Hangboarding has been central to climbing training for decades. Used appropriately, it can increase strength, buffer injury mitigation, and prepare you for your next challenging goals. However, hangboarding is terrifying to start. New users have a wide variety of concerns: How much is too much? How do I hold the crimps? How should I structure my workout? Though this article may not give you the knowledge of a professional trainer, it will help answer some of your questions AND provide a basic workout for you to follow.
How often should I hangboard?
Start slow. Hangboarding is a highly personalized and highly taxing training method. Though it is possible to hangboard lightly as a warmup, this article focuses on training techniques. These techniques will push your limits and, if overdone, can lead to overtraining. As a rule of thumb, start out by hangboarding just once a week and then bump up to two to three times a week as your strength increases. Always make sure to warm-up beforehand and take an easy (or off) day afterwards. To warm-up, climb lightly for 15-30 minutes and lightly stretch your arms. Don’t push yourself too hard while warming up.
How should I hold the hangboard?
Open-hand crimping is the way to go. Instead of full-crimping, where your thumb rests above your index and middle finger, hold onto the hold with just your fingers. Full-crimping can lead to tendon injuries, especially in the ring fingers. Pull hard and know your limits!
What holds should I use?
When starting out, it can be beneficial to use larger holds, such as the jugs at the top corners of most boards or the 35mm holds. Over time, slowly lower the size of the hold or start using holds requiring less than all four “hanging” fingers”. Remember: quality over quantity/size. It’s better to finish quality sets on larger holds than to shakily pull on tiny edges that your tendons just aren’t prepared for yet.
A basic hangboarding workout:
Many hangboard workouts are complex and convoluted, leading to confusion, overtraining, and uncertainty. Instead of providing a broad range of holds and angles, the following workout seeks to simply use flexed-deadhangs on the same holds over repetitive intervals in order to further grip strength and to mitigate injury. For every hold on this workout, hang from holds that you feel comfortable completing 6 sets of “7-second hang, 3-second rest” groupings. When hanging from the hangboard, start in a deadhang. From this position, tighten your muscles so that your arms are ever-so-slightly bent. Keep your upper body in this flexed, controlled position throughout the hang.
Set 1: 6 sub-sets of 7 seconds of hanging, 3 seconds of resting on large holds or jugs. Following these 6 sub-sets (totaling 1 minute), rest for 1 minute.
Set 2-5: Copy the timing and rest of set 1, except this time utilize smaller holds. Utilize a hold-size that allows you to finish every 7-second hang. By the end of every set, you should be nearing failure.
Set 6: For this last set, beginner and advanced hangboarders will differ. Beginners should continue the same set-pattern as sets 2-5. More advanced climbers should practice one-arm hangs, alternating arms between each subsets for a total of 3 7-second hangs on each arms. If you are not able to hold a large hold (or jug) with one arm for the entire 7 seconds with minimal assistance (such as a pulley or rope), stick with the beginner path to build up strength and prevent injury.