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Hanging for Training

Training is something I’m still slowly progressing on in my climbing schedule. With the holidays, it’s hard to stay with it. But I want to keep it up. Also, I’ve wanted to incorporate finger strength in my routine to help improve my climbing. Well, to my surprise, I recently received a Metolius training hangboard for my birthday!

What’s a Hangboard/Fingerboard?

Metolius wood finger training board.

A hangboard or also known as a fingerboard is a piece of equipment used to improve one’s finger/contact and upper body strength. Some differ in size and made from either plastic or wood. Mine is wood. According to Eric Hörst, climber, coach, and creator of “”, since the mid-1980s, the fingerboard has become the most used type of training equipment among avid climbers.

What’s nice about a fingerboard is that it’s economic and one can mount in just about any apartment or home. They have slots of varying sizes you can stick your fingers in and hang from it. Or you can place your whole hand on parts and hang from it as well. It helps you create specific hand or finger positions and practice them while hanging. Being able to do this is helpful especially if you can’t train at a climbing gym.

How to Put it Up

My plan with installing the fingerboard is mounting it above the doorframe inside my office. It seemed like the most logical place to have it. We’ll measure and attach a piece of plywood to the wall then drill in the fingerboard to it. This piece is for better stability, and it will make it easy to take down if I decide to move it later.

While researching information about hangboards and their uses, I’ve realized that I’ll need a chair or something underneath me while hanging if the fingerboard is above the door. I’m short, so I won’t be able to reach the fingerboard without help. Crap, I did not think that part through. We’ll see how this goes.

Fingerboard 101

You’re probably wondering what the contact strength I mentioned earlier is? Contact strength is the ability to hold onto the holds. Holds vary in size, so you need to practice grabbing them, especially if they’re small. Think of crimps, small sidepulls, or pockets.

Hanging off of a wood hangboard at Summit Norman

When hanging on the board, you should use an open-handed grip as much as possible. When you do this, it means you’re keeping your hand open and not crimping on the slots. Most climbers are weaker open-handed than crimped so that you may find this difficult at first (I know I will), but you’ll get used to it. Training open-handed will increase your crimp strength.

From the Metolius fingerboard training manual, the essential exercise for fingerboards is a dead hang from the holds. Good form on your dead hang will help you avoid injury. Always use an open-handed grip—no crimping. Hang with a slight bend in your elbows, and pull your shoulder blades down and back, keeping body tension high. Practice the form on jugs or a pull-up bar before using the board’s smaller holds.

It's recommended to begin each session with a full-body warm up before getting on the fingerboard. Jumping rope is an excellent option or take a quick run around the neighborhood. Do a few pull-ups and a bit of shoulder and finger stretching to get the upper body ready. Use the board’s jugs or a bar for the pull-ups; doing pull-ups from small holds puts you at risk for injury. Make the first 15 minutes easy and gradually increase the intensity until you’re at full power.

Let’s Do This

So, you’re warmed up and ready to go. What’s next? In the following article, I’ll cover more exercises you can do with the hangboard while training. Plus, what you should do to prevent injury while on the fingerboard. Until next time, happy bouldering!