by Christopher Schafenacker
Back in the early 80s, when John Bachar introduced sport-specific training to rock climbing his hangboard consisted of nothing more than variously-sized edges screwed onto a board mounted between two trees. No doubt, his is the most affordable design and in establishing such legendary test pieces as the 300-foot Bachar-Yerian (5.11c R/X) route in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows he proved that it to be pretty effective, too, but with all the options on today’s market, it would be a stretch to call it the best affordable hangboard. After all, training methods have come a long way since Bachar’s time and nowadays there are as many hangboards out there as there are schools of thought around how to use them.
The Best Hangboard is the One You’ll Actually Use
If you follow pros like Kyra Condie or Alex Megos on Instagram, you can be forgiven for thinking you need a Beastmaker 2000 wooden hangboard to gain legit strong fingers. While it may be true that everyone who’s anyone seems to have one, the fact is that unless you eat 5.12 for breakfast you’ll probably be better off building a Bachar original in your yard. The Beastmaker 2000, after all, is predominantly designed for one-arm hangs and that’s just not the type of training most of us need (or are capable of executing)
Instead of buying the hottest board on Instagram, opt for a model suited to your skill level and goals. This way, you’ll actually use it. If you live in Bishop, for instance, and need brute strength on edges you might spring for Eva Lopez’s Progression Board. Meanwhile, if you make a yearly trips to Leonidio and need pinch strength for days, the Trango Rock Prodigy with its ergonomic pinch blocks is probably a better fit. Most climbers aren’t this specific, though, and just want to get stronger because, well, getting strong is fun. For that, you need an all-arounder: a wooden hangboard with radiused holds that at once protects your skin and tendons while offering expansive training possibilities. The issue is that the ideal all-arounder will be different for different people.
The Best (All Around) Hangboard for Beginners
Rockstar Volumes’ ROCK-STAH Hangboard checks all the boxes of a board that will level up your climbing. The .75", .625", and .5" edges offer all the versatility needed to follow max strength, recruitment, and density training protocols, the two finger pockets allow you to work on specific finger pairings, and the jugs are perfect for when a pandemic hits, and you need to train power endurance on your hangboard because real climbing has been cancelled. At $72.00 the ROCK-STAH goes for a fraction of the price of similar models and, best of all, can be set up on any over-the-door pull-up bar or other single attachment point.
The Best (All Around) Hangboard for Advanced Climbers
No single model earns this title if only because an advanced climber, by definition, will have specific training goals. Naturally, these goals will evolve and change and the best hangboard will be one that support this growth but even so, the ideal model will depend on where a person is climbing and what other training implements they have on hand. The aforementioned Beastmaker 2000, Progression Board, and Trango Rock Prodigy are all contenders but by their very nature as advanced tools each is limited by specific pros and cons. What’s more, many cutting-edge finger programs call for block hangs instead of boards hangs, which allow you to address left and right imbalances without blowing out your shoulders or requiring the strength to hang one-armed. This then leads to a final category: the travel hangboard.
The Best Travel Hangboard
If the Beastmaker 2000 is the Cadillac of traditional (advanced) hangboards, the Tension Block is the Cadillac of the portable variety. Not everyone needs a Cadillac, though. Rockstar Volumes’ Pinch Hangblock, for instance, offers all the same functionality of Tension’s product a fraction of the price. The fact that this option has no mono- or two-finger pockets isn’t a problem as you can train these grips by using one or two fingers on any of the edges and the inclusion of a jug is a major bonus for those who would use the Hangblock as a grip for weight training while on the road.
Another product deserving of mention (and yes, I know, we’re getting a little self-indulgent here) is the Rockstar Volumes’ Maverick which, again, comes at a fraction of the price of big brand models, provides ample hanging versatility, and in a pinch (lol) can even serve as block replacement for when you don’t want to pack multiple boards in your suitcase.
To close, it’s worth repeating that the best affordable hangboard is the one you’re going to use. After all, as rad as it is to post pictures of you training on the same rig as the pros, doing so is not nearly as rad as training effectively and putting down your homies’ project before they even knew it was their project.
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…
Christopher Schafenacker started climbing in Western MA before moving to Granada, Spain, where he now writes, climbs, and runs education-centered training camps for competitive youth climbing teams.