One of the most common things we see at the climbing gym is what we like to call "random training". There's the intent to train to improve climbing performance. But there's a gap in knowledge, especially when it comes to hangboard training. Injury can be common if training is done without proper form or progression. So if you’re new to hangboarding read on to learn about some of the basics to get you started off right.
The benefit of having a Pullboard at home is that you can work in several finger strengthening sessions throughout the week so that your time spent at the gym or outside can focus on routes or bouldering. Let's face it. Heading to the gym for dead hang sequences isn't everyone's idea of a great time. But...it will help you improve your climbing performance so that when you do climb, you'll have more fun!
It's generally advised that hangboarding training be introduced with some baseline climbing under your belt. There’s no formal checklist, but if you’re climbing several times a week and have introduced bouldering into your climbing sessions then you can start to hangboard. As with any other training regime, it’s advised to strengthen the muscles you use for climbing overall before you move to specific finger strength training.
Step 1: Form and grips
It is essential that proper form be executed for each hang – shoulders back and set, arms slightly bent. A common mistake we see all the time is people hanging without engaging their shoulders and back (left photo). The photo on the right shows proper form.
The strengthening of the fingers in progression is important to avoid injury caused by too much stress on any particular finger too early on. It’s recommended that you use a half crimp (shown below) with four fingers when you are beginning.
Step 2: Using assistance
What is assistance? Assistance is the best way for a climber to ease their way into hangboarding. When someone says, “I’m not strong enough to use a hangboard” our response is then “Use assistance!”. You can use a chair, stool, box or anything sturdy that can rest your foot on.
Use assistance until which time you are strong enough to hang without.
Step 3: Choose your rail
The next step is to choose your rail. The biomechanical advantage of the Pullboard is that it will allow you to progress from grip as well as progress from edge depth. The Pullboard Original will have a jug, training rail and testing rail. The Pullboard 0.5 is the same, without the testing rail.
The studies on hangboard protocol is that progressive finger strength comes from reaching a desired hang time just before failure.
- For those hangboarding for the first time, start with the jug (which is the top of the board). The image above is the Pullboard 0.5.
- Once you can hang easily for the desired time on the jug suggested in the training routines (consistently each session and multiple times after a rest period in between), drop your assistance!
- Once you can hang easily for the desired time suggested in the training routine on the jug without assistance (consistently each session and multiple times after a rest period in between), then you’re ready to move to the training rail 19 mm edge below
- Test the 19mm edge on the training rail with assistance first; once you can hang easily for the desired time suggested in the training routine on the training rail, then you’re ready to drop your assistance
- Once you can hang easily for the desired time suggested in the training routine on the 19mm edge without assistance, then you're ready to move to the 15mm edge on the training rail and continue the same progression (assistance if needed and then without)
Remember, this progression is not going to happen right away. And shouldn’t, if you want to train effectively and minimize injury. Think in weeks, rather than days.
Step 4: Start your routine
Live coaching from a qualified trainer or instructor is always a great option to get introduced to hangboarding. If you don’t have a climbing gym or facility that provides this, we’ve created a short training video (coming soon) and a beginner's hangboard routine to step you through it.
Train simply and safely!