Strength Phase: Don’t make me give him the Clamps!

Hey Kids. Do you like hanging on tiny edges? How about with no purposeful immediate vertical progress? What about for short intervals while blasting HipHop? Well have I got the toy for you!
Just prior to the Power Phase is Strength building phase. For which we jumped on our hangboards and… well… hung there for 7 – 10 seconds. And then jumped off and then jumped straight back on. This is the point where we improve our clamps.


Matt and I followed different routines but generally performed the same number of hangboard sessions. I went ahead and installed a new Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center in my apartment while Matt used his existing board and pinch block system.

James: It was my first time hangboarding so it was fairly lightweight. Hearing friends pop their pulleys has given me a healthy fear of full crimps. As I said, the first thing I did was install a new hangboard above my laundry room door. For the longest time I thought it ill advised to do this directly in drywall since I don’t have wooden studs. However I was able to find toggle bolts that hold 75lbs each and install them in metal studs.

Sample hangboard log
Sample hangboard log

In each session you run through 10 or so different grips, from small edges, 2 finger pockets, pinches, slopers with each taking off enough weight with a pulley system so that you can hold for 10 seconds on 5 seconds off for six times (reps) per set. Over the course of 3 weeks you slowly add weight while not over doing it. The key is to find a good baseline and get good rest. MAKE SURE TO WARM UP!!! There is no easy access to a bouldering wall here, so to warm up I simply cycle through the bigger holds with my feet on a stool for 20 minutes prior to starting.

I learned a ton and worked out good baseline numbers for the next cycle of this program. Most importantly I found it actually quite fun and challenging! How have I gone this long without hangboarding?!


Matt's hangboard
This is me hanging. Feel free to tell me how my pulleys are going to explode, I’m going to get arthritis and my dog is ugly and doesn’t really love me.

I picked a different approach from James’ strict adoption of the RCTM repeater plan. I followed a plan more closely aligned to what I thought Steve Maisch* talks about – max strength hangs.

The idea is you pick a weight where you fail after 5 seconds of hanging on a particular grip. You do three sets of that with 3-5 minutes of rest in between. For any wannabe meatheads out there like me, this is identical to a max strength protocol for lifting if you consider seconds to be reps.

Luckily for me, I started the hangboard phase at just under 230lbs so my body weight was perfect to elicit failure after 5 seconds on my first day (this is the only time you’ll hear me say that in relation to climbing). I picked three grips with two on the hangboard. I used the widest edge I have, which is about one full pad, and the pockety grip you see pictured. Towards the end of the training block I was able to remove my thumbs from the board to make it harder, but early on when this picture was taken I needed the extra help. The third grip was a pinch block setup I built from an 8 inch length of 4×4 that I screwed an eye bolt into so I could hang my 35lb kettlebell from.

I made more progress than I expected through the three week block. I completed seven sessions and increased my time to almost-failure from five seconds per set to 8 seconds per set. This is a 60% increase in time under load. The pinch block didn’t progress so linearly. I actually went backwards from being able to pinch 45lbs for 5-6 seconds to having to drop down to 35lbs and pinch for 8-10 second sets. I’m attributing this to cumulative fatigue.

All in all it was a great success. I was able to do more volume than I expected and didn’t have any finger issues whatsoever. I also subjectively saw my bouldering performance increase in power block, which I’ll explain more on in that post. I’m looking forward to the next block of hangboard training in May.

*NOTE: I went to find the link where Steve talks about five second hangs and couldn’t find it. I found this instead, which isn’t totally different but also isn’t what I thought I had read. I’m wondering if I misread this workout approach and programmed my hangs incorrectly or if I am remembering another training writer and misattributed this to Steve. I’ll report back with clarification if I find some. If any of you are aware of a hangboard approach that talks about 5 second hangs, let me know.*

Go get strong but be careful and warm up appropriately.

“Bada clip bada clamp!”

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