Sunday, 15 June 2014

Basic hangboard and campus board training

THIS IS NOT WRITTEN FOR CLIMBERS. I AM NOT TRAINING FOR CLIMBING. Sorry for the caps but I needed to get that out of the way early. I’m not a climber and know very little about both climbing and training for climbing. That said, I believe what I present here is a reasonable progression of training which will carry over positively to climbing.

I first got into training grip strength after doing a bit of indoor climbing with friends. After an hour or so of climbing I found my limiter was grip endurance. I’m not saying that I would be a better climber with stronger grip, just that I could climb for longer. I’m also aware that climbing is very technical, and that you should be using mainly your legs. That said I don’t climb frequently so when I’m there, I just want to have some fun.

So I started my grip training with many of the things seen in my articles on basic grip training and training the extensors. I also build my climbing wall/ massive hang board. As part of that project I added a mini campus board to one side (Note: real campus boards are set at an angle with set spacing much larger than mine). I had grand plans for my campus board (the side with nothing on it currently) but when I first tried it I could only just do a 5 second hang, so the grand plans were put on hold while I build up my finger strength. Before you start hangboard or campus board training I suggest you should have at least a 1 minute bar hang, preferably several sets.

So I started my training with sets of 5 second hangs. I would rest as needed, sometimes hanging between sets of other exercises, or between housework. I used two hands and all four fingers and did not lock my fingers in with my thumb. When locked in with the thumb (thumb over the index finger) the grip is called a crimp, a half crimp (which I use) does not use the thumb. This grip is harder than the full crimp, and the half crimp will be used later for campusing (moving up and down on the board) I built up to 5x5 second holds, then moved to 10 second holds building up to 5 sets. I then built up to 15 and 20 second hangs, from here I believe that longer and longer hangs are un-necessary to train. One important tip: Buy some chalk; it makes it feel like your finger prints are glued to the wood.

Chalked fingers, warm up hang, half crimp hang

My next step was to start climbing the board. At first I could only move my hand up one rung then match it with my other hand. I would build up to climbing one rung 3-5 times, resting as required.

Climbing the board, hands matching

From there I would warm up with one rung climbs, then do 1-3 two rung climbs, I would climb one, then climb to the next. Once I could make 3 two rung climbs I move on to climbing the whole board in this fashion (3 rungs). This is where I am up to currently with my training and I have started some 3 finger hangs (two hands), I’m planning to train to hang from only two fingers per hand, and hang from only one hand, maybe one hand two fingers eventually.

My next aim for campus boarding is to climb the rungs without matching hands, i.e. left hand up, and then right hand goes to the next rung up, not meeting at the same rung. I would also like to train climbing down the board after climbing up.

Climbing without matching hands

Other options for advance campus boarding are to move both hands at the same time, either both from the same rung, to the next rung up, or to offset the hands and jump both up to the next rungs. This is a long way off for me and I really don’t suggest it to anyone whose fingers aren’t incredibly strong. 

I believe these are called bumps
Jumping rungs
Hands offset, jumping rungs
So that’s how I’ve built up to climbing my campus board, and how I plan to continue from here. If any climbers are reading this please comment and let me know what you think. Anything I’ve been doing well, or poorly?


  1. As I haven't been climbing very long I can't really comment that much... However, there is some argument among the climbing/bouldering communities that locking your fingers in with your thumb (i.e. what you called the full crimp) is not a good thing to do as it'll really fuck your hands & upper arms up in the long term. There are some climbers that use it (mostly boulderers) but in general I think it's viewed as a pretty bad technique. The proper technique is pretty much what you were doing in your photos, you want to have your hands and arms lined up and as straight as possible forming a right angle from your fingertips to your elbows

    1. Cheers Josh, I'm glad to hear I'm doing it safely since I jumped straight into training on the board without reading much about hangboard training, or talking to climbers.

    2. No worries, I would also recommend taking it slowly, as you can really damage the ligaments and tendons in your hands and forearm if you do something you're not ready for, like jumping rungs.

    3. For sure, I'm a long way (year or more) off jumping rungs.

    4. Also make sure your entire arms are not straight, just upper arms, your lower arms should be bent somewhat.

    5. Generally I'm hanging with slightly bent elbows, although almost all of these photos were taken with my feet on the ground, I just can't hang for long enough to get all though photos.