Six Crucial Campus Board Training Exercises
Updated: Jul 16
The campus board is one of the most widely recognized but least utilized training tools in the climbing gym. Most climbers can identify a campus board from a mile away. After all, they are usually upwards of 15 feet tall and consist of sets of ladder-like rungs all the way to the top. Tough to miss! But the campus board is rarely used for several reasons. First, it is incredibly difficult! Campusing (climbing with no feet on the campus board), or even training on the campus board with footholds that may be placed beneath it, requires a fair bit of upper body and finger strength. Second, lots of injuries come from training on the campus board. Many climbers have a friend whose cousin blew out his shoulder on the campus board. Finally, it is difficult to train appropriately on the campus board.
These concerns are all valid. But the campus board is also one of the best tools available to climbers for increasing accuracy, contact strength, and power. The trick is knowing which exercises to perform while having proper form.
Check out these six crucial campus board exercises and tips on how to perform them safely. Remember, it is always advised to check with your local climbing instructor to avoid injury when training for climbing.
Accuracy and Contact Strength
While many people think of campus boarding as just power training, there are plenty of campus board exercises that actually more directly target your accuracy and contact strength as a climber. This is because we tend to perform them in a more slow and controlled manner. Focus on hitting each rung consistently in the same place when performing the following exercises listed below. Also, choose your rung size appropriately. You want to be able to complete each and every set when campusing and also give yourself enough of a challenge. Choosing a rung size that is too small may result in early failure while choosing a rung size that is too big may make the accuracy component of campusing too easy.
Exercise #1 | Ladders
Ladders are a basic exercise that many people will likely recognize. Start matched on the bottom rung. Simply alternate left and right hands to ascend and descend the rungs. Be sure to match at the top and bottom!
Exercise #2 | Single-Arm Bump
Start matched on the bottom rung. With your left hand, begin bumping up one rung at a time until you are at your max. Be sure to match at the top. Repeat with your right hand.
Exercise #3 | Touches
Start matched on the bottom rung. With your left hand, tap the second rung and return to the bottom rung. Repeat with the right hand. Then tap the third rung with your left hand and return to the bottom rung. Repeat again with the right hand. Repeat this all the way to your maximum reach.
While most campus board training exercises will involve a bit of power, some exercises involve much more power than others. Power is understood as strength x speed. In climbing, power is the ability to move between holds. So, power exercises require you to generate much more speed than exercises such as ladders. When campusing, it is important to keep the shoulders engaged. Never hang low into your sockets. To do this, stand at a neutral position and roll your shoulders backward, and stop before you return to neutral. It should feel as though you are trying to make your shoulder blades touch behind your back. This position will keep your shoulders safe while campusing!
Exercise #4 | Jump Catch
Start matched on the bottom rung. From the ground, jump to the highest rung you can reach and catch it with your left hand while leaving your right hand on the lowest rung. Match the top rung! Return to the ground and repeat with the right hand.
Exercise #5 | Double Campus
This is also sometimes referred to as the 1-5-9. Start matched on the bottom rung. Campus to the highest rung you can reach with your left hand. Without matching, campus to the highest rung you can reach with your right hand. Match at the top. Return to the ground and repeat starting with the right hand.
The 1-5-9 is a well-known benchmark for climbers that involves beginning matched on the “1” rung, campusing with one hand to the “5” rung, and campusing with the other hand to the “9” rung. It is the pinnacle of the double campus.
Exercise #6 | Single-Arm Max
Start matched on the bottom rung. Simply campus to the highest rung you can reach and match. Repeat on the other arm.
If any of these exercises are too difficult to perform while campusing, try starting with your feet on footholds beneath the campus board.
If you incorporate campusing into your training, don’t forget to include these six crucial campus board exercises in order to target your specific weaknesses as a climber and to get the most out of the campus board.
While Campus Boarding is a great tool to up your climbing game, it's important to understand Campus Board Dos and Don'ts.