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Learn How to No-Hang, A Finger Strength Solution

No-hang training has become more popular in the gym, but what is a no-hang and how do you optimize it for your needs?

Training culture prescribes hangboards, spray walls, and time under tension, but new methods of finger-flexion have begun to work their way into the climbing mainstream. No-hangs are one such method.

This type of finger training comes in two unique forms. The first is an over-the-head no-hang where the climber pulls down on the edge of a hangboard. The second lifts weight off the floor. We talked about a daily warm-up-style no-hang routine in a previous piece that you can find here. Today, we will discuss an arm-lifting-like no-hang.

The Tension Block No-Hang Device

Tension was one of the first companies to release a popular no-hang device. This wooden block aimed to isolate the forearm through a pull. The Tension Block has many edge sizes, all of which function in a similar capacity. Let’s begin with the advantages of no-hangs.

Although the hang board is an incredible training tool, it has inconsistencies. The fluctuating strength of the torso and arms provide different distributions of weight to the fingers between attempts. Although perfect form manages against this problem, true consistency is impossible to replicate.

A no-hang removes these points of inconsistency by loading measured weight through the hand. Instead of inconsistent weight distribution between different shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers, the only place for inconsistent loading between sets exists in the fingers themselves.

Trackable consistency is the greatest strength of the no-hang device. This presents in numerous ways. The most obvious is the measurable weight clipped to the end of the device. A person can see whether they are lifting 20 pounds or 30 pounds. Furthermore, it better isolates the forearm than a hangboard.

During weighted hangs a person may find their lats giving out before their fingers. That means a successful finger routine is limited by the body and not the fingers that are supposed to be isolated. In this same vein, if the torso gives out over the length of the hang, the tension on the fingers can change. If you are completing a heavy hang, this change in pressure causes movement under stress. Such movement opens the door for injury.

No-hangs are like deadlifts: you can either lift the weight or not. Proper form does not allow a person to lift above their max as the exercise isolates the training muscle.

As such, no-hangs are credited as a method of finger training for climbers with injured fingers. Climbers can place their fingers under tension without overloading their injured pulleys. As with a hangboard, multiple grip positions are available to best accommodate the injury or the training goal.

The Downside

Although this device has its uses, its strengths are also its weaknesses. The no-hang is not a hang. It is a different movement from climbing. Although hangboarding carries a greater risk of overloading, it also trains the torso as a system. It is for this reason that a person could argue board climbing as the best finger training tool. Board climbing connects the fingers to the toes.

The reason we hangboard instead of board climb, or no-hang instead of hangboard, is to reduce the impact on our tendons. The no-hang, then, makes the most sense as a strength training tool. This low impact form of finger training gives climbers the space to train their fingers more at whatever resistance is right for the day. With that said, how does a person no-hang?

The Schedule

There are as many ways to no-hang as there are hangboards. Although this editor believes the no-hang device is best used as a strength training tool, many may use it to test their power as well. In arm-lifting, a maximum is decided by lifting weight off the ground into a controlled position and the placing it back on the ground. This is considered one repetition. If you wish to test power, perhaps this is the best method for you.

Isolated finger training, however, is best approached over many weeks, months or years, so let’s consider it a strength training exercise. As such, let’s now choose our volume. Realistically, this choice is based somewhat on your training age (the number of years you have trained for climbing) and your goals.

For finger injury rehabilitation, you could no-hang six days a week. On the days that you climb as well, use the no-hangs as a part of your warmup. When you feel fully warm through the forearm, stop the exercise.

If you are not rehabbing an injury, then choose a number of days that reflects your experience. If you are new to climbing, try two or three days a week. Even an experienced climber may not need to no-hang more than three times a week. An ideal schedule might look like:

Three-Day Schedule

Day 1 – no-hang, then climb

Day 2 – rest

Day 3 – no-hang, then climb

Day 4 – rest

Day 5 – no-hang, then climb

Day 6 – rest

Day 7 – rest

Two-Day Schedule

Day 1 – no-hang, then climb

Day 2 – rest

Day 3 – rest

Day 4 – rest

Day 5 – no-hang, then climb

Day 6 – rest

Day 7 – rest

If you are more experienced, then no-hang at your discretion. If your fingers feel painful when you get on the wall, or if you feel your power notably depleted in every session, consider fewer no-hangs or consider reducing the weight. Some amount of accumulative fatigue is normal, strength training causes fatigue, but if you fall into a training hole, you will increase your risk for injury.

To help prevent this, take a de-load week every third week of training. A de-load week will retain the same number of days of training as your other weeks, just with reduced volume. You will ideally retain the intensity.

The Exercise

A time-under-tension approach (better for strength)

  • Warm up
    • Complete three-to-five sets of 7-10 second pulls at low weights on each hand.
      • Increase the weight each set until you reach a maximum.
    • Train
      • Complete three-to-five sets at this 7-10 second max weight on each hand.
      • Rest three-to-five minutes between sets

A rep-based approach (better for power)

  • Warm up
    • Complete 7-10 repetitions at a low weight
      • Increase the weight by 2.5-5%
    • Complete another 7-10 repetitions
      • Repeat this process until you hit a maximum or until you have complete 7-10 sets.
      • Rest three-to-five minutes between sets

The Form

Keep your arm bent at 120-degree angle. Maintain a straight back and lift with your legs.

Tension Block can be found here.