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The Best Hangboards for Home Training

Polyurethane is the new wave climbing hold material because it's less weight and less likely to chip while mounting than polyester resin.
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday December 5, 2019
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Ready to increase finger strength and push higher grades? After researching 30 of today's best models, we bought and tested 8 of the best hangboards of 2019 for months. These boards are a great addition to the training program of every level of climber, whether you're just getting started or you're rocking 5.14s every weekend. Our hard-climbing, dedicated team of experts performed more than 30 workouts, hundreds of hangs, and innumerable pull-ups and lock-offs on these boards. We added resistance to compare each model's texture and hold shape. In the process, we acquired steel tendons, increased finger strength, and all the information you need to determine the best hangboard to help you achieve your climbing goals.


1

Best Overall


Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center


Editors' Choice Award

$129.85
at Amazon
See It

Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 12.1" x 9.1"; 2 pieces
Diversity of edges and pockets
Best progression of holds for strength-training
Works well for a wide range of users
Facilitates good form and ergonomics
Most challenging model to mount
Takes up more space than others
Straight-across 1/4" edge is hard on fingertips

The Trango Rock Prodigy was designed by the well-known climbing coaches Michael and Mark Anderson; authors of the famed book The Rock Climber's Training Manual. This board offers a variety of pockets and edges that build up in difficulty, each progressively shallower than the last. This design makes it easy to see subtle improvements and log increases in strength during your systematic fingerboard training. It offers the largest selection of grips of any model in our review, including several that are designed to be used in multiple ways. Furthermore, its two-part design allows you to mount the two halves the perfect distance apart to match your body size and shape. This facilitates better alignment, encourages better form, and leads to reduced stress on your shoulders and elbows. The Trango is super versatile and works well for a huge variety of users, from people just getting into fingerboard training to those working on intensive 5.13 projects.

However, this model requires the most acreage and effort to mount it to the wall. It's one of the most challenging boards to mount and - depending on your spacing - takes up a TON of wall real estate. It's also a more substantial investment than many of the other options we tested. But if you are stoked to get the best training tool out there for what we think is a price well worth the payout, the Trango Rock Prodigy is our top recommendation.

Read review: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center

2

Best Wooden Model


Beastmaker 1000


Editors' Choice Award

$160 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 22.75" x 6.0"
Compact design
Great progression of edges and pockets
Top-notch texture
Good looks
Expensive
Crowded grips
Too much chalk creates gummy holds

Always in a review of the best all-around fingerboards, the Beastmaker 1000 makes an appearance as one of the top contenders. With some of our favorite texture for a wooden model, this board is gentle on your skin while providing grip we love. Its compact design allows this board to fit in tight spaces where others just can't. Even with these small dimensions, the Beastmaker still manages to offer an above-average number of pockets and edges with excellent progression options. This optimal diversity of usage makes the 1000 model a great choice for mid-range climbers rocking out in the 5.10 to 5.13- range. We love how well-thought-out the grips, holds, and features are, allowing our team to vary their workouts and exercises to keep it interesting rather than repetitive and make us better climbers.

Though we like the selection of holds on this model, its overall small size puts some of these holds a bit too close together for our liking. A couple of the 3-finger grips, in particular, feel a bit crowded, though not unusable. But for its compact size, we think this trade-off is reasonable and doesn't detract too much from the overall wide-range appeal of this board. If you can stomach the price, we think this piece has a lot going for it and won't disappoint just about any mid-range climber looking for variety in their home workout. And with a fetching wood finish, you can put this board up just about anywhere without it being such an eyesore.

Read review: Beastmaker 1000

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Metolius 3D Simulator


Best Buy Award

$78.95
at Amazon
See It

Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 28.0" x 8.7"
Excellent value
Great selection of edges and pockets
Well-designed to reduce shoulder and elbow stress
Good progression of holds
So-so texture
Not for high-end climbers (folks already redpointing 5.13)
Not compact

The Metolius 3D Simulator is mega-popular, and with good reason. This long produced model has been through several iterations and updates over the years, with each new version steadily continuing to improve its overall progression and ergonomics. This is a big reason it remains a stand-out and versatile model among contenders throughout the years we've been testing fingerboards. Once again, the 3D Simulator easily wins our Best Buy Award for truly being the best hangboard for your money - although a better description might be an awesome board that happens to be exceptionally affordable. The Simulator offers a plethora of edges and pockets that provide one of the better progressions of grips of any model we tested. It also offers one of the most ergonomic designs that encourages good form while reducing stress in your elbows and shoulders.

Though it may not be the best choice for top-end climbers, it's ideal for folks whose projects are in the 5.11-5.13a range, which is most of the community. It also isn't the most compact model, but still strikes a nice balance of being small enough to fit above most doorways while offering an impressive amount of edges and pockets. Don't let its low price tag fool you; this board has what most climbers need to make progress and push to the next climbing grade. If this price still seems like a lot for you, you may instead consider the even smaller Metolius Project.

Read review: Metolius 3D Simulator

4

Top Pick for High-end Climbers (mid-5.13 and above)


Beastmaker 2000


Top Pick Award

$169 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 22.75" x 6.0"
Compact dimensions
Great for higher-difficulty climbers
No shortage of vicious holds
Lots of one and two-finger pockets
Excellent texture
Not ideal for beginner or intermediate climbers
Expensive
Warm-up holds are just "okay"

The Beastmaker 2000 is exactly what its name implies; a burly beast of a board for experienced high-difficulty climbers. Seriously - some of this model's warm-up holds are on par with the most challenging grips of other boards. The 2000 series coddles no one and offers only the most intense features. It has no jugs, only one "warm-up" four-fingered edge, and no pairs of three-finger pockets (because they are primarily designed to be used with one arm). What this model lacks in jugs and larger edges it certainly makes up for with heinously difficult ones; sporting the most mono and two-fingered pockets of any model we tested. Even its slopers border on being ridiculously brutal. For example, the 42-degree sloper feels nearly impossible to several 5.13 climbers without cheating by touching the sides. This no-nonsense combination of features and grips make the Beastmaker 2000 a serious level-up challenger for dedicated and top-echelon climbers looking to take their skills to the next level.

If you're just starting to get into fingerboard training or you're maxing out around 5.12a/V5, this board is not a good fit. Unless you're already sending 5.13/V8 routes, you'd be better suited by a board that offers better progression. But if you love the idea of this board's challenges but aren't yet up to the skill level it demands, we recommend checking out the Beastmaker 1000. It maintains a lot of the same benefits as the 2000 such as texture, compact design, and a good number of holds but is designed more for folks climbing in the 5.10+ to 5.13- range.

Read review: Beastmaker 2000

5

Best Slopers and Pinches


So iLL Iron Palm



$99.95
(9% off)
at REI
See It

Material: Urethane | Dimensions: 27.0" x 11.5"
Excellent for sloper training
Best pinches we tested
Wide dimensions are easier on shoulders
Takes up a lot of space
Fewer edges

Breaking away from what most fingerboards offer, the Iron Palm more than lives up to its name. Whereas most boards tend to focus on finger strength on crimpers, the Iron Palm instead has exceptional slopers and pinches that are among the best in the game. The first thing you'll notice on the model is the two huge balls at the top two corners. These rounded features are actually more flat on top while gently sloping off to the sides, allowing you to easily adapt your workout as you improve your grip strength. While we tend to think of fingerboard training taking place on flat-topped edges, our minds were opened by these softball shaped holds. The Iron Palm also has the best pinches of any board we have ever seen. It has two separate sets of pinches that can be used separately or mixed together to create three different pinch sets that will help improve your ability to squeeze juice from a novel. The unique slopers and pinch grips on this board are great for both fine-tune these specific skills as well as general strength building through a variety of possible uses.

An overall unique board, the Iron Palm also has only four, board-wide edges and no pockets in the traditional sense. The idea is that you can use any number of fingers on its four uniquely shaped edges. This has the added benefit of feeling more difficult because you can't "cheat" by using friction on the sides of the pocket. The board also has a nice progression of edges but we wish it had one that was slightly smaller. It's also a fairly large model, which can reduce your options for mounting locations. However, if you have the space for it, these wider-than-average dimensions encourage better form and are generally be easier on your shoulders and elbows. If you're looking for a board that offers more options than most, this is a great choice.

Read review: So iLL Iron Palm

6

Space and Money Saver


Metolius Project


Material: Polyester Resin | Dimensions: 24.5" x 6.0"
Low cost
Very compact
Good number of hold options for small size
Most used edges are in the middle of the board
Not the most diverse hold selection

The Metolius Project is one of the lowest-priced options currently available and offers pretty reasonable performance for its cost. Though it's not the best board we tested by far, its low expense makes it a good option for those who are considering getting a hangboard but don't want to spend a lot of money on something they're not even sure they'll use. While this model is the straight-up cheapest model of the bunch we tested we still think the Metolius 3D Simulator is a better value. For not much more the Simulator offers significantly more edges and better overall ergonomics. Conversely, the Project is among the most compact models we tested and fits nearly anywhere that you could consider mounting a hangboard; including several places you couldn't squeeze the 3D simulator into.

Those compact dimensions do come at the cost of some functionality - particularly it has fewer holds. While it has a reasonable selection of grips for its size, we prefer models with just a few more grip options. The other main disadvantage of the Project is that most of the holds of climbers habitually use are in the center of the board. This centered placement makes them less comfortable to use and much harder on your shoulders. If you are short on space we feel the Beastmaker 1000 offers a better selection of holds with similar dimensions - though it's near twice the price.

Read review: Metolius Project

7

Great Value for a Wooden Board


Metolius Wood Grips Compact II


Material: Wood | Dimensions: 24.0" x 6.2"
Great Value
Compact dimensions
Classy look
Fewer edges and pockets (but just enough)
Not our favorite wood texture

The Metolius Wood Grips Compact II is one of the best-priced wood models on the market. Wood boards are generally easier on your skin and look nicer aesthetically if you need to mount it in a commonly used area of your house, and this is the best priced one of the bunch. This board also has some seriously compact dimensions; meaning that finding a place to mount it is much easier than a full-sized version. This board can be mounted above doorways with below-average-height ceilings, squeezed into basements or other areas where a full-sized model wouldn't stand a chance of fitting.

While small, our testing team feels that the Compact II still offers enough hold options to be used for consistent, long-term training; but only barely and we liked a number of other models better. Though the price is nice, we prefer nearly everything about the similar Beastmaker 1000 - but it costs nearly double. For those on a budget and don't have ultra-tight space restrictions, we recommend checking out the Metolius 3D Simulator. It costs the same but encourages far better form while offering significantly more holds, and facilitates a better progression of improvement. However, for a compact, wooden model that keeps the price friendly, this model is tough to beat.

Read review: Metolius Wood Grips Compact II

8

Top Pick for Training on the Road


Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini


Top Pick Award

$105 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 13.5" x 5.5"
Small, lightweight, portable
Possible to hang almost anywhere
No drilling required
Narrow profile can be tough on shoulders or elbows
Not the best for full-time use
Slots aren't super comfortable

The Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini is the fingerboard solution for frequent travelers to take on the road. Whether on an extended climbing road trip or all-to-commonly away from your local gym on business trips this tiny piece of training equipment can be brought nearly anywhere. It's roughly the same size as a laptop keyboard and can be hung up nearly anywhere without drilling a single screw, yet is surprisingly stable considering its single point suspension. While it might be ultra-compact, it offers just enough grips to keep it interesting. We even think its edge selection is quite respectable considering its tiny size.

A potential downside of this board is while great for traveling and training between standard workouts it isn't necessarily suitable for day-in-day-out consistent fingerboard training. This is mostly due to its narrowness which encourages poor form and can elevate the amount of stress on users' shoulders and elbows. However, for occasional use, while traveling, for van life, or to stay entertained during a rainy stretch of a fall road trip, it's completely appropriate. For a quick fix on the go, it's well worth the inherent trade-offs this board presents. If folks love the drill-free concept of this board but want a more all-around model it is worth noting that Awesome Woodies makes wider, hanging models.

Read review: Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini

Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and compared them in five categories. We mounted each one to our walls  measured the size and the depth of each pocket  and spent hundreds of hours hanging off all of them for our review.
Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and compared them in five categories. We mounted each one to our walls, measured the size and the depth of each pocket, and spent hundreds of hours hanging off all of them for our review.

Why You Should Trust Us


The strongmen (and women) that took the time to truly test each hangboard is led by UIAGM/IFMGA guide Ian Nicholson. As an exceptionally avid climber who is passionate about training and incremental improvement, Ian's is the perfect lead tester for our review. While passionate about pushing grades, Ian brings a broader approach to climbing not only enjoying climbing shorter routes for their pure difficulty, but bigger objectives like El-Cap routes-in-a-day, remote alpine first ascents, and speed records in his home range of the Cascades so he can relate to the needs of a wide range of users. Ian's passion for detail and through the enjoyment of the training-for-climbing process not only helps him to convey the pros-and-cons of each board but also to how they might benefit or be a negative for certain types of users.

In the testing cycle, our testing team, as well as our friends, preformed at least five workouts on each board. We pinched, crimped, and hung-on open-handed on each board. We wore a weight vest to increase power but also to truly decipher differences in texture and friction. After all of our extensive testing, we provide insight on which models are "perfect", sufficient, or poor options for different types of training regimes and user abilities. With these results and our unbiased testing procedures, we hope to give you the straight-up best advice possible on which model is the best and which might leave you wanting more.


How to Choose the Right Hangboard


Hangboards, AKA fingerboards, have long been part of climbing training regimes and with good reason. Simply said there is no better way to target pure finger strength than with a hangboard. If you have never used one, you'll be amazed, and with a good training plan, you will notice impressive improvements after just a few weeks. That may sound like an infomercial, but it's true. Hangboards aren't that expensive and pack a lot of training potential in for their relatively inexpensive price. For the price of one month's gym membership, you can train two to four days a week in your spare time for years.

Jonathan Siegrist: "In the business of grabbing rock, our fingers can never be too strong."

Tony Yaniro: "If you can't hold the holds, then there's nothing to endure."

No climber ever complained that their fingers were too strong for a given route and to Tony Yaniro's point; if you can't hold the holds to begin with, then endurance doesn't even play a factor. These dedicated training boards are the ticket to boosting finger strength tremendously and, in reality, don't take that much time to perform. A lot of people climb easy routes at the gym over-and-over and while this is no-doubt fun and great for the ego in reality climbing is a power-based sport and climbing one route that you barely make it to the top of (or don't make it to the top of) does far more for you than climbing a route that is super easy for you 5-10 times. This couldn't be exemplified more than Yuji Hirayama who trained for his attempt at the Nose speed record by climbing a fifteen some odd move V14 boulder problem. Hangboarding is the epidemy of this power focus and has the opportunity to help every aspect of your climbing from pushing harder grades to giving you the confidence for that all-day route.

Related: The Best Rock Climbing Ropes of 2019

Lead tester Ian Nicholson demonstrates some of the potential workout techniques on a Beastermaker 1000.
Lead tester Ian Nicholson demonstrates some of the potential workout techniques on a Beastermaker 1000.

What to Look For


The ideal hangboard for you should have several holds you can barely grip and a few you can't yet manage. Contrary to popular belief, a fingerboard's primary purpose isn't for doing pull-ups regardless of how many folks you might see cranking them out at the gym. If you can hold onto the holds forever (or even like 20-30 seconds), you're not building any power, you're just inefficiently building endurance and you should be hanging off smaller edges.

Key considerations should be finding one that fits the space you are dedicating to training and the right ability level for you. It should have some warm-up holds  lots to challenge you  and a few you can't yet even hang from. Andy Dahlen hangs from a Beastmaker 1000.
Key considerations should be finding one that fits the space you are dedicating to training and the right ability level for you. It should have some warm-up holds, lots to challenge you, and a few you can't yet even hang from. Andy Dahlen hangs from a Beastmaker 1000.

Hangboards are built for enhancing finger power and maximum crimping and grip strength. Pick a board with at least a few holds you'll fall off of after 7-10 seconds and others that you'll at least get tired and will struggle on after 3-5 sets of 7-10 seconds. A few jugs and slopers are nice to warm up on and for use toward the end of your workout when your open-handed crimp strength is fried. However, you'll be best served if the rest is all business. Put your ego aside, crimp until you fail, and fail quickly, then take solace in knowing that you're getting stronger, even if you feel like you're abysmal because you can only hang on for a few seconds.

Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed  fingerboards are not primarily for pull-ups. They are for building finger strength which requires a good progression of holds that are challenging for their user.
Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed, fingerboards are not primarily for pull-ups. They are for building finger strength which requires a good progression of holds that are challenging for their user.

Material


There are three materials commonly used: wood, polyurethane, and polyester resin, each with subtle advantages and disadvantages. For perspective, polyurethane and polyester are what nearly all climbing holds are made from, and the two share many but not all the same characteristics.

Wood

Wood's primary advantage is its low friction; meaning its far easier on your skin than even the best-textured resin polyurethane or polyurethane models. Besides just being easier on your skin; the low friction also makes holding on subtly harder which is a small bonus while training. When using wood boards try not to use too much chalk (or almost none is best). A little early on is fine, but excessive chalk use over time covers the pores of the wood, creating an undesired gummy and slick feeling. Be sure to wipe it down occasionally with a warm, wet rag and allow to dry completely.

Wood's primary advantage is its low friction which is easier on your skin and makes all the grips subtly more difficult. The disadvantages are it tends to be more expensive and more limited in shape and hold diversity.
Wood's primary advantage is its low friction which is easier on your skin and makes all the grips subtly more difficult. The disadvantages are it tends to be more expensive and more limited in shape and hold diversity.

The disadvantage of wood is that its shapes tend to be a little more limited and don't have the variety of holds compared to resin boards; for example, wood boards rarely have pinches or anything other than a linear ramp for a sloper. Wood boards do tend to have comfortable pockets and edges and slippery slopers. Wood is lower weight than resin, and while this makes mounting easier, once your board is up, this doesn't really matter. Wood is also a good choice for climbers who have to mount their board in a common area for no other reason than it looks nicer hanging on your wall. Lastly, in warm climates or hot attics, wood will hang onto heat a lot longer than resin resulting in potentially poorer friction or a warmer feeling workout.

Polyester Resin

Polyester resin is the same material that many climbing holds are made of, though in recent years this material has been replaced more with polyurethane because of weight and durability issues when route setters over-tighten. Polyester resin's primary advantage is that it can be formed in almost any shape imaginable, and most resin boards have more diverse hold options than their wooden counterparts. Resin boards tend to feature more interesting slopers and cool arrays of pinches. Unlike wood, feel free to use as much chalk as you'd like with it, though its still not a bad idea to clean it now and again.

The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a super big deal except during the moment when you are mounting it overhead. The difference in texture has also decreased  and while wood is still superior  it isn't near as big of a gap as it was five or six years ago.
The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a super big deal except during the moment when you are mounting it overhead. The difference in texture has also decreased, and while wood is still superior, it isn't near as big of a gap as it was five or six years ago.

The main downside of resin is that the texture tends to be harder for people's skin. How much harder depends a lot on the manufacturer and the finish they use. Additionally, it is worth noting that it is rare that two models have exactly equal texture even when directly comparing two models under the same brand. Resin has the advantage that it will never splinter, but it can chip. Resin won't conduct heat as much as wood and thus won't feel as warm to the touch after extended sessions or workouts in hotter spaces.

Polyurethane

Times are changing, and now more and more climbing holds are being made out of polyurethane than polyester resin both because it's lower weight and less likely to chip while mounting, storing, etc. Polyurethane shares most of the same user interface characteristics with resin providing unique shapes and thus a more diverse array of holds. Polyurethane also shares what is the biggest downside in most people's eyes of non-wooden models in that typically they are more textured than wood and thus harsher on your skin. Technology is improving, though, and manufacturers are trying harder and harder to produce polyurethane models with a smoother texture.

The Iron Palm is made of urethane  which is quite strong and can make versatile shapes. Here you see the hollow backside of this model  which helps make it lighter overall.
The Iron Palm is made of urethane, which is quite strong and can make versatile shapes. Here you see the hollow backside of this model, which helps make it lighter overall.

Another major difference is that polyurethane breaks down quicker than resin when exposed to weather and is a poor choice for a board that will be mounted outside. Polyurethane also polishes slightly quicker after repeated use compared to polyester resin which is an interesting note because it is otherwise more durable when it comes to chipping. While Polyurethane does polish faster, few people will use their hangboard so much that they will wear it out in a non-commercial setting even if you are sharing it with five or more of your buddies and the "wearing out" quicker is more of an issue for climbing gyms. Polyurethane is the material primary used by hangboards produced by So iLL, Trango, and the Detriot Rock Company (DRC). Metolius recently released a line of climbing holds made of polyurethane, but as of now all of their fingerboards are still resin.

Variety of Holds


More holds don't necessarily make a given model better than another but a good selection is obviously important. The best options have a nice progression of edges and pockets to help their users get stronger and ideally grow with them as they improve at least for a while. Ideally, there are 2-3 hold options of incremental changes in depth across the board. In general, our testers like pocket and edges that decreased by around 1/4" increments once a hold gets smaller than one inch and have 2-3 options in a given width. It's always worth remembering its totally okay to put 3-fingers in a 4-finger pocket. However the same can be difficult when it comes to depth, for example, it can be harder to position your fingers at 1/2-inch deep in a 3/4-inch pocket.

Besides facilitating a better workout a good variety of holds will also keep your training a little more diverse and interesting making it even more likely that you'll stick with it. The Trango Rock Prodigy seen here has one of the largest arrays of holds on the market  several of which offer numerous uses for each edge.
Besides facilitating a better workout a good variety of holds will also keep your training a little more diverse and interesting making it even more likely that you'll stick with it. The Trango Rock Prodigy seen here has one of the largest arrays of holds on the market, several of which offer numerous uses for each edge.

Nearly all of our testers appreciated having at least one set of jugs and one or two sets of slopers in which to warm upon. We think pinches are nice and they can be good for certain route-specific training and building whole-hand power while unquestionably mixing it up. While other holds' shapes can be fun and have offered unique benefits the bulk of grips should focus on shallow, fairly flat-topped edges and pockets.

More grip options are generally better  but a good progression of holds regarding their depth and difficulty is the most important thing. Holds should get progressively smaller without large of leaps in difficulty to provide the best overall design for strength gains and long-term training. The 3D Simulator sports an above average amount of grips.
More grip options are generally better, but a good progression of holds regarding their depth and difficulty is the most important thing. Holds should get progressively smaller without large of leaps in difficulty to provide the best overall design for strength gains and long-term training. The 3D Simulator sports an above average amount of grips.

Edges and Crimps

Edges and crimps are the bread and butter of fingerboard training and what most climbers should base their decision around when purchasing a board and utilize while training. Don't be afraid of the smallest edge depth might seem impossibly difficult at first. Give yourself a month and you'll be surprised by what you can hang onto.

A good range of edges is likely the most important factor when considering your purchase. While pockets are nice you can always just use 1-3 fingers on a broad edge to simulate a pocket. We like at least 3 different edge depths ranging from 1/4" or 1/2" to 1" in depth.
A good range of edges is likely the most important factor when considering your purchase. While pockets are nice you can always just use 1-3 fingers on a broad edge to simulate a pocket. We like at least 3 different edge depths ranging from 1/4" or 1/2" to 1" in depth.

Our review team overwhelming prefers at least three non-incut/positive edges (we prefer edges that are flat) with widths around, 1", 3/4" and 1/2". We also like when edges are slightly rounded at the entrance because it is generally less harsh feeling on your fingers. This design also encourages a more open-handed crimp which not only is better for training overall but it is also safer than a curled over crimp in regards to a reduced risk of injury.

Pockets

Pockets are great because they force you (or provide the opportunity) to isolate one, two or three fingers on your board. This is an excellent training technique because it significantly increases the stress (typically your bodyweight) across fewer fingers, resulting in more efficient power gains. Like edges, having a solid progression of pocket pairings are more important than just sheer, as this will likely facilitate better workout.

While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a dedicated pocket  a well-designed pocket can provide more support for the digit you are hanging off of. Using less than 4-fingers is another easy way to increase the load your fingers are taking to increase strength  though this needs to be worked up to.
While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a dedicated pocket, a well-designed pocket can provide more support for the digit you are hanging off of. Using less than 4-fingers is another easy way to increase the load your fingers are taking to increase strength, though this needs to be worked up to.

Some climbers believe it's better to perform isolated finger workouts on broad edges (like the So iLL Iron Palm) rather than in specifically sized pockets because inevitably your fingers come into contact with the sides of the pocket and give you more surface area thus slightly holding power. They would argue that while subtle, this is slightly "cheating you" of your power workout. We'll let you be the judge there. We are fine with both but slightly prefer having individual pockets in which to train.

Slopers

Slopers are great for helping you warm-up, finishing your workout when your fingertips are trashed, and working on whole-hand strength. A lot of the slopers featured on models we tested don't feel too crushing on their own. However; 20 minutes into a fingerboard workout those same slopers can cause crushing forearm fatigue. We like at least one set of slopers, but ideally, two, to mix it up.

Slopers also work on whole-hand strength  work some core  and offer far less chance of injury than most pockets.
Slopers also work on whole-hand strength, work some core, and offer far less chance of injury than most pockets.

Jugs

All but one of the boards we reviewed features at least one pair of jugs. These are key for warming up, working on lock-offs (don't underestimate the benefits of these), or just cranking out pull-ups, weighted, assisted, or straight-up. We don't feel that any board needs more than one set of jugs and they should be big enough that you could hang on them for more than a minute to work on the things mentioned above as to build arm, back, and core strength while not straining your fingers or tendons.

While atypical in shape  these jugs are still great for warming up or weighted pull-ups.
While atypical in shape, these jugs are still great for warming up or weighted pull-ups.

Pinches

While pinches aren't a 100% necessary design feature, nor are they generally a large part of anyone's training regimen, they do add some variety and can be great for some route-specific training. This is especially true for people who frequent roofy crags or projects that are steep and blocky.

Pinches  like slopers  help increase whole-hand strength but are of even greater benefit to climbers who log a lot of time in steeper terrain.
Pinches, like slopers, help increase whole-hand strength but are of even greater benefit to climbers who log a lot of time in steeper terrain.

Level of Difficulty


A lot of climbers don't understand that there can be a pretty large range in difficulty between different models. For example, an intermediate climber won't get nearly as much out of a super burly board, like the Beastmaster 2000 (pretty much the most difficult board) as something like the Metolius 3D Simulator which is a more intermediate board. In our review, we tried to pick models that would work for the biggest population of climbers who are interested in a dedicated training board; around 5.10+ to mid-5.13. Some products we tested would be best for climbers above or below that difficulty range, but that range still guided the selection process for our review.

Here Vertical World Climbing Coach Billy Gierach hangs from the extremely challenging Beastmaker 2000  which is geared towards climbers in the 5.13- range and above.
Here Vertical World Climbing Coach Billy Gierach hangs from the extremely challenging Beastmaker 2000, which is geared towards climbers in the 5.13- range and above.

For the most part, when considering different models, the difficulty range starts pretty high, and there are no truly "easy" boards. At the easiest, they are aimed at hard 5.10+ climbers to low 5.11 climbers and go up from there. If you aren't quite climbing 5.10+/5.11a in the gym, fear not, you'll get there, but a hangboard likely isn't the best tool for you to get stronger yet. At this early stage, you'll get more benefits from just continuing to climb rather than adding fingerboard work to your training. If you're not climbing at least at the top-rope 5.10+ gym, you're also more likely to hurt yourself on a board because your fingers and tendons aren't quite strong enough for the intense pressure they'll see while training on a hangboard.

What space you have in your apartment  house  or dwelling to mount your hangboard could be the number one factor influencing your purchase. Here the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II barely fits above a standard height doorway with a 7-foot ceiling.
What space you have in your apartment, house, or dwelling to mount your hangboard could be the number one factor influencing your purchase. Here the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II barely fits above a standard height doorway with a 7-foot ceiling.

Mounting Considerations


Hangboards vary wildly in size, dimensions, and mounting patterns. Having a bigger board typically means a greater array of holds, which is nice but far from a must. A compact board can still be very beneficial with an open mind and the drive to suffer on it.

A bigger board typically means more holds  which while nice is far from required. Don't underestimate how effective a compact board can still be with an open mind and the drive to get after it if your space is limited. Here lead tested Ian Nicholson mounts a Metolius Project (one of the smaller boards) above a doorway in his house with below-average ceilings (7 feet).
A bigger board typically means more holds, which while nice is far from required. Don't underestimate how effective a compact board can still be with an open mind and the drive to get after it if your space is limited. Here lead tested Ian Nicholson mounts a Metolius Project (one of the smaller boards) above a doorway in his house with below-average ceilings (7 feet).

For most climbers, mounting boards to anything that is not open framing (just framing, no drywall; which is obviously easier), means a least considering mounting the board to a pre-cut 3/4"-1" thick piece of plywood first. Then drilling that into the wall to make sure you are drilling into studs to get the strength necessary. If you want your set up to look nicer, for a few more dollars you can buy plywood with one side finished (or you can finish it yourself), making it less of an eye-sore in shared living areas. A handful of manufacturers like Metolius sell pre-finished plywood boards that are sized appropriately and look great in a communal living space.

The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is mostly due to its width  which is actually a good thing as it encourages better form  making it easier on your shoulders. However  this board is tough to mount in smaller spaces or under shorter ceilings.
The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is mostly due to its width, which is actually a good thing as it encourages better form, making it easier on your shoulders. However, this board is tough to mount in smaller spaces or under shorter ceilings.

Hole-Free Mounting

It's possible to "mount" a hangboard on a pull-up bar if you live in any kind of rental home, apartment or simply don't want to drill holes in your wall. Our favorite option for this comes from Blank Slate Climbing, which offers expensive but super effective systems.

The Blank Slate Slim mounts above a doorway without having to drill into your walls and can be outfitted with most models.
The Blank Slate Slim mounts above a doorway without having to drill into your walls and can be outfitted with most models.

It's also worth considering Awesome Woodys hanging models. We reviewed the Cliff Board Mini, which is our Top Pick for Travel because it's the size of a laptop and can be hung almost anywhere. While this model isn't ideal for day-in-day-out fingerboard training because of its narrow width, they make a wider version that is. While we found Cliff Board Mini sweet for travel and warming up at the crag, it's really only an appropriate option for folks who simply don't have the room or the opportunity to mount a more versatile, traditional model.

The hang-nearly-anywhere Awesome Woodys line of boards is a great option as a non-mounted board.
The hang-nearly-anywhere Awesome Woodys line of boards is a great option as a non-mounted board.

Training


Fingerboards are awesome training tools that take very little time to get an extremely productive workout right in your home. These workouts are short but should be intense. Fingerboard workouts are pretty much like running wind-sprints or powerlifting for your fingers. Many incredibly strong and famous climbers like Tommy Caldwell, Alex Puccio, Jonathan Siegrist, Alex Honnold, Sonnie Trotter, and Daniel Woods have used hangboards extensively at some point during their training cycle. Sonnie Trotter, over a winter working a full-time construction job, once trained almost exclusively on hangboards, rarely visiting a climbing gym while preparing for his ascent of Necessary Evil (5.14c) in the Virgin River Gorge. He claims there was no doubt in his mind that this is what helped propel him to the next level.

There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these boards  which is targetted finger-strength training. The key is picking a board with enough bad holds that you can barely hang onto and some grips that you can't at all. Here tester Ian Nicholson suffers (and gets stronger) on the Trango Rock Prodigy.
There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these boards, which is targetted finger-strength training. The key is picking a board with enough bad holds that you can barely hang onto and some grips that you can't at all. Here tester Ian Nicholson suffers (and gets stronger) on the Trango Rock Prodigy.

The key with this type of training is to hang off of holds that are BAD and extremely challenging for you (once warmed up of course). Every rep doesn't have to be super severe, but it should rarely be easy and most of the time it should be somewhat of a battle to hang-on. This is the key to effectively building power. After you are thoroughly warmed up, you should be training on grips that you will hold onto for less than 10 seconds, and some training resources suggest even less than 7. You don't need to fail in those early sets of 7-10 seconds, but it should be a slight battle for you to stay on, and later in your workout, there should be reps where you are fighting 100% for those seven seconds which will feel like an eternity.

There are many training programs and inexpensive apps to help you focus your time and effort to improve finger strength. Here Graham Zimmerman uses a structured and systematic training regimen that has helped him open difficult new routes across the globe and get nominated for his second the Piolet d'Or.
There are many training programs and inexpensive apps to help you focus your time and effort to improve finger strength. Here Graham Zimmerman uses a structured and systematic training regimen that has helped him open difficult new routes across the globe and get nominated for his second the Piolet d'Or.

Most training regimes involve 5-8 hangs for 7-10 seconds and then a 3-4 minute rests, equaling one set. Your goal is to perform 5-8 total sets, ideally really struggling or failing towards the end of those sets. It's okay to spot yourself by putting your foot down or by grabbing a bigger hold with one hand. If it's too easy, try hanging with just one hand for a power boost, or by hanging a weight off your harness or wearing a 15 lb backpack. Here is a great 1 minute video on some work-outs by Daniel Woods.

One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while hanging from two fingers  index and middle  middle and ring  and ring and pinky. If your finger grips seem too difficult  consider two sets of three fingers.
One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while hanging from two fingers, index and middle, middle and ring, and ring and pinky. If your finger grips seem too difficult, consider two sets of three fingers.

It's important to note that this type of training will greatly increase your finger power and contact strength, which will enable you to hang onto progressively smaller holds. But for most climbers who want to continue to improve, these workouts should just be part of their training regimen that also involves the continued development of technique via climbing of some form.

Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus on the Beastmaker 2000 with a 35-lbs weight.
Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus on the Beastmaker 2000 with a 35-lbs weight.

Adding Resistance

Adding resistance, like in power-weightlifting, will boost your top-end crimping strength. However, like any ultra-strenuous exercise; you need to be extra careful not to injure yourself. After effectively being able to hang off of all, or nearly all of the holds on your board, add a little weight (10-20 lbs.) and start with some of your board's larger grips before progressively working down in hold size again from there.

Hanging weights off a climbing harness  a purpose-built weight-vest  or even a loaded backpack are the best ways to increase resistance but the possibilities are endless. Here Ian Nicholson adds the resistance of his 90-lb niece while working out.
Hanging weights off a climbing harness, a purpose-built weight-vest, or even a loaded backpack are the best ways to increase resistance but the possibilities are endless. Here Ian Nicholson adds the resistance of his 90-lb niece while working out.

As you continue to progress, consider doing more one-armed hangs or one arm with a little assistance with your second hand lightly hanging onto a nearby sling or large hold. All of these methods will continue to build finger strength quickly. It's a good idea to do some weighted sessions with two hands before committing to one-armed hangs on smaller holds because it will surprise you how much more difficult this is.

A selection of training-for-climbing books from our review team's library. While there are many options out there but for hangboard specific training perhaps few are as in-depth as the Rock Climbers Training Manual by Mark and Mike Anderson.
A selection of training-for-climbing books from our review team's library. While there are many options out there but for hangboard specific training perhaps few are as in-depth as the Rock Climbers Training Manual by Mark and Mike Anderson.

Read up on Training

Read up before diving headfirst into your first session. Nearly all Training For Climbing type books includes a fingerboard section. Some of our review team's favorites include The Rock Climber's Training Manual: A Comprehensive Program for Continuous Climbing Improvement by Mike Anderson and Mark Anderson, Training for Climbing by Eric Horst, and The Self Coached Climber by Dan Hague and Douglas Hunter.

We love training for climbing almost as much as we love climbing itself (well  maybe not quite  but it isn't far away). We hope this review helps you pick the best board for you to continue to get stronger  achieve your goals  and make more challenging ones.
We love training for climbing almost as much as we love climbing itself (well, maybe not quite, but it isn't far away). We hope this review helps you pick the best board for you to continue to get stronger, achieve your goals, and make more challenging ones.

Conclusion


Training on a hangboard is an excellent way to increase finger strength and to improve, no matter what type of climbing you fancy. They are an affordable training tool that should last for years and hopefully offer some inspiration to train when you might only have 30-minutes to spare. This is a review we are quite passionate about; we love climbing, training for climbing, and seeing people get better. We honestly hope that this review can help you decide between the different materials, types of holds, and difficulty levels to ultimately select the most appropriate product for you.


Ian Nicholson