for that may indicate that you should give campus boarding a shot. We have also determined some Red Flags that may indicate that campus boarding is not for you at the moment.
Lock-Off Game: Strong, Dyno Game: Weak
If you find that you are able to pull through most moves statically but struggle with dynamic climbing movement, campus boarding might be for you! One example of this may be if you primarily sport climb and find that instead of getting pumped out on your project, you get shut down by big, stopper moves. The campus board is an excellent tool to train dynamic movement and dead-pointing, so you may want to consider incorporating some campusing into your training.
Pumped Out on Boulders
This may sound odd but bear with us. If you find that you are able to pull through difficult moves but get pumped out at the end of long boulder problems, campus boarding may be in your future. The campus board is also a great tool to train power endurance. Power endurance is the ability to perform multiple difficult moves in a row, which is often what you have to do when bouldering, especially on long boulder problems. This type of pump is distinctly different from the one you get after performing 50 straight moves on a sport climb, or the pump you get when you don’t warm up well and try to climb something difficult right away (flash pump). We are talking about when you get to the end of a long boulder problem and simply don’t have it in you to hit the last hold. Campus boarding can help to simulate this experience and increase your pump threshold, so you may consider campus boarding as a fix!
Experienced Climbers Only
To use the campus board effectively requires a lot of climbing experience. You have to maintain proper form through complex motions, which involves a fair bit of climbing knowledge. While campus boarding, you must keep your fingers in a half, or open crimp position. You should keep your wrists loaded downward, and your back, shoulders, and core engaged. What’s more, the exercise itself requires a baseline amount of strength and power. If your campus board allows, you can use your feet to take some of the load off of your fingers. However, training on the campus board requires that you can pull from rung to rung with most or all of the weight on your fingers and arms. The same way someone new to bodyweight exercises shouldn’t jump into a muscle-up, new climbers should not jump into campus boarding.
Too Much Training
This red flag won't apply to many climbers but if it does apply to you, you know who you are. Campus boarding requires that you give each attempt your maximum effort and that you have the discipline to stop when you think you will fail a rep. Some climbers train hard week in and week out and want to incorporate campus boarding into that schedule. If you are not willing to take some days off to ensure you are fresh for a campus board workout, campus boarding may not be for you right now.
Wrists, Elbows, Shoulders, Back
As we said before, campus boarding requires proper form through some complex motions. This is because campusing is extremely stressful on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and back. If you are injury-prone or nursing an injury in any of these major areas, think twice before campus boarding. It may even be the case that your first session on the campus board feels fine, but you might be surprised at how quickly something like wrist pain can come on after just a couple of campus board sessions. Be sure to talk to your local climbing trainer to figure out if campus boarding is going to aggravate any previous or existing injuries.
Campus boarding is intense. And for good reason! It is a difficult tool to take advantage of and isn’t for most climbers. But campusing may also be a great way to take your climbing to the next level. So keep an eye out for the green (and red) flags we have pointed out here before incorporating campus boarding into your climbing training.
Want to learn more about training on Campus Boarding? Check out our blog "Six Crucial Campus Board Exercises"