The Plan

We do a lot of hangboard training with our athletes. It is a tool we use primarily as a strength builder for the fingers and hand, but also as a way of preventing injury. Ironically, though, many climbers new to using the board get hurt when they first start using it. This is due to both improper warm-up and too much overload too soon. What follows is an eighteen session series we like to use to progress people into full hangboard training. We recommend starting with 2-3 days per week on the board in sessions that can be combined with weight training or low-intensity training on the wall. Our athletes usually combine hangboard training phases with strength resistance training and high-volume easy climbing training; these training modes combine well and don’t wreck the athlete.

Every hangboard session is designed to elicit a strength improvement from the climber. Interestingly, the frequency and duration of your sessions are more relevant to continued strength gains than load is. This is a surprising and important point, so I’ll reiterate: making sure you do these sessions regularly is more important than how hard they feel.

This plan loosely follows the type of “repeater” training you’d encounter in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual. You start out using a specific hold position, such as “LARGE EDGE”. You do a specific number of repetitions (“3” in the first session below), for a given work:rest ratio (5:5, or 5 seconds hang, 5 seconds rest) and then take a long recovery before the next set, usually two to two and a half minutes.

Keep good notes on not only the weight you might add or remove from your body for each hang, but your actual bodyweight for a given training day. In our training logs, the athletes note the load as a total of bodyweight+load, such as “6 x 5:5 @ 235.5#”. This way you can be sure to progress the intensity for the next session. I recommend progressing by the smallest increment possible each time, our athletes make frequent use of the little 1.25# weight plates.

Training Details

Keep in mind that strength is a persistent factor in fitness; you must gain it very slowly. The quicker you try to advance through the weight, the more likely you are to get hurt, and the more difficult it is to maintain.

The warm-up for these sessions is no joke. Like I said above, easy ARC-style training (we like to call it Extensive Endurance) is a good type of training to combine with strength. We like to do some basic movement preparation, range of motion exercises before climbing, but with hangboard it’s not really necessary. What is necessary is to have a warm back, shoulders, and arms. Start with maybe 8-10 minutes of ARC, then some bodyweight hangs on a big edge, maybe 3-5 seconds at a time. If you have access to weights, some wrist curls and reverse wrist curls keep the wrists strong and are great for forcing blood into the forearm. Minimum warm-up length is usually about 15 minutes. I also start each of the sessions below with a large edge hang, which acts as a sort of warm-up within the session.

As far as the specific hold types go, here are the ones we use in this program:

LARGE EDGE: We use the Grindstone board from Tension Climbing and use a 20mm edge that most climbers can hold open hand or half crimped.

2,3 MEDIUM POCKET: This is a 25mm pocket, held with the middle and ring finger.

MEDIUM EDGE: This is a 14mm edge. In our gym, we use the Grindstone.

1,2 MEDIUM POCKET: Same pocket as above, but with the index and middle fingers.

SMALL EDGE: This edge is the small 10mm or even a 7mm. 

SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND: This should be a big, round hold. We use an old Yaniro sloper…but good luck in finding one of those. You can also use a large edge, maybe a 1 3/4″ or so.

2,3 SMALL POCKET: Use a 1″ to 1 1/2″ pocket. The 1 1/4″ on the Beastmaker works well.

MONO: Use the biggest one you can find!

Like I said above, you can combine this with other sessions, but don’t cheat the progressions…slow steady progress is the path to strength. It’s sort of like farming…you can’t speed the plants up by too much, but rather just keep coaxing them forward.

18 session progression:

SESSION # SET 1 SET 2 SET 3 SET 4 SET 5 SET 6 SET 7 SET 8 SET 9 SET 10
1 LARGE EDGE 3 X 5:5, REST 2:00 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 3 X 5:5
2 LARGE EDGE 4 X 5:5, REST 2:00 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 4 X 5:5, REST 2:00 MEDIUM EDGE 4 X 5:5
3 LARGE EDGE 4 X 5:5, REST 2:00 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 4 X 5:5, REST 2:00 MEDIUM EDGE 4 X 5:5, REST 2:00 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 4 X 5:5
4 LARGE EDGE 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 MEDIUM EDGE 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 5 X 5:5
5 LARGE EDGE 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 MEDIUM EDGE 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 5 X 5:5, REST 2:00 SMALL EDGE 5 X 5:5
6 LARGE EDGE 6 X 5:5, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 5:5, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 5:5, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 5:5, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 5:5
7 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4
8 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4
9 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4
10 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4
11 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4
12 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4
13 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4
14 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4
15 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MONO, LARGE 6 X 3:7
16 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MONO, LARGE 6 X 3:7
17 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MONO, LARGE 6 X 4:6
18 LARGE EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MEDIUM EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 1,2 MEDIUM POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SMALL EDGE 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 LARGE EDGE, 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND LEFT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 SINGLE ARM, OPEN HAND RIGHT 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 2,3 SMALL POCKET 6 X 6:4, REST 2:30 MONO, LARGE 6 X 5:5