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A Beginner’s Guide to Board Climbing

Board training can help you improve specific strengths and condition you for your spring projects

As we head towards spring, boulderers and lead climbers alike will soon turn their heads toward their difficult outdoor projects. Climbing hard always requires a degree of specification, but the right training plan can make such a direction less mentally tiring and generally more rewarding. How might we break into that V5 or 5.12 level of ability?

Naturally, it depends on your personal level and also your focus. If you rope climb, making it through to 5.12a takes a little more endurance than climbing V5, but the crux remains the same. In the end it becomes a question of difficulty. Climbing difficult moves requires a degree of strength. Board climbing makes for the quickest rise to strength with the least specification to training.

Starting out

For many climbers operating in and around V3, climbing on a standardized board like a Moon, Kilter or Tension Board can feel daunting. It becomes important to remember that sending a boulder problem only makes for one of the several ways a person can progress.

Board climbing provides one of the best ways to improve in boulder and lead because it isolates four of the essential elements of climbing hard: Finger strength, core, power and strength. While longer routes may require less finger and body power, they still need a high level of strength and core.

While core often finds itself described through the abdominal, a strong lumbar allows most climbers to use their feet with greater efficiency. Standing long and tall on small feet all comes down to a strong lumbar, while stepping high focuses more on the abdominal. Board climbing attacks both.

In these four weeks preceding Autumn’s cooler temperature, we will provide a beginner’s guide to board climbing. For many climbers this will mean utilizing a focus that may feel difficult but will become the quickest way to progress. It will operate on a three-day schedule that features none of the supplemental training a person may expect from conditioning. You will repeat that which is listed each week.

Schedule:

Day 1: Train

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Train

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Train

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Rest

The reason for such few climbing days comes from the body’s need to rest. Each training session should feature a focused and determined approach to climbing. While detracting from this plan will allow a climber more freedom in their sessions, it will not allow for the same progression.

Day 1:

Warm up on the Hangboard:

This can feel daunting. The hangboard often seems dangerous or difficult. While it undoubtedly has difficult elements, many push too hard on the hangboard. We will use the hangboard as a warm-up tool. After warming up the muscles through warm-up exercises and easy climbing, head over to the hangboard and begin on a large edge.

Hangboard

  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in and open hand position
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in a half-crimp position
    • Move down to a smaller edge
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in and open hand position
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in a half-crimp position
    • Move down to a smaller edge
    • Repeat this process until you find your smallest edge. Upon reaching your smallest edge, complete these hangs and the move away from the hangboard. Given 20 second to 2 minute rest between each hang, the warm up process could take as little as 6 minutes and as long as 30 minutes. Now move to the climbing board.

The Board

  • Now that you have entered the board climbing portion of your session, you should have about 1.5 hours in the remainder of your time slot. We will focus this portion of your session on high-quality attempts. We will also presume that you will complete this on the MoonBoard as this has become the most popular standardized board. If you do not have a MoonBoard, the exercises listed below can be translated, by difficulty, to the Tension, Kilter, or even Spray boards at your local gym. Ideally, you will have a 35+ degree board. The advantage of the MoonBoard comes from the Benchmark boulders. Looking in the app, pick out the three horizontal bars in the top right corner of the application. Select Benchmarks and then select for difficulty. We will start at V3 or 6A+. Look to the 2017 and 2019 MoonBoard sets.
  • Some will say that hangboarding and Board climbing in the same session is not recommended. If you have enough time to hangboard 6-8 hours in advance of your board session, please do so. If not, this warm up routine remains ideal. The key, as mentioned before, results from a gentle approach. In this routine, we view the hangboard as a warm-up and recovery tool. We do not view it as a strength training tool. Strength and power training will come from the climbing board.
  • Beginning at 6A+, find the easiest boulder. Feel the holds and try to sequence the beta. Once you have determined your beta, try to execute in a single attempt. If this feels impossible, try anyway. If you flash the problem, move onto the next. Once you stop flashing boulders, aim to complete the remainder of the moves. Feel free to try any of the problems within the V3 range. One of our goals will become finding projects among the Benchmarks. Another goal will be completing all V3 benchmarks. If you cannot complete any of them, do not worry, you are not alone. Find the easiest one, and spend the session working the moves. If you stop making progress, begin work on the next easiest problem.
  • Rest between two and five minutes between each attempt. The rest has two purposes: recover and reflect. The recovery aspect requires little explanation. If you feel fatigued, your next burn will suffer. The reflection portion asks the climber to consider what they need to do to improve. Take that into account and execute. In board climbing, the solution often comes from trying harder.
  • Once you have completed whatever you could complete for the session, mark down a few projects from the boulders you could not finish. We will work these going forward.
  • After your session concludes, stretch at home. Ensure that you eat a vegetable, carbohydrates, and protein. You should have about 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight each day. Ideally, you will break up your protein intake across all three meals in your day.

Day 2

Rest

Day 3

Although you will feel marginally more fatigued today, you will repeat your exercises from Day 1. The hangboard warm-up may take longer today.

Day 4

Rest

Day 5

Boulder in the gym. By this point in your week, you will find yourself antsy to get on the new set. Day 5 will become your opportunity to climb it. Take the requisite rest (2-5 minutes) between each attempt. You should aim to flash as many problems as possible. If you wish to route climb today, take the same approach. Despite the fact that we will not board climb today, we will still hangboard. As such:

Hangboard

  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in and open hand position
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in a half-crimp position
    • Move down to a smaller edge
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in and open hand position
  • Complete three sets of 10 second hangs in a half-crimp position
    • Move down to a smaller edge
    • Repeat this process until you find your smallest edge. Upon reaching your smallest edge, complete these hangs and the move away from the hangboard. Given 20 second to 2 minute rest between each hang, the warm up process could take as little as 6 minutes and as long as 30 minutes. Now move to the climbing area.
    • You may notice your fingers have already become stronger. Only move to a smaller edge size if you feel as though it will aid your warm-up.

Day 6 & 7

Rest

Try and stretch every day.