Climbing Training with a Hangboard

November 09, 2013 // Tagged in: athletics, climbing, training

I've had a Blank Slate and hangboard for a little over a year now, going through various periods of more-or-less actual rock climbing, so I'm going to take a look at how much I use the hangboard, on what schedule, and how.

Compared to Climbing

The first thing to note is that I actually get way more benefit from actually going climbing or bouldering (at a gym or outside) than using my hangboard. However, the hangboard has some really good benefits, especially in those times when you can't make it to the gym for a while. Here's a brief comparison (bold has the advantage):

Climbing Hangboard
Longer workout Shorter workout
Full body Arms/fingers only
Expensive/recurring One-time purchase
Time consuming Very quick
Improves technique Strength/grip only
Improves technique Strength/grip only
More fun A bit boring
Requires pants Does not require pants

Note that I have the advantage to both, in different lines for Improves Technique compared to Strength/grip Only. This is because there are times when I want to only focus on improving strength and grip. In any case, having the hangboard is a great supplement to climbing, but certainly no replacement. Because arm and grip strength are so vital to climbing, having the hangboard to train with during times when I can't get to the gym helps keep at least two skills from deteriorating completely. It's also not a silver bullet for strength - there are lots of muscle positions and directions that you really can't emulate when not on a wall or rock.

Schedule

I try to go to my climbing gym about twice a week. If schedule allowed, I'd probably go every two days or so. Going more than one day in a row results in a diminished workout on the subsequent days, about half the time, so I try to leave a day of rest (this includes staying off the hangboard). When I go, I climb for about two hours, staying active at least 75% of the time (sitting/resting between climbs is crucial).

The short answer to "how often do you use your hangboard?" is: Not very, if I can go to the gym; otherwise, about every other day.

When I can't make it to the gym, I have a brief, 20-40 minute workout on my hangboard. Sometimes I'll follow a specific routine, and other times I'll just wing it. If I'm winging it, I'll use a variety of grips, alternate between pull-ups, dead-hangs (arms fully extended, hang for 10-40 seconds), and static lock-offs (arms bent, muscles contracted, hang for 10-30 seconds). I combine it with push ups and brief periods of rest.

Sometimes I'll get out a couple clips and a short piece of rope and practice clipping the rope while hanging from one hand. This helps build clipping skill (critical for lead climbing, and not as easy as it sounds), as well as helps calm your body while putting all of your weight on one hand/arm, building strength.

Side note: A really good trait of a good climbers is quietness and calmness. If your feet are banging on the walls and you're scrambling, you probably aren't in control and deliberate with your motions, and you won't climb as well.

Sometimes, when training on my hangboard, I'll follow Audrey's 10 Minute Fingerboard Workout, which was posted at Metolius Climbing, and designed by Audrey Sniezek, a world class climber who also happens to work at Microsoft on lots of big teams and projects (she's a hero of mine). Here's a snapshot workout:

workout

It only takes around 10 minutes, but it's very intense and effective. I haven't done this lately, but when I didn't have a gym membership, this helped keep me strong.