Hangboard vs. System Board: The Pros & Cons
Which is better: the hangboard or the system board? Well, they both have their pros and cons. Let’s explore each of these unique training tools to see what they’re all about and learn how they could help you reach your climbing goals.
The hangboard—or fingerboard as it is sometimes called—had its inception in the mid 1980’s. Since then it has become one of the most used pieces of training equipment for climbers. The weighted hang is probably the most effective isolation exercise for climbing training.
Anatomically, your fingers do not have any muscles. Their strength is determined by tendons, ligaments and the muscles of those structures that are attached to the forearm and palm. As a result of tendons being rather difficult to build up, so is finger strength.
Climbing a lot will only get you so far. When you advance beyond the level that overall strength and technique can bring you, finger strength plays a key role. There is some debate about this, but unless you are Adam Ondra, this is where the hangboard comes into play. Being able to vary the training load while using a hangboard is a very important aspect. You can adjust the intensity by utilizing smaller and bigger holds, as well as exploring grip position. In addition, you can also adjust the resistance by adding weight—or taking away weight—such as employing a pulley system.
Making its debut about a decade after the hangboard, the system board hit the climbing scene in the 1990s. The system board is simply a small climbing wall with differing holds organized in such a manner that each half of the wall is a mirror image of the other. The wall needs to be overhung, between 20º and 45º is ideal. If the wall is too vertical, there will not be enough load on the big muscles of the upper body. If the wall is too steep, you will be limited to the use of larger holds. The size of these walls can vary greatly, but usually they are 6 to 8 feet wide and 9 feet or taller. Our Rocket Wall is perfect for setting up a system board…
A well-thought-out system board can offer targeted workouts for the forearms, the larger pulling muscles of the arms and torso, and your core. The major benefit of using the system board as a training tool is to eliminate weak movement patterns and create bilateral strength. If you train on gym routes or boulders, you are never going to find problems that balance the load on the left and right side.
The system board also allows progress from workouts to be measurable. By conducting repeated efforts, building in difficulty over time you can work towards overloading specific systems to elicit gains. The ultimate goal with the system board is to see improvement in upper body strength, ability to hold core tension, and the development of functional finger strength.
Both the hangboard and system board are great tools to utilize as part of a climbing training program—they each bring something different to the table. There really is no direct answer about which is better—together, they offer a well-rounded climbing training program. A hangboard may be more accessible and affordable, though we have added interest-free financing as a payment option for our training gear, making a system board a realistic option for more climbers.
Featured Climbing Training Gear
*NEW* The Rocketeer Wall: our free-standing adjustable solution for those who can’t mount a hangboard anywhere in their home or apartment—or who are limited on space. The Rocketeer gives climbers the additional option to set specific climbing holds. Recreate the crux holds of your proj and get ready to send, bruh.
The Rocket Wall: Available in 6’ and 8’ widths, it’s been tough for us to keep up with the demand for this innovative home climbing wall solution. Slightly overhanging, the Rocket Wall is big enough to set routes on, or to build a systems board.
The Rock-Stah: Our handcrafted version of a traditional hangboard, with curving crimp rails to help alleviate unnecessary strain on your pulleys. Because ain’t no one got time for a finger injury…