Hangboards + Climbing

First rule: never walk by a hangboard (or pull-up bar, or rings, or any sturdy door frame) without doing a pull-up. No but really, unless you’re resting, just do it. Mastering the pull-up is essential to leveling up your climbing game.

But seriously, don’t forget about climbing in all your #couchtocrush training. A lot of fitness plans tend to slack out on the climbing part of it all – but I can guarantee you that the single best way to become a better climber is to climb. Incorporating hangboarding and climbing ‘games’ is key to a successful fitness routine:

Couch To Crush Guide to Climbing Training – Hangboard Training and Climbing

HANGBOARDS

My hangboard circuits have been fairly standard thus far while I build my finger strength back up. As is outlined in Deadpoint Mag’s Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks plan, I choose six different hangboard positions per session. Each set of hangs goes like this:

For your first rep, gently hang from the chosen grips for 10 seconds (start with the harder and move towards easier holds). Drop, and rest for five seconds before pulling on again. Repeat six times per position. Once you’ve completed the set, rest for two minutes.

Here are some tips for hangboards:

  • Your arms and shoulders should be engaged, but not totally locked off. They’re called ‘hangs’ for a reason, folks.
  • Work with a partner. It’s great to have someone to help keep time and make hangboarding a bit less tedious. A stopwatch is really helpful, especially if you can prop it up somewhere you can keep an eye on it while hanging.
  • Don’t overdo it. I usually do hangboard training once a week. In winter when I’m not climbing as much, twice a week is totally fine if you’re up to it. You want to strength your fingers, but you don’t want to overwork them – that’s how injuries happen, and “I busted my tendon on a hangboard” makes for a really crappy reason to get sidelined.
  • Give yourself a decent rest after every hangboard session. You can train hard all you want, but you won’t give your body time to properly recover (and get stronger) without resting. Work hard, rest hard.

Check out this post from Evening Sends for a truly excellent guide to hangboarding that includes everything from tips on proper form to adding weight for additional intensity. Steph Davis also offers some great advice on hangboard training (along with an alternative hangs circuit), and this video from Chris Webb Parsons shows you how to level up your hangboard game with one-armed assisted hangs:

If you’re really committed to your hangboard training, read this post on TrainingBeta.com written by the authors of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Mark and Mike Anderson provide a deep look into choosing the right hangboard, exercises, and grip positions.

CLIMBING GAMES + WORKOUTS

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate intentional climbing sessions into your training:

  1. Bottoms Up: I use this to warm up a lot, and sometimes spend my whole day playing along until I max out – start a V0, and climb every line of that grade until you progress to the next level. In addition to really warming your muscles up, it provides a great bout of endurance training.
  2. Hop on the Systems Board: Just like campus boards, when I get on a systems board I always get a slice of humble pie right to the face. This thing will really whip you into shape – and you can make it a game with your partner. Grab a long stick brush, and while your partner is on the wall, point out each next hold for them to reach. Keep your core engaged, and really focus on your body movement.
  3. 4x4s: The perfect ‘game’ for the climber who wants a solid pump in a short period of time. Pick four boulder problems that sit within the range that’s pushing your limits (but not quite at them). I climb at an upper limit of about V5-6, so my ideal 4×4 would include a mix of V3-4s. Do each circuit as quickly as possible – and don’t be afraid about falling, because you absolutely should be if you’re pushing hard enough! 4x4s work your power endurance, and should leave you feeling pleasantly wiped out.
    1. Note: These can be a little difficult to do in a packed gym! I head to Movement Denver at 7 AM most mornings to avoid the crowds.
  4. Add-On: A great activity for when you’re not in try-hard-project-sending mode, add-on is a group game where each player takes a turn adding a move to the sequence. The game continues with players disqualified if they cannot complete the sequence, or forget any of the moves.

Climbing training at Movement Denver.Whatever you have to do to get yourself on the wall, don’t forget that the most important part of training for climbing is the part where you actually climb. You’re lifting weights, eating right, and working hard for one reason: to become a better climber.

Additional Resources:

Be sure to share your training photos on Instagram +Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag for a chance to win sweet climbing swag!

30 Days to Triple Crown at Hound Ears – My 4-week Climbing Challenge

Last week, my adventure soul-sister Gina Bégin announced the beginning of her first 90-day challenge in a series of training hauls designed to prepare her for an epic race in Patagonia. Almost immediately, the outdoor community erupted with declarations of all sorts of personal challenges – and naturally, I hopped on board too.

With an upcoming full year of traveling to climb all over the country, I reckoned I ought to really start overhauling my training to elevate my climbing to the next level before the journey begins in late January. I knew I wanted to push my limits, but I didn’t have a solid direction.

This morning, in a perfectly timed twist of fate, everything came together – thanks to Dead Point Mag’s “Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks” article (and Aiguille Rock Climbing for posting it on their Pinterest boards).

I woke up a bit early today, and began my morning social media scouring, which quickly led me to the article. Maybe it was the coffee coursing through my body, or the general hype on the idea of finding a formal plan for my climbing, but the moment I read the article, I was fully committed.

Combining both fitness training and a not-so-strict (but still slightly demanding) diet, this four week climbing regimen targets four elements that can be effectively improved within a single month: “strength to weight ratio, hand and forearm muscular efficiency, and mobility.” Along with hangboard exercises, the plan calls for a lot of yoga, aerobics, rice bucket workouts, and fitness circuits.

Bring it on.

As I mapped out the 30 days of dedication and perseverance, I noticed that my 4-week plan is perfectly aligned with one of the best events of the season: the Triple Crown bouldering competition at Hound Ears in Boone, North Carolina.

Photo by Andrew Kornylak.

This legendary crag has access so limited that the only day of the year you can climb there is during the Triple Crown event. Niko and I had made it a goal to attend a few days ago, and now with the 4-week challenge ending the Thursday before the competition, it seemed like destiny. I’m registering us both today – it’s going to be my first outdoor climbing competition, so I’m both very nervous, and very stoked.

The best part? Two months ago, I got a mysterious fortune cookie. It read:

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.”

As luck would have it, that date happens to be October 6th – the first day of the Hound Ears competition. Coincidence? I think not.

So, today marks the first day of my climbing challenge. What’s in store for me this week? Well, first comes the dietary aspect. During the first week, all I have to remember to do is drink a gallon of water every day. For those of us who live by Nalgene, that means four full Nalgenes a day. Easy, right?

Here’s this week’s training schedule:

Day 1: Aerobic training, and the first hangboard workout, including a 9-minute rice bucket session. For the aerobic portion, I’ll be riding my bike to and from the rock gym.
Day 2: Full body workout circuit, including my not-so-favorite exercise, push-ups.
Day 3: Yoga and the second hangboard/rice bucket progression. My lovely friend Katie is a yoga instructor, and she offered to teach me a few things to get my personal yoga sessions tuned-in.
Day 4: Another total body workout circuit.
Day 5: Aerobics. I might (read: MIGHT) try running. It will probably be more of a speed-walking/jogging, but I’m going to try.
Day 6: A second day of yoga, and the third hangboard/rice bucket circuit.
Day 7: Another aerobic day.

Doesn’t seem too hard, right? One of the reasons I felt drawn to this particular training schedule is that it doesn’t seem so outrageous. Yes, it’s going to kick my ass – but it doesn’t seem undoable.

Stay tuned as I power through this first week, and prepare for the second week of this climbing challenge.

PS: I’m also cutting out soda. Perhaps the hardest challenge of all. Seriously, I’m dying already. There has been a small bottle of Sprite sitting in the fridge for a week, and I’m about to assault it.

Do you have a personal challenge you’d like to begin?
Put it out there, let me know, and let’s keep each other inspired to stick to our goals!