Choosing a Hangboard for Rock Climbing Training
Why Train to Rock Climbing on a Hangboard?
The primary advantage of a hangboard, also known as a fingerboard or training board, is that it is a very small, one-piece product, that allows an intense rock climbing workout at any location it can be screwed or bolted onto the wall. For someone that lives far away from a rock climbing gym or real rock cliffs, this is an effective and affordable way to train. For someone that lives close to a traditional rock climbing destination this is an affordable alternative to a monthly rock climbing gym membership and an insurance against inclement weather for outdoor rock climbers.
The hangboard market is full of boards made from polymer resin and wood. No one is brave enough to make a metal or ceramic board yet. With good reason they would probably tear your fingers apart! They are designed to be placed above doorways or other small spaces generally less than two and a half feet (75cm) wide and less than one foot (30cm) tall. They consist of a variety of different handholds and fingerholds designed to help rock climbers develop stronger finger, arm and back strength.
For less than half the price of a new climbing rope or about the price of a high end climbing harness you can own a board that will last years, perhaps a decade or more. It is harder to ignore your training when you walk under a hangboard several times every day. If you plan to invest hundreds or thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, on trips and expeditions the minor investment in a hangboard can improve your climbing a grade or two, or more. Why spend thousands of dollars on gear and take days and weeks of vacation time to arrive at your climbing destination without knowing that you spent an extra ten minutes hanging and doing pull-ups a few times a week for months?
Choosing a Material
Wood or Resin?
As of 2012 there are two primary choices of material: wood and resin. Wood hangboards have the advantage of being somewhat smooth which provides more difficult training on sloping holds. Wood is also less likely to tear skin. For long term use chalk is not recommended on wood hangboards since it easily greases over the top of the wood pores. Wood also has the ability to splinter, although depending on the type of wood used the board may splinter more or less. Since it is biodegradable at the end of the life cycle it can be composted or used for some other environmentally friendly purpose. Resin hangboards are made of the same material that rock climbing holds at climbing gyms are typically made of. They allow for unique shapes and features such as pinches. Resin hangboards also feature coarse texturing which increases friction. Chalk is recommended on resin boards because resin contains no pores to absorb sweat and thus will become greasy. Resin will not splinter but is also not biodegradable.
Crimp, Open, Pinch, Jam?
Every hangboard has a different variety of hand and finger holds. These range from 1/4" (6mm) deep holds to 2" (50mm) deep holds. They can slope down or up from the front of the hold to make the training easier or more difficult, respectively.
A good idea for a training board is to get one with a variety of grips. Every board has some variety of grips so it is a good idea to buy one with grips that you would like to practice more with. For many people slopers are difficult because they require strong contact strength.
For grip types there are:
- Open: your hand is open as if you were grabbing a sloper or jug (a large hold)
- Crimp: your fingers are curled to help grab the smallest edges
- Pinch: grab or pinch vertical or near vertical sides to an object, pillar, column, or arete
- Jam: wedging body parts from fingers to the entire torso and rotating them inside a crack
Most hangboards have a variety of open and crimp style grips. Many have pinch grips. Due to the complex nature of jams they are not a hangboard standard. All of these can vary in size and the size that you want will depend on the level that you climb at.
List of Hangboards
- Metolius Training Boards
In the United States Metolius is the most popular manufacturer of hangboards.
- Beastmaker Fingerboards
Often considered the most challenging and highest quality wood hangboards.
- So iLL Training Boards
A wide variety of specialized resin training boards.
- Moon Fingerboard
A compact training device with a variety of holds.
- Nicros Training Devices
Hangboards designed by Eric Horst, the rock climbing training expert.
- Ice Holdz Training Boards
Practice your ice climbing and dry tooling inside with these innovative boards.
- Revolution Training Boards
From very simple to quite detailed their range of boards has something for every price range.
- Asana's Hangboards
Two resin boards featuring a variety of holds.
- Uprising's Training Products
This is a unique take on a training board with adjustable width and rotatable options.
- Entre Prises Hangtime
A minimalist training board with a focus on small edges and slopers.
- Janzen Gear
Small batch wood training boards with unique pocket designs designed and manufactured in the United States of Hard Maple.
Web Resources - Hangboard Discussions and Training Advice
- Climbing Hold Review: Testing Hangboards
A very thorough description of training, model comparison, mounting, and it even includes videos.
- Sonnie Trotter's thoughts on Hangboards
This world class climber makes his own version of hangboards and offers well tested training advice.
- Nicros Training Advice
These guys have a connection with Eric Horst, who wrote the book on rock climbing training, so you know they are serious.
Hangboards on Amazon
Several rock climbing training boards are available on Amazon.
Rock Climbing Training Books
Many authors have included training on hangboards. Eric Horst in particular has designed several hangboards and is known as the expert in training for rock climbing. For ice climbing training Will Gadd is the one of the world's foremost training experts.