In this post you will learn when its appropriate to begin, The foundations of safe hang boarding and I made you a free Beginners Hangboard plan for your first 6 weeks of Hangboarding!
When should I start Hangboarding? You should wait at least a Year before Hang Boarding. Before one year your tendons are not developed enough to handle the stresses of Hang-Boarding and theres a high risk you will get injured. Bouldering or Redpointing will stimulate intensity in a more climbing specific way before you need to Hangboard.
Before you consider Hang Boarding theres many other activities you should try, i climbed my first 8a last year without consistently Hangboarding.
However there is Definetly a time and a place for hangboarding, its a really efficient tool.
We just need to be careful about how we use it, to avoid getting injured.
What’s included in this post?
- Flow chart
- When should I start Hang-Boarding?
- How to HangBoard safely
- First timer Hangboard plan!
Hang Boards or Finger Boards are a simple tool for strengthening the fingers.
When should I start using a Hang Board?
Finger strength is obviously paramount to our climbing ability, however they are a intense and the very nature of hangboarding leads them to have serious consequences in terms of injury if you use them wrong.
The hang Board is a very high intensity tool for high-end finger strength.
There are plenty of aspects in climbing that you should improve before you consider Hang Boarding.
I Hope this helps you made a decision Quickly.
Look, you dont have to listen to me, if you really wanna HangBoard go ahead.
Just please read the article and make sure you do it with good form.
I cover correct form and session planning later on in the post.
Take lots of rest days and dont over do it!
You can avoid a lot of injuries by listening to your body and making sensible decisions.
Play the long game wiith climbing, you dont need finish a hangboard session if your fingers are feeling ‘Tweaky’, in fact it will only do more harm than good.
For example, many of us at the climbing gym have yet to master our footwork or body tension or route reading.
These issues can be the weakest link no matter how much Finger-boarding you do.
Climbing is predominantly a technique sport and having too much focus on strength training and Hangboarding can be counterproductive for your climbing in the long run.
Before you Hang Board, you should spend a lot of time assessing your technique and make sure that weak fingers are the limiting factor to your climbing.
- Are my forearms really the weak link?
- Could I spend my time better improving something else?
- Am i Hang Boarding because i need too, or because i see the pros doing it?
Although it is our fingers that often fail us on our climbing performances, its often-inefficient movement at the core of the weakness that makes us loose grip.
Hips out from the wall or cutting loose every other move is often the real area for improvement, even though it results in our forearms failing.
Get Videos of your self climbing and see if there are any noticable issues in your technique first.
You might notice you have a tendency to cut loose or you initiate movements with your arms a lot…
Or it could be much more subtle like your elbows are always out away from the wall a few more degreen than they could be.
Ask another climber to point out any thing they see wrong in our technique, tell them not to go easy, really rip into yuor technique, and you might find lots of exciting new things to work on.
I know this is very boring but its better than getting injured!
After your Self assesment, consider the following Criteria.
One year to Hang-Board
One year is a good amount of time to give your tendons a good chance of being strong enough.
If you have been for at least a year now you can begin to integrate HangBoarding into your training routine.
Just make sure its a SUPPLEMENT to your climbing, not replacing your climbing.
Nothing will benefit your climbing as much as climbing will because of the complex mental and technical aspects or the sport.
That being said, if you dont have access to climbing, like if the whole world was locked down or something, then Hang Boarding could be a really good way to maintain Finger Strength.
Have you tried Higher intensity training else where?
Before Hang Boarding theres some way more fun and climbing specific means of increasing your strength.
For example, Redpointing a Hard boulder problem or route crux is going to give you massive gains in your climbing strength.
The ‘System Boards’ a lot of climbing gyms have now are amazing for working finger strength.
Super simple and much more fun.
Actually climbing also has the benefit of working on; Technique, mentality and all the other connective muscles we employ to climb hard things.
Strong forearms isnt everything, if you dont know how to move effectively you still wont have enough strength!
Its much easier to learn to move efficiently when your weak, Then you can train later!
How to plan your Hang-Boarding sessions.
You’ve been climbing for a few years, your technique is pretty good, and your finger strength appears quite weak for the level of your climbing it could be time to plan a few sessions.
I’ll explain how to do that now.
First you want to identify why exactly your hangboarding, because theres lots of training styles out there.
Decide if you want more:
- Max Strength
- power endurance
- Aerobic Endurance
- Pulling Power
- Healthier Tendons
For Maximum gains, and to avoid over doing it on the hangboarding, just Decide specifically why your forearms are weak.
If you simply cant hold the holds, Consider max strength
If you can hold hard holds for a couple moves and ‘Power out’, Consider power endurance.
im assuming your here because you are a new to hangboarding all together, and i know i dont know you but i recommend beginning with ‘Density Hangs’
They are 30 second hangs on a smallish edge. repeated for 4 sets.
You want to choose a hold where its manageable but takes 60 / 70% effort.
I only discovered them recently, and they are so good because they improve your Recruitment, increase blood vessel density and Make your tendons Healthier / Stronger.
‘Recruitment’ is the amount of your muscle fibers that are engged during a contraction.
By default were not actually using all our muscle fibres when we use the muscle, crazy right!
So this training increases recruitment and basiclly makes your exsisting muscles stronger!
It also increases blood vessel density in your forearms, meaning you have better circulation and this allows you to keep pump at bay for longer, and recover faster.
Finally, if all that wasnt enough, because your getting pumped it promosted the blood flow around your tendons, which is vital for keeping them healthy, as they have no blood supply of there own.
If you have more specific demands your training for, you will be sure to find a handboard program out there.
I made you a 6 week beginner plan you can download at the end of the post if you want to work on max strength 🙂
How many days should I Hang Board?
In the beginning stick to one session a week, especially high intensity protocols like max hangs or testing sessions.
Once you’ve been Hang boarding a 6+ months you could look at having a second fingerboard session a week but make it a lower intensity session like endurance.
Every 2/3 months take 2 weeks off from finger boarding to give your tendons enough rest to heal all the micro tears that could have built up.
Don’t fingerboard before a climbing session if you plan on climbing something near limit, as you’ll be too tired to perform and risk injury.
You could Hangboard after a climbing session if the climbing wasn’t high intensity, but i really recommend leaving this for a couple years as this is pretty high level training at that point.
Theres no need for it until your really advanced, especially if your climbing too.
So, all you really need is a 20mm edge, your local gym likely has one, or just a nice hardwood strip you’ve sanded a corner off will do! A post on Hangboard Building is coming.
First couple of sessions
You want to spend a session or two just practicing good form; Shoulders engaged, arms slightly bent and a strict form.
If your fingers begin opening, stop the set and adjust intensity.
Loosing form like this, where your fingers open mid hang shock loads the tendons and its where you will most likely injure yourself.
To adjust intensity, you can change rest periods and use a theraband or have your feet up on a chair far out from you.
You want to go for quality not quantity in your sessions.
Remember the finger board is very intense and the whole point is to try make your forearms hold on more. Spending a few sessions like this will help you begin getting used to the exercise.
Now before you begin hang boarding frequently, I recommend doing a testing session, so you know your max hang at the beginning of your training.
Its really motivating to have a number to make your efforts and improvements measurable!
The Lattice app is really good for Hang Board routine, they have testing sessions and you can log your scores in the app!
When you decide to retest, you’ll be able to see your improvement, which is super helpful and helps with motivation.
First timer, 6-Week Hangboard plan
Hey! I made you a First timer 6 week Hang Board plan!
Its totally free, just head to my Newsletter Sign up Page and it will get sent to you straight away.
Im only asking for your email so I can notify you when I launch the Climbing Workshop im Working on!
Im super excited to share it with you!
You should consider hang boarding only once you’ve been climbing for around three to five years since the finger tendons take a considerable amount of time to strengthen and develop to the point where we can put high forces on them without getting injured.
This gives us a good couple of years to really focus on our movement skills and our mentality towards climbing as these make up a good portion of climbing ability.
Its more likely you’ll move more efficiently if you stay physically weak and have to focus on climbing well.
In the long run it will be much more beneficial to stay weak for a good couple of years so you can rely only on your technique and your mental fortitude before you get strong enough to just pull through moves and move inefficiently.
Its pretty clear now the Hang board has serious potential to injure us, but why exactly?
Most injuries result from a lack of form because were generally going to the limits of our strength.
trying really hard to hold an edge and failing can result in the fingers suddenly opening against there contraction.
This shock loads the tendons and runs a high risk of tearing something.
Equally, not engaging your shoulders or elbows can stress the joints and causes impingements and tears to the small, suppourtive shoulder muscles.
Having a proper form for Hang Boarding greatly reduces your risk of injury and will allow you to build strength while staying healthy.
Remember theres no point getting really strong if you get injured.
Theres a few key points to focus on good form:
- Shoulders engaged
- Slight bend in the arms
- Dont swing on the Hang Board
- slowly load fingers with full body weight
See the photo for a good form Hang.
Engage the shoulders
Focus on keeping your shoulder down and ‘Proud’
Pull the shoulders down and back with your trapezius.
This will keep them activated so there suppourted by all the muscle and not stressing your joints and connective tissues.
Arms Bent slightly
Keeping the arms ‘Activated’ means engaging your biceps slightly so your once again not just hanging on your elbow joints.
The increased intensity and repetitive nature of Hangboarding can otherwise quickly irritate and inflame your elbows.
Having a slight bend in them is almost a result of engaging your shoulders, as the lats pull down on your upper arm.
Swinging on Hang Board
If you quickly go into a Hang and your rocking, please stop the hang and stop swinging.
it can happen if you loose track of time and suddenly you look at your hangboarding app and have 3 seconds to your hang.
The rocking increases the load on the tips of your fingers which can strain them.
Also your fingers arent really supposed to move under load… This is how most accidents Occur.
Slowly load Fingers
Less form more technique, but its important.
You need to take your time to get your grip on the edge spot on… especially for Max hang type sessions where your going near your max effort.
If you quickly jump into a hang you run the risk of loading your fingers improperly and you can seriously injure them like this.
If your finger wasnt properly on the edge and you fully loaded it theres a good chance it could pop off and you would be really lucky to not injure yourself!
Tendon development vs Muscle development.
The tendons take about four times as long as the muscles to develop, which is why it’s so common for people to injure Themselves when there new to climbing.
The muscles will quickly respond to the intense training stimuli of the hangboard and the weight your forearm muscles will be able to hold is going to overtake the forces the tendons can withstand pretty soon.
Especially in the beginning when you’re new to hang boarding, you’re going to adapt very quickly to the new stimulus.
You’ll probably be able to add a couple kilogrammes or more to your finger strength in a couple of weeks, but you need to not get carried away and take your time, or you will injure something.
Well here we are!
You have officially had your introduction hangboard training.
I hope you feel much more informed to make your next step in climbing.
If theres any more questions or requests you have, feel free to leave a comment, i really appreciate them!
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