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Choosing a Hangboard for Rock Climbing Training

Updated on November 23, 2012

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.

Desired Grips

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.

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.

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    • profile image

      climbingtraining 5 years ago

      Very nice comprehensive article. I agree, hangboards are a great addition to any climbing workout which should form part of a larger climbing training program, just be sure to use as many different grip types that you have available to you and do not shy away from the weaker aspects of your climbing fitness!

    • profile image

      cragface 5 years ago

      Wow, very comprehensive overview or a training device that is often overlooked!

    • profile image

      ClimbingFanatic 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info, I've been thinking about what hangboard to get and this has really helped me.

    • Matstar LM profile image

      Matstar LM 6 years ago

      thanks for a great lens

    • isaiahjanzen profile image

      isaiahjanzen 6 years ago

      @timelapselove: I've referred to campus boards as free hanging climbing walls, or overhanging vertical bars. I thought the name came from some German guy on a college campus that went up and down the gymnastic overhanging wall with boards. I could be wrong, thanks for giving me another location's beta!

    • profile image

      splidttercrist 6 years ago

      This is an awesome post. Thanks!

    • timelapselove profile image

      timelapselove 6 years ago

      Nice lens! I've always heard it called a campus board, but whatever you call it, it's great for building strength!

    • outdoorist lm profile image

      outdoorist lm 6 years ago

      Great info, will definitely buy a hangboard to improve my climbing.

    • profile image

      bookkeepingguy 6 years ago

      Great lens, i'm just getting into indoor climbing myself and this is really helpful!


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    • profile image

      adityashinde 6 years ago

      ohhhhhhhhhh yeah...absolutely needed for a rainy day...great lense :)

    • profile image

      Oliversbabycarecouk 7 years ago

      Great lens so nice information!