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Training Core and Shoulder Strength on a Portable Hangboard

by Christopher Schafenacker

getting the most out of your home climbing wall

Whether on the road or quarantined at home, every climber eventually confronts the crisis: how to stay fighting fit without any training facilities nearby. After all, endless redpoints on real rock, no matter how fanatic, will eventually leave you sapped of power and finger strength. While the only true solution is a few weeks of hard bouldering and finger training (check out our Rocket Wall for that), a portable hangboard can help stop the leak, giving you those much needed extra days of quality attempts and (hopefully) sending hard.

When choosing a portable hangboard, you want something wooden (read: skin-friendly), compact, and versatile. If you only use your board to warm up the fingers before hopping on your project, you can get away with a simple one- or two-edge model. If you want your board to double as a mini, full-body training tool, you’ll want a couple of jugs and pockets, too. In addition, you’ll need fourteen or so feet of old climbing rope, a sling and carabiner, and a set of resistance bands to get the most from your set-up.

A Portable Hangboard Training Session

1. Find an Anchor Point

If you’re on the road, your workout begins by searching for an appropriate tree, beam, or playground to set up on. Keep in mind that where playgrounds are concerned, appropriate means not only sturdy, but kid-free. After all, parents and teachers don’t look nicely on mangy climbers rolling up in rickety vans to school parking lots.

Once you’ve found a spot to train, use the sling and carabiner to mount your board at comfortable pull-up height.

2. Warm Up

Do three sets of twenty-five jumping jacks, ten scapular pull-ups, and arm windmills of different sizes. Mix in a few sets of twenty burpees to get your heart properly beating. If you plan to do any finger training, make sure to do a few ten-second hangs on comfortable holds, too.

3. One-Arm Pull-ups, Offset Pull-ups, Or Assisted Lock-Offs

After warming up, begin with an exercise that targets maximum strength. If one-arm pull-ups are in your repertoire, start there. Otherwise, work offset pull-ups by slinging a band over your board and grasping it as low down as possible with one hand while pulling up on the board with the other. An alternative exercise that helps you advance to either one-arm or offset pulls are controlled, one-arm lowers assisted by a band slung over your board and either grasped with the “inactive” hand or stepped through with a foot.

Unless you’re Alex Megos, all of the above exercises are performed by gripping the top of the board, itself, rather than any of the available edges. Aim for three to five sets of three repetitions per arm. Rest two to three minutes between sets.

4. Inverted One-Arm Rows

Sling your fourteen-foot length of rope over your anchor point and tie it off so that your board hangs just above the ground (a truckers’ hitch is a great, adjustable knot for this purpose). While standing, grip your board with both hands and walk your feet forward until your body forms a 60 ° angle with the ground. Release one hand and drop the corresponding shoulder so that it falls in a line perpendicular to the ground with the other. This is your starting position. Once stable, pull through the full range of motion of the arm still gripping the hangboard. Simultaneously reach up as high as possible with the inactive arm. Lower back to the starting position with control. Complete three to five sets of three to five repetitions with each arm. Aim to fail on the last repetition. Rest two to three minutes between sets.

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, reduce the angle between your body and the ground. Do not worry about bending your knees to remain stable. If after lowering as far as possible, you still find this easy, use a water jug to add weight to the “inactive” arm in the same way Adam Ondra does in the opening scene of this video.

5. Supermans

Using the same setup as in the previous exercise, assume a plank position with your hands holding the top of your board and either your knees or feet on the ground. Extend your arms out in front of you until fully straightened and then return to the plank position. Complete three to five sets of three to five repetitions. Rest two to three minutes between sets.

Perform the above program once or twice a week while to slow the loss of power while a training facility or home climbing wall is unavailable, or add a finger-strength protocol and a few sets of front levers, leg lifts, or knee raises, and you have a program that will keep you fighting fit (or pretty close)…even if quarantined at home.


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…


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