You have found yourself a deadly-looking hangboard. Your hands are chalked and the board is mounted, but what are you supposed to do? Sure, hanging from edges seems easy enough, but how do you maximize your gains? What is the correct way to hang? What options do you have?

For International Grip Strength Champion Yves Gravelle, the “rule for training specific hand positions is if you use it in your climbing you should train it.” For Gravelle, the style of the climb dictates the position. But what are the positions? What sorts of strengths are out there?

The Hand Positions

Open-Hand:

  • Open-hand consists of an extended pointer finger and extended pinky finger, between which the middle fingers rest comfortably. This position appears slightly different between climbers due to relative finger lengths. Open-hand is useful due to the common nature of hitting a hold with an open hand. This position is good to train as it aids with injury prevention due to its low-pressure format.

Half-Crimp:

  • This is the strongest hand position, as Gravelle notes in a recent interview. Half-crimp has “the most carryover” into regular climbing. As such, this position is worth training with the greatest diligence. It consists of the pointer, middle, and ring fingers pressing at a 90-degree angle. This should not be a compromise. If you are slipping from half-crimp into open-hand during your fingerboard routine, you likely require a larger edge, or longer rest between reps or sets. The thumb should rest around two to five centimetres beneath your pointer finger, off-set, one to three centimetres from the pointer, depending on hand size.

Full-Crimp:

  • The “Full Monty” as it were. This is the strongest hand position that exists, but with high risk. It consists of each finger, pointer to pinky, resting on the hold at a 90-degree angle. The thumb then sits atop, or against, the pointer finger. This is done, not to push the pointer finger into the hold harder, but instead to close the palm, shifting the center of gravity beneath the hold. As this torsional force takes place above the wrist, it is a lot of pressure for each finger to handle. That said, full crimp is trainable, though exceptionally dangerous. Athlete and coach Christian Core recommends against training the full crimp position.

What to know:

Break-down complete, we can begin to understand finger strength as a concept. For example, when can a person begin to hangboard? Gravelle says that, “it really depends on the individual. I would recommend starting finger training once you can conformably climb V4. Before reaching this level, you can get more benefits from climbing and focusing on technique.” This is important to keep in mind as the hangboard can cause issues if attempted too early in strength training. Gravelle also notes that “consistency in training is very important to measure progress. Keep the training simple and write everything in a training log. This will help create good training habits.”

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Assorted Hangs:

Minimum Edge Hangs:

Training on thin edges has long been a favourite. Built around hanging progressively smaller holds, minimum edge training requires a little bit of masochism and a lot of will power. In Gravelle’s opinion, “there’s no reason to add extreme weight. If you can do a deadhang for more than eight to nine seconds with 25 pounds, you’re ready to move to smaller holds.” For those looking to move to extremely small holds, eight to four millimetres, Gravelle says that “the secret is really skin!” Thick skin allows the climber less sensitive tips and a thicker base to hang from.

One-arm hangs:

For Gravelle, “one arm hangs are great for elite level climbers.  It’s just another way to increase intensity without having to haul a ridiculous amount of weight.” These hangs require “very strong stabilizing muscles in the shoulders to prevent rotation” as well as strong fingers. As such, these hangs can be exceptionally useful. According to 99 Boulders hanging 18mm with one arm is the only metric that has “a strong correlation with the ability to boulder 8A (V11).”

(Photo by Will Johnson)

The Strategies:

There are a million-and-one methods for to hangboard, but these are a few that are accessible.

One – Repeaters:

  • Complete eight hangs, resting between hangs for two to five minutes.
  • Ideally, failure will occur on the final hang
  • This method works well for either weighted or unweighted hangs, though is optimal for weighted hangs.
  • Pick a weight or edge width that will remain semi challenging for 4 weeks.
  • Fingerboard twice a week
  • Increase weight or decrease edge size following this period.

Two – Power Endurance Hangs:

  • This exercise is a variation on Climbing magazine’s workout schedule.
    • Pick an edge size
    • Week 1:
      • 3 sets of open hand
        • 3 second hang – rest
        • 6 second hang – rest
        • 9 second hang – rest
      • 6 sets of half crimp
        • 3 second hang – rest
        • 6 second hang – rest
        • 9 second hang – rest
      • Week 2:
        • 4 sets of open-hand
        • 8 sets of half crimp
      • Week 3:
        • 5 sets of open-hand
        • 10 sets of half-crimp
      • Week 4
        • 3 sets of open hand
          • 3 second hang – rest
          • 6 second hang – rest
          • 9 second hang – rest
          • 12 second hang – big rest
        • 6 sets of half crimp
          • 3 second hang – rest
          • 6 second hang – rest
          • 9 second hang – rest
          • 12 second hang – big rest
        • Add weight or decrease edge size
        • Lower chance of injury, longer progression time.

Three – The Yves Gravelle Workout:

  • Warm up, ensuring your fingers are warm through progressively heavier hangs.
    • On an edge that you can hang around 25 seconds max, complete the following loading pattern.
      • 1 set – 10 sec hang – no weight
        1 set – 10 sec hang – 5 pounds
        1 set – 10 sec hang -10 pounds
        Main training set: 4-6 sets at 5 sec at 80% to 85% of single rep maximum (RM)
    • The optimal training intensity for finger strength is 85% or your single RM
    • This equivalent of a 8-10 seconds of maximum.
    • A buffer is an important strength-training concept. Stop hanging a few seconds before failure, and recover a full five minutes between sets to maximize results.
    • Three training sessions a week will be enough to see very good results.
    • Vary your training periodically to avoid plateaus.
    • Let’s take a four-week cycle for example.
      • Week One
        Focus on increasing the volume of training.
        This can be achieved by adding 1-2 sets per session or adding an extra training day
      • Week Two
        Try adding 2-3 pounds to your main training sets.
      • Week Three
        Try adding another 2-3 pounds to your main training sets.
      • Week Four (recovery week)
        Reduce the number of sessions to twice a week and the intensity to 70% 1RM.

        • Complete your warm up sets from your loading pattern

 

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