When to Start Hangboarding (and Which Hangboard Routine to Start With...)
by Christopher Schafenacker
If you follow climbing media (and if you’re reading this, chances are you do), you no doubt have gained the impression that hangboarding is an essential part of improving as a climber. After all, Instagram is rife with posts showing the pros bearing down on their boards, and every other week it seems like a new finger training protocol makes headlines somewhere. Naturally, all this coverage leads new climbers to ask when to start hangboarding. The answer? Probably later than you think.
There is no doubt that training your fingers is a crucial part of climbing hard, and yet the plethora of hangboarding content out there can be misleading. The simple truth is that a hangboard routine has no place in your climbing regimen until you’ve been at it for at least two years, and even then, your time might be better spent elsewhere. Technique and general strength gains will bring far greater benefit to your climbing than stronger fingers in the early stages, after all.
Why is Hangboarding Risky?
Hanging your full bodyweight from your fingertips is not a normal human activity. Your tendons and joints are not made to sustain this kind of stress. You might be that prodigy kid who’s sending 5.12 mere months after starting to climb and while, yes, this means you’re strong, it doesn’t mean your connective tissue is.
Unless you give your body time to adjust to the strains of climbing, a dedicated hangboard routine is going to hurt, not help your progression…because you’re going to get injured.
Ok. Crusty old climber lecture done.
If you’ve been at it for a while and your climbing has plateaued, the question might not be when to start hangboarding, but how. Here’s our advice:
Hangboard Workout for Beginners:
Dr. Eva Lopéz is the global authority on hangboarding. Her Ph.D. thesis was the first to take an in-depth, research-based look at the subject, and it is upon this basis that we recommend the following hangboard routine:
After properly warming up, establish the edge size upon which you can hang for a maximum of 12 seconds before failure in the half-crimp position. Ensure you practice proper form by retracting your shoulders hanging with a straight (as opposed to an arched) back.
2. Hangboard Workout for Beginners
Hang for 10 seconds in the half-crimp position with proper form on the edge established in the previous step.
Rest for 2 to 3 minutes
Complete five sets of the above. Each hang should bring you near, but not all the way to failure.
After five sets, rest for 10 minutes.
Complete a second series of 5 10-second hangs on the same edge.
Repeat twice-weekly, ideally hours after an earlier training session (but on the same day).
Rest completely in between sessions.
After six weeks of repeating this hangboarding protocol, you should observe noticeable gains in finger strength. At this point, you may want to recalibrate the edge upon which you can hang for a maximum of 12 seconds before embarking on a new training cycle.
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