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Fingerboard 101: Seven Steps to Stronger Fingers

Ben Moon once said: “Technique is no substitute for power”.  

He then created the Moon Board to prove to most of us that we aren’t nearly as strong as we think. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely believe that great technique is essential for hard climbing.  However, Mr. Moon’s point is that if you can’t even pull the move, then all of that technique is really just theory.

Fingerboards (or hangboards, as some call them), are one of my favorite instruments to improve that strength.  Now to be clear, strength and power are not the same thing.  Strength is how much you can lift (or pull in our case).  Power is the ability to move that weight through space.  However the first step is developing strength.  (We will look at power in a later blog).

The reason fingerboards or hangboards are awesome is because they train finger and hang strength specifically.  So, just like if you wanted to get strong with dead lifts, you would train your dead lift muscles;  likewise to get strong for climbing you want to train your climbing muscles. 

The first decision to make before using a hangboard though is whether you want to train pure strength or endurance.  Hangboards work great for both, but for this discussion, we will focus on strength. 

 

So here is my 7 step process to start your own fingerboard routine:

  1. Choose 3 - 6 grips that you would like to train: (i.e.: half-crimp, sloper, front 3 fingers, jugs, middle two fingers, etc.)

  2. My favorite hang times are 7 seconds of hang followed by a 3 second rest, repeated for seven sets. You will want to experiment with either adding weight to your harness or taking weight away with a pully system (see picture) such that for each of your grips you are failing by the 5th to 7th set.

   3.  Keep a log of what your limits are and how many full 7 second hangs you achieve (we sell a log book or you can make your own).

  4. After each set take a three minute break before attempting your next grip with the same seven second on, 3 second off hang times.

  5. Once you have worked through all of your hangs, take a 5 minute break and do a second or at most third time.

  6. As your log demonstrates you are getting all seven hangs in a set, add weight (or take less away if on pully).

  7. Repeat two – three times per week for a total of 10-12 sessions, then take a break

 

There you have it.  You will see significant strength gains with this program, BUT BE CAREFUL.  Hangboarding can cause injury.  To help decrease the risk , always warm up with 20 minutes of cardio and easier climbing before beginning.  Stay well hydrated and stop immediately if any ligament pain.  Never use a full crimp grip. Do NOT pop off holds.  Keep feet close to floor and step off when at muscle failure. Try to hang with a slight bend in your elbow to avoid loading the elbow joint directly.   Finally, after your session make sure to follow up with a good high quality protein (this is where the magic happens as your muscles are now actively working on building strength). 

Example work out:

  1. Jug grip, added 15 pounds to harness. Hand 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3; rest 3 minutes, did all with success, so next time will add weight.

  2. Open four finger crimp, removed 20 pounds with pully. Hand 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3; rest 3 minutes.  Fell on 5th, 6th and 7th set, so keep same weight next time.

 3. Sloper, removed 30 pounds. Hand 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7 sec, off 3 sec, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3, on 7, off 3; rest 3 minutes.  Fell at 6 seconds on last hang.  Next time would try to only remove 25 pounds with pully.

  4. Etc. . .

 

Now quit standing around, go hang!

 

Intentionally rejecting mediocrity,

David



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