Training Tuesdays: Hang board Sessions

Since we started this training program I’ve cut my actual climbing time down to almost zero (ice doesn’t count – you get to use handles the whole time and if you’re getting pumped on anything less than grade 5 it’s because you’re not using your feet). I don’t love gym climbing and have been busy with *blah blah blah excuses.* I think I’ve climbed plastic three times since mid-November leading up to my trip to Indian Creek so I’m likely not in top form.

With spring theoretically approaching I started to get a bit worried about my ability to jump back into climbing rock. One of my biggest weaknesses has been my grip-strength-to-weight ratio. I’ve always excused this away by saying I’m too heavy so it’s not my fault and *blah blah blah excuses.* I’ve had a hang board up in my apartment for the better part of a year but never really paid any attention to it because I had already empirically proven through three years of terrible bouldering performance that my grip strength just wasn’t very strong so why bother even trying?

That changed about a month ago when I listened to a fantastic Enormocast episode with Stevie Haston. I didn’t know much about Stevie but he told enough kick-ass stories to get me to check him out online. I found his blog and loved his simple approach to absolutely crushing sport climbs well into his 40s and 50s. Although I encourage you to read his whole blog if you’re interested in different ways to get strong, one of his major focus areas is finger strength. And I (don’t) quote: ‘if you can’t hold on, you can’t climb.’ With the picture of Stevie doing a mono one-armed lever in mind, I took a second look at my hang board.

High-tech tools of the trade or a sad stingray face? You decide.

There are a lot of finger board programs available online but I’m basically starting from zero so didn’t bother with them and created my own plan. It’s pretty simple and likely not efficient but I’m happy with it so keep your meanie opinions to yourself for now. I created the program by trying to hang off each hold. I took careful note on whether or not I could hold on to each hold. I use the holds I can hang on to and don’t use the holds I can’t hang on to. Very scientific, I know. The program is:

  • Warm up with the white gripper thing until everything feels good
  • Hold each of the following holds until failure
  • Rest for 3 minutes between each hold on set one
  • Rest for 1 minute between each hold on set two
  • Stop. Congratulate self on ultra-hard workout and ask girlfriend for affirmation.

The holds I can use now are:

  • Jug
  • Sloper
  • Big Crimp
  • Smaller Crimp
  • Large pocket
  • Note: I don’t actually do a full crimp. I use an open hand position because I’ve had a finger injury before and don’t want a repeat.

I do this for two laps with the rests laid out above. I then record my times on each hold on a very accurate, non-cloud based locally-housed data storage system: a chalk board my girlfriend put up in the kitchen.

The first 6 days of pain. The smudge marks are shrapnel from where I opened a can of tuna a little too aggressively. Olive oil and chalk boards don’t mix. The numbers represent seconds held.

Even though this system isn’t extremely extreme, doesn’t use explosive movements on campus boards and won’t impress Daniel Woods, you can see a strong linear progression in my times even over two weeks of work. It helps to be able to see last session’s times as I’m hanging so I can push myself that extra little bit.

I do two days a week, on rest days from everything else. After a month I’m going to start adding weight for any holds that I can hold for longer than 30 seconds.

I’m hoping that this will ameliorate some of the effects of skipping the usual winter of pulling plastic so that when we finally get outside on rock again my fingers will be in top(ish) form.

What does everyone else do for finger work in the off-season? Can anyone suggest any juvenile ‘fingering’ jokes for my next post?! Is hang board one word or two?!?!

Happy crimping!


3 thoughts on “Training Tuesdays: Hang board Sessions

  1. My favorite part: “Stop. Congratulate self on ultra-hard workout and ask girlfriend for affirmation.” Ahh the power encased in a single encouraging phrase from a beautiful dame…

    On a more serious note, an inspiring post. It always gets me stoked to hear or read about someone refusing to accept their own excuses and rationalizations, and attacking the process of improvement. Awesome!

  2. I was doing some research myself for a fingerboard (I’m avoiding the one-or-two-word question by resorting to fingerboard) and ran across these two companies, one in the UK and one in Austria. Both of them make fearsome boards out of wood. (they even have an app that goes with the board!)

    You can work your fingers into these delectable woody holes… wrap your leathery hands around those luscious wooden spherical training holds… slam the wooden pegs into the holes and lift yourself up…

    Here’s the owner of Antworks demonstrating the equipment – looks tough!

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