The Role of Hangboarding for Finger Strength in your Climbing Training
by Lee Cujes
When it comes to finger strength in climbing training, the science is getting more and more consolidated. In 2019, we now know more about how different training methods (protocols) work for different types of climbers than ever before. Hangboarding, repeaters, training cycles, 4x4s, Campus Board Training ... It’s possible to drown in the detail but the #1 take home message is this: it is necessary to cycle your climbing training (not staying with one protocol too long) if you want to avoid a plateau. That means you need a hangboard that allows for a maximum of variety in training methods.
Hangboard Protocols for Climbing Training
WIth max hangs, you choose an edge size that is relatively comfortable, generally around 20mm give or take, and you add weight to your body until you can only hang on for a given period of time that you have chosen in advance (this may vary from as low as 3 seconds to as long as 12 seconds). You rest well (say 1-2 mins), and then repeat for a number of sets.
Minimum Edge Hangs
With minimum edge hangs, you choose your hang duration as above, but instead of adding weight, you decrease the size of the edge as you progress. Having a board that offers a gradually decreasing size of accurately machined edges is critical for this very effective protocol. Most hangboards do not offer this.
Repeaters (AKA Intermittent Hangs)
Repeaters are sets of hangs separated by very short rests (only a few seconds). They can be scaled (made harder) by adding weight, or by moving down in edge size.
You can find more information about these protocols all over the internet, on any of the popular climbing training podcasts, or in your Awesome Woodys information sheet that comes with the Home Boy
STRUCTURING YOUR HANGBOARD TRAINING PROGRAM
Cycling between these three protocols (e.g. 6 weeks of minimum edge, 5 weeks of max hangs, 8 weeks of repeaters and repeat) applies continual varied stimulus to your physiology and is a sure-fire way to keep improving, rather than plateauing after your 10th week of max hangs.
I believe the Awesome Woodys Home Boy is the single best board on the market currently that allows me to train all three of these protocols and countless variations as part of my climbing training regime, all on the one board.
Train Appropriately to your “TRAINING AGE”
How long have you been hangboarding consistently? This is your “climbing training age” for hangboarding.
For those brand new to finger training:
After numerous scientific studies, noted finger strength researcher Eva Lopez determined that relatively untrained individuals would be best served using a minimum edge protocol (i.e. without weight). Why? Because they would see the same rate of adaptations (compared to max hangs with weight) with lower stress on the structures. Those new to hangboarding may have the most fun because the gains are rapid! After just a single phase of minimum edge training (5-8 weeks), many people see a 20-30% gain in finger strength! Epic!
For those with training age 1-3 years:
Consistency is key. Ensuring you plan your sessions and are doing enough, without overdoing it. One session a week will ensure you maintain your current level. Two sessions a week should be enough to keep you improving. Do you have a training log? Are you recording your hangs, bodyweight, weight added, size of edge, length of hang? If not - you’re going to want to, so you can keep your motivation up, fine tune your variables, and keep improving.
For well-trained climbing athletes:
Plateau-busting and lifelong improvement is our goal. A focus on fine-tuning, switching things up before you stagnate, and introducing a variety of grip types on various sized holds has been shown to be key for elites.